Benjamin Mazar

Benjamin Mazar (Hebrew: בנימין מזר‎; born Binyamin Zeev Maisler, June 28, 1906 – September 9, 1995) was a pioneering Israeli historian, recognized as the "dean" of biblical archaeologists. He shared the national passion for the archaeology of Israel that also attracts considerable international interest due to the region's biblical links. He is known for his excavations at the most significant biblical site in Israel: south and south west of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In 1932 he conducted the first archaeological excavation under Jewish auspices in Israel at Beit She'arim (the largest catacombs ever found in Israel) and in 1948 was the first archaeologist to receive a permit granted by the new State of Israel (Tell Qasile, 1948). Mazar was trained as an Assyriologist and was an expert on biblical history, authoring more than 100 publications on the subject. He developed the field of historical geography of Israel. For decades he served as the chairman of the Israel Exploration Society and of the Archaeological Council of Israel (which he founded as the authority responsible for all archaeological excavations and surveys in Israel). Between 1951 and 1977, Mazar served as Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1952 he became Rector of the University and later its president for eight years commencing in 1953.

He founded the Hebrew University's new campus at Givat Ram and Hadasah Medical School and Hospital at Ein Karem and led the academic development of the university into one of the leading Universities of the World (see Academic Ranking of World Universities). He was regarded by his students as an inspiring teacher and academic leader and many of these students are now considered leading historians and archaeologists in Israel today.

Mazar 1936
Benjamin Mazar in 1936, at Bet Shearim


Mazar was born in Ciechanowiec, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. He was educated at Berlin and Giessen universities in Germany. At the age of 23, he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine and in 1943 joined the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose original campus at Mount Scopus was an enclave in the Jordanian sector of Jerusalem following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Archaeological career

Remnants of the 1st century Stairs of Ascent, discovered by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, to the entrance of the Temple courtyard. Pilgrims coming to offer sacrifices at the Temple would have entered and exited by this stairway.

In 1936 Mazar started the excavations of Beth Shearim, the first archaeological excavation organized by a Jewish institution, and uncovered there the large Jewish catacombs dated to the 2nd-4th centuries CE, known as the burial place of the Jewish leader Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, the compiler of the Mishnah. In 1948 he was the first archaeologist to receive a permit to dig in the new State of Israel, and explored the Philistine town of Tell Qasile in northern Tel Aviv. He later conducted excavations at Ein Gedi and between 1968 and 1978 directed the excavations south and south-west of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, including an area he described as the Ophel,[1] uncovering extensive remains from the Iron Age through the Second Temple period and to Jerusalem's Islamic period.

Tomb of Himyarites

Tomb Inscription of Himyarite buried in Beit She'arim National Park (Israel)
Tomb of Himyarite, in Greek uncials

In 1937, Benjamin Mazar revealed at Beit She'arim a system of tombs belonging to the Jews of Ḥimyar (now southern Yemen) dating back to the 3rd century CE.[2] The strength of ties between Yemenite Jewry and the Land of Israel can be learnt, of course, by the system of tombs at Beit She'arim dating back to the 3rd century. It is of great significance that Jews from Ḥimyar were being buried in what was then considered a prestigious place, near the tombs of the Sanhedrin. Those who had the financial means brought their dead to be buried in the Land of Israel, as it was considered an outstanding virtue for Jews not to be buried in foreign lands, but rather in the land of their forefathers. It is speculated that the Ḥimyarites, during their lifetime, were known and respected in the eyes of those who dwelt in the Land of Israel, seeing that one of them, whose name was Menaḥem, was coined the epithet qyl ḥmyr [prince of Ḥimyar], in the eight-character Ḥimyari ligature, while in the Greek inscription he was called Menae presbyteros (Menaḥem, the community's elder).[3] The name of a woman in Greek letters, in its genitive form, Ενλογιαζ, was also engraved there, meaning either ‘virtue’, ‘blessing’, or ‘gratis’.[4]

Mazar family

Benjamin Mazar's son Ory Mazar, grandchildren Eilat Mazar and Dan Mazar and nephew Amihai Mazar all played an important role in the study and dissemination of Israeli archaeology and historical knowledge. Eilat Mazar has been a frequent spokesperson for concerns regarding the archaeology of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem while Amihai Mazar was the recipient of the 2009 Israel Prize for Archaeology. Benjamin Mazar is the brother-in-law of Israel's second and only three-term President, Yitzhak Ben Zvi.


