The archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkay came to Israel at age 6 with his mother and father, on board the ship Kommemiyut, one of the ships that smuggled Jewish immigrants into Mandate Palestine. This was the vessel’s last voyage bringing Jewish immigrants to Israel before it was sold to iron traders. As part of the events of a national conference hosted by the Israel Exploration Society, the Kommemiyut sailed past the coast one last time, possibly hinting at the future of the child it had carried from the Budapest ghetto to the land of Israel.
Since then, 66 years have passed, and it seems almost arrogant to attempt to sum up in a single conversation with Barkay the progress Israel has made in archaeology since it was founded, or his personal contribution to that progress. Barkay has been involved in so many studies, excavations and events relating to local archaeology that it’s doubtful a single interview will do it all justice.
Although he has never worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority — Barkay says he prefers a university framework that offers freedom of opinion and thought — he has acquired an international reputation thanks to two things: The first is the historic discovery of the Priestly Blessing Scrolls, the most ancient archaeological discovery of a biblical text dating to the period the Bible is believed to have been put together. The discovery of the scrolls had wide-ranging influence on biblical research, and the assessment of its historical reliability. The second is the project of sifting dirt from the Temple Mount. Barkay describes the Mount as “a black hole in the history of archaeology in general and Israeli archaeology in particular.” (Read the article on Israel Hayom)