Yaakov Meshorer—the preeminent scholar of the coins of the ancient Near East, the founder of the numismatic department and later the curator of archaeology at the Israel Museum, professor of numismatics at Hebrew University and author of landmark numismatic books—died at home in Jerusalem on June 23, 2004 after a long and brave battle against cancer. He left his wife Adaya, an artist, potter and archaeological restorer; three children; three grandchildren and grieving friends all over the world.
In the days after Meshorer’s death, I spoke to some of the host of people who knew him as a colleague over many years. Their memories kept turning to Yaakov the man, Yaakov—as Yael Israeli, glass curator at the Israel Museum, remembered him—“a larger-than-life soul.”
Martin Weyl, director emeritus of the Israel Museum, recalled Meshorer’s huge enthusiasm for learning about everything, his dazzling capacity to make archaeology and, especially, the coins that had fascinated him since his boyhood, reveal history, politics, economics and human stories. When VIPs visited the museum, Weyl would often ask Meshorer to guide them through the collections. Spellbound by his knowledge of art, history, music and ancient languages, they would report to Weyl that their tour was the “experience of a lifetime.” Yaakov Meshorer became friend and adviser to collectors, conveying to them unrealized dimensions of their collections. In many instances, Weyl noted, these relationships eventually led to superb private collections, some of which later found their permanent home in the Israel Museum.