See also


  1. ^ Finkelstein, Israel; Herzog, Ze'ev; Singer-Avitz, Lily; Ussishkin, David (2007). "Has King David's Palace in Jerusalem Been Found?". Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. 34 (2): 142–164. doi:10.1179/tav.2007.2007.2.142. The so-called 'Ophel' area to the south of the Temple Mount (E. Mazar and B. Mazar 1989). / References: Mazar, E. and Mazar, B. 1989. Excavations in the South of the Temple Mount: The Ophel of Biblical Jerusalem (Qedem 29). Jerusalem.
  2. ^ H.Z. Hirschberg, Yisrā’ēl ba-‘Arāb, Tel Aviv 1946, pp. 53–57, 148, 283–284 (Hebrew).
  3. ^ Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 43 (2013): British Museum, London; Article by Yosef Tobi, The Jews of Yemen in light of the excavation of the Jewish synagogue in Qanī’, p. 351.
  4. ^ H.Z. Hirschberg, Yisrā’ēl ba-‘Arāb, Tel Aviv 1946, pp. 56 – 57; p. 33 plate b. Christian Robin rejects the interpretation of the ligature qyl ḥmyr. He notes that today the inscription Menae presbyteros can no longer be seen. The only secured inscription is Ômêritôn [the Ḥimyari].
  5. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1968 (in Hebrew)".
  6. ^ "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. City of Jerusalem official website
  7. ^ "The Harvey Prize Official Site". Archived from the original on 2011-07-27.

Further reading

Amihai Mazar

Amihai "Ami" Mazar (Hebrew: עמיחי מזר‎; born November 19, 1942) is an Israeli archaeologist. Born in Haifa, Israel (then the British Mandate of Palestine), he has been since 1994 a professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, holding the Eleazer Sukenik Chair in the Archaeology of Israel.

Mazar is an author in the field of Biblical archaeology, his Archaeology of the Land of the Bible is a text used in many universities.Mazar is married with three children and resides in Jerusalem. He is the nephew of Benjamin Mazar, one of the first generation of pioneering Israeli archaeologists after Independence, and cousin to fellow archaeologist Eilat Mazar.

Beit She'arim National Park

Beit She'arim (Hebrew: בֵּית שְׁעָרִים, "House of the Gates") is the currently used name for the ancient Jewish town of Bet She'arāyim (בּית שערַיִם, "House of Two Gates") or Kfar She'arāyim (כְּפר שערַיִם, "Village of Two Gates"), made popular by its necropolis, now known as Beit She'arim National Park. The site, located on a hill, was known initially by its Arabic name Sheikh Ibreik or Sheikh Abreik, and which historical geographer Samuel Klein in 1936 identified as Talmudic Beit She'arim.The partially excavated archaeological site consists mainly of an extensive necropolis of rock-cut tombs and some remains of the town itself. The site is managed by the National Parks Authority. It borders the town of Kiryat Tiv'on on the northeast and is located five kilometres west of Moshav Beit She'arim. It is situated 20 km east of Haifa in the southern foothills of the Lower Galilee.

In 2015, the necropolis was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town's vast necropolis is carved out of soft limestone and contains more than 30 burial cave systems. Although only a portion of the necropolis has been excavated, it has been likened to a book inscribed in stone. Its catacombs, mausoleums, and sarcophagi are adorned with elaborate symbols and figures as well as an impressive quantity of incised and painted inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, Palmyrene, and Greek, documenting two centuries of historical and cultural achievement. The wealth of artistic adornments contained in this, the most ancient extensive Jewish cemetery in the world, is unparalleled anywhere.

