Joseph Naveh, Israel’s preeminent paleographer, died on November 21, 2011, at age 83.
Known to his friends as Yossi, he was, in the words of one obituary, “among the nephilim” of Northwest Semitic epigraphers.
The main task of a good teacher is arousing the curiosity of students and supplying them with relevant tools for independent study. Joseph Naveh succeeded admirably in fulfilling this task. He was a first-rank scholar, a highly regarded authority in his field and a widely admired teacher. He taught in small classes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; after his retirement he continued to teach in his home. Pupils from all over the world came to study with him. He cared personally for his students; many of them remained close to him after studying with him.
He published hundreds of articles and numerous books that are the basic tools for the study of the development of the Semitic alphabet and of the inscriptions and documents in various scripts and languages mainly of the ancient Near East.
He was honest and modest but firm. He would not tolerate dishonesty in scholarly work.
Having visited his classes as a student for about 20 years and having been in constant professional contact since then, I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from him and am still learning from his various publications. I mourn for him very much, and I’ll miss him as long as I live.