The lovely lyre seal described here comes from the personal collection of Dr. Reuben Hecht, prosperous grain merchant, renowned collector of archaeological artifacts, and founder of a unique museum in Haifa, Israel: The Dagon Archaeological Museum of Grain Storage and Handling.
Hecht was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1909. Between the two world wars, his father, the late Jacob Hecht, established a river transport and grain storage empire in Central Europe. In 1936 Reuben Hecht immigrated to Israel and tried, but failed, to start what would later become the Dagon Silo Company. He returned to Europe in 1939 to organize clandestine immigration into Palestine. In 1941 the Germans invaded Yugoslavia where Hecht and his wife were working. They managed to escape via Italy to neutral Switzerland. Only in 1948, after the creation of the State of Israel, could Reuben Hecht return to Israel. Three years later he founded the Dagon Silo Company.
From its inception, the Dagon Silo Company has been the most efficient enterprise of grain importing, storage, and distribution in the world. The tariffs for its services, used mainly by the government for its grain imports, are considerably lower than those of grain silos in other ports around the globe.
Not only does Hecht run a most successful business and museum, he is also a prominent art collector, book publisher, and political advisor to Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Established in 1955, The Dagon Museum grew out of Hecht’s passion for collecting archaeological artifacts. According to Hecht, the purpose of the museum, located on the second floor of the building adjacent to the silo company’s administrative offices, is to illustrate the development of grain cultivation, handling, storing and distribution—the oldest industry of mankind. In the introduction to Grain, a book describing the artifacts in the Dagon Collection, archaeologist Rivka Gonen explains, “ … agriculture involves a deliberate introduction of genetic changes to enhance desirable qualities in crops and animals … Agriculture is not simply another tool for better exploiting the natural environment, but a revolutionary change in man’s economy and culture, a conscious intervention in the natural order as man’s will is imposed upon the world around him.” (Shikmona Publishing Company, Ltd., p. 10).
It is with good reason that the Dagon Museum has attracted nearly 300,000 visitors. Covering approximately 500,000 years of agricultural history, from the Stone Age to modern times, the museum has something for everyone. The visitor can study the tool a farmer held, a statuette of a homely Ethiopian boy selling cakes, or a ritual sickle used in some ancient temple.
To guide the visitor who chooses to wander alone through the exhibits, the Dagon Museum provides a table of archaeological periods in Israel. Each of the fourteen periods shown is correlated to agricultural development, so that a layperson can readily survey the history of grain handling and storage. Regular employees of Dagon are also available to serve as museum guides.