In the accompanying interview, Israel Finkelstein pays tribute to Israel’s most illustrious archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, who died in 1984 at what now seems to me like a very young age, 69.a

Sometimes life’s coincidences are inexplicable: While cleaning a desk that looked like a looted dig, I came upon an old note that then-Managing Editor Suzanne Singer wrote to me shortly after Yadin’s death, paying tribute to the great man. (Don’t ask me how the note got there.) At the time Yadin died, Singer was working with him on the final edits of an article on the Temple Scroll that appeared posthumously in the September/October 1984 BAR.b I reprint her note here as a memorial to a friend and mentor:


It’s probably exaggerating to say this (and also perhaps unfair to your independence and skills), but there may have been no BAR without Yadin. It’s he—more than Kenyon or Pritchard or anyone else I can think of—who showed us that Biblical archaeology could capture the imaginations of ordinary people—first on the ground at Masada, then in print in his books. Yadin dusted off archaeology. He brought the lay person into the field by fueling his imagination and showing what field archaeologists had always known—that there’s romance and excitement when the present is peeled off the past.

Working with him on the Temple Scroll [article], I was very aware of Yadin’s high standards. He cared a lot about our factual accuracy, but he also cared that we say things in good style. We all felt that we must do everything just right for him.

He’s not going to make those last checks he asked for. I hope that we will do as well as he demanded—not only with the Temple Scroll, but also with the work of all the scholars who trust us to tell their stories.

I never could call him Yigael. I was beginning to think that next time I might be able to. He was just beginning to remember me from one time to the next. But he always knew you. I think he knew your world in a way that few scholars can know it. And because he knew a larger world than scholarship he appreciated you very much. You didn’t threaten him; your purposes were some of his purposes. And more than that—he could have good scholarly exchanges with you.

I’m sorry you won’t have Yadin as a friend any more.—S.