Yigael Yadin Dead at 67

Yigael Yadin, a world famous archaeologist who also achieved prominence in Israeli military and political affairs, died suddenly today at his home in Michmoret, north of Netanya. He was 67.

Yadin served as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force from 1949-52 and was a Deputy Premier in the government of former Premier Menachem Begin from 1977-81.

The cause of death was not immediately announced. His brother, the actor Yossi Yadin, said Yigael telephoned him to say he was feeling ill and wanted to be driven to the Hedera hospital. “I told him to get dressed while I went to get the car. But I was then told he had collapsed on the lawn. We called a doctor and rushed him to the hospital where doctors made every attempt to save his life, but in vain,” his brother told the press.

Yigael Yadin won international fame for his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, which his father, the late Elazar Sukenik purchased from an Arab goatherd following the discovery in the Qimrun Caves shortly after World War II. He was also acclaimed for reconstructing Herod’s fortress at Masada and his digs at Hazor.

Yadin was born in Jerusalem in 1917. He earned his Masters degree at the Hebrew University in 1945 and a Ph.D. in 1955 and, between archaeological expeditions, was a professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University since 1959.

He was a member of Haganah, the underground defense force of the Jewish community in Palestine from 1932 until the founding of the State in 1948. He served as chief of staff, chief of the planning section and chief of operations of Haganah between 1940-1947. Before his promotion to Chief of Staff of the IDF, he served as its chief of operations and was a delegate to the Israeli-Arab armistice negotiations in Rhodes in 1949.

Yadin left the army in 1952 to devote his career to archaeology and writing. He entered politics shortly before the 1977 Knesset elections as leader of a new party, the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) which took a doveish position on many issues. The fledgling party won 15 Knesset seats in 1977 and seemed, for a time, destined to become a significant force in Israeli politics.

Although Yadin’s philosophy differed sharply with Begin’s hard line, he agreed to join the Likud-led coalition on condition that members of his party be allowed to vote their conscience on issues involving the occupied territories and the status of religion. He accepted the office of Deputy Prime Minister. Despite this, the DMC proved to have little influence on government policies. Members became disenchanted, the party split and by the next elections in 1981, it had ceased to exist.

Yadin, a secular Jew, believed firmly that the Bible, on the whole, was an accurate historical account. He told Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeological Review, that assertions which claim archaeology disproves the Bible are absolutely untrue.

On the other hand, Yadin was a vigorous opponent of religious coercion. Last April he announced the formation of a new public body, the Public Committee for the Freedom of Science, Religion and Culture in Israel dedicated to fighting “the ever-recurring attempts at religious coercion by those who pretend to be guardians of halacha.”

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