Hanan Eshel, a world-renowned expert in the archaeology and history of both the First and Second Temple periods passed away on April 8, 2010, at the age of 51 after a long battle with cancer. He was buried the same day at Kibbutz Ma‘ale Hahamisha.
Professor Eshel was born in Rehovot on July 25, 1958. He attended the Or ‘Etzion yeshiva high school and performed his military service from 1977 to 1980. In 1982 he started studying archaeology and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees magna cum laude. In 1994 he received his Ph.D. from the university; his dissertation was on the Samaritans in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. After a year as a postdoctoral fellow and guest lecturer at Harvard University, Hanan was appointed a senior lecturer in the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University in 1996, and within just three years he was named an associate professor. He chaired the department from 2002 to 2004, and shortly before his death was promoted to full professor.
His research interests included most prominently the Dead Sea Scrolls, the settlement at Qumran, the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, numismatics and historical geography.
He excavated the refuge caves on Ketef Jericho (with Boaz Zissu), where he discovered documents from the Persian period and Bar-Kokhba period.
In recent years he headed research expeditions to Qumran (with Magen Broshi), excavated refuge caves in the Ein Gedi area (with Roi Porat and others), and oversaw a survey of the caves along the fault cliff between Qumran and Ein Gedi (with Amos Frumkin).
A prolific author and intellectually gifted scholar, Hanan wrote and edited several books and published more than 200 papers. His books include The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State and Refuge Caves of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (two volumes, the second of which, written together with Roi Porat, was published just two months before his passing).
In the last year of his life, during which he worked tirelessly despite his failing health, Hanan also wrote field guides to Masada, Qumran and Ein Gedi.
He edited and published several of his most prominent research studies together with his wife and partner, Dr. Esther Eshel, a renowned paleographer and epigraphist and a lecturer in the Department of Bible at Bar-Ilan University.
Hanan was blessed with many diverse traits and talents: a brilliant memory and quick grasp of issues, exceptional intuition and the ability to focus on what is really important, a love of books and a love of fieldwork, diligence and boundless ambition and a tremendous ability to work. But he was also gifted with other rare qualities: He was a good friend and a superb teacher who was attentive to his students’ needs. Hanan cared about his students, and he knew how to help them progress and bring them—sometimes forcibly—to the finish line. Many of his colleagues and students know full well that it is thanks to Hanan that they have come as far as they have in their academic careers.
Hanan is survived by his mother Shulamit, his wife, a son, a daughter and three grandchildren.