Based on Strata in Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2016
Yom huledet sameach! Happy birthday, Joseph (he pronounces it Yosef). On March 16, 2016, Joseph Aviram turned 100 years old!
Joseph Aviram is still the working president of the Israel Exploration Society. Indeed, Joseph Aviram and the Israel Exploration Society (IES) are almost synonymous. He has been associated with the IES since 1940. In 2010 he was promoted from director to president to relieve the then-94-year-old director of some of his managerial burdens. But nothing has changed! He still sits at the same desk and manages the same operation.
Born in Poland, Aviram immigrated to Palestine in 1936. In 1940 he became the secretary of what was to become the Israel Exploration Society (then the Jewish Palestine Exploration Fund, founded three years before Aviram was born). He has been affiliated with the organization ever since—76 years.
During much of this time he also served as Secretary of the Humanities Faculty of Hebrew University, which included archaeology, and as director of its Institute of Archaeology. With his joint appointments at Hebrew University and IES and his close association with Yigael Yadin, the dramatic star of Israeli archaeology, Joseph Aviram was involved with some of the most exciting post-1948 excavations in the new state—Hazor, Masada and the Dead Sea Caves, among them.
After papyrus and scroll fragments were discovered in the Judean Desert in 1960, Aviram organized and coordinated a joint expedition of four teams to explore the caves in the valleys going down to the Dead Sea between Ein Gedi and Masada. Each team was led by a prominent Israeli archaeologist—Yadin, Nahman Avigad, Yohanan Aharoni and Pesach Bar-Adon. Aviram was provided with a Piper Cub to ferry him from one base camp to another. Yadin’s group discovered the famous Bar-Kokhba letters.
Aviram was also one of the directors of an early survey of Masada, before Yadin’s decision to excavate the dramatic site overlooking the Dead Sea where the Jewish rebels made their famous last stand, bringing an end to the First Jewish Revolt against Rome.
In 1989 the prestigious Israel Prize was awarded to the Israel Exploration Society, with special mention of Joseph Aviram.
Joseph Aviram now celebrates a century of achievement. Enjoy!
This Bible History Daily feature is based on “Strata: Happy 100th Birthday, Joseph,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2016.
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