Beit Shearim

Beit She'arim (Hebrew: בית שערים), also (Hebrew: בית שריי), Kh. Sheikh Abreiḳ (Arabic: شيخ ابريق‎), is a Roman-era Jewish village (now ruin) that thrived from the 1st-century BCE until its demise in the early 20th century. It is first mentioned by Josephus as Besara (Greek: Βήσαραν; Βησάρα), a place then serving as the administrative center of the estates of Queen Berenice (daughter of Agrippa I) in the Jezreel Valley. The village seemed to have been of agricultural importance, as it was being used to store the harvested grain of the neighboring towns and villages. By the mid-2nd century, the village had become the seat of the rabbinic synod under Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. The site is situated on the spur of a hill about half a kilometer long and 200 meters wide, and lies in the southern extremity of the Lower Galilee mountains, facing the western end of the Jezreel Valley, east of Daliat el-Carmel, south of Kiryat Tivon, and west of Ramat Yishai. It rises 138 metres (453 ft) above sea level at its highest point.

Adjoining the village on its northwest side is a necropolis, situated in a valley, which rose to prominence largely due to Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (compiler of the Mishnah) who was interred there. In the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, Beit Shearim became a popular place for Diaspora Jews to send their dead for burial. In 2015, the necropolis, known as the Beit She'arim National Park, was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi

The Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi is a Ghassulian public building dating from about 3500 BCE. It lies on a scarp above the oasis of Ein Gedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, within modern-day Israel. Archaeologist David Ussishkin has described the site as "a monumental edifice in terms of contemporary architecture".

Eilat Mazar

Eilat Mazar (Hebrew: אילת מזר‎; born September 10, 1956) is an Israeli archaeologist, specializing in Jerusalem and Phoenician archaeology.

Encyclopaedia Biblica (Israel)

Encyclopaedia Biblica (Hebrew: אנציקלופדיה מקראית‎) is a scientific encyclopedia of the Hebrew Bible, published in Israel by Bialik Institute in the Hebrew language. The work is scientific, rather than religious, but because of its Jewish background, it only deals with the Hebrew Bible and some apocrypha, but not with the New Testament, which is considered a part of the Bible in Christianity.

The work on the encyclopedia started in 1942, before the establishment of the state of Israel. Biblical encyclopedias in several languages existed then, but there was no such in work in Hebrew, which by that time was already the living spoken and literary language of the Jewish community in Palestine (Yishuv). The initiative was started by the archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik, who proposed the idea to the Bialik Institute. The Institute supported it and created a commission of scholars to determine the format of the future work. Among those scholars were Naftali Herz Tur-Sinai, Leo Aryeh Mayer, Moshe Zvi Segal, Moshe David Cassuto, Shmuel Yevin, Fishel Lakhover, Benjamin Mazar (Maisler) and Menachem Solieli.

Initially, the work was supposed to include 6,700 articles in five volumes. According to the plan, the work on it was supposed to be completed in five years. The first example pages were published in 1947. The 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the battles for Jerusalem disrupted the work on the encyclopedia. Eventually, the first volume was published in 1950, the scope of the work grew to eight volumes, and the final volume was only published in 1982.

Gat Rimon

Gat Rimon (Hebrew: גַּת רִמּוֹן, lit. Pomegranate press) is a moshav in central Israel. Located in the Ono Valley in the Sharon plain between Ganei Tikva and Petah Tikva, it falls under the jurisdiction of Drom HaSharon Regional Council. In 2018 it had a population of 312.


Gibbethon or Gibbeton was a city in the land of Canaan which, according to the record in the Hebrew Bible, was occupied by the Tribe of Dan after the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land. According to the Book of Joshua, it was given as a Levitical city to the Kohathites.However, in 1 Kings 15:27 it was recorded as being a city of the Philistines. Nadab, the second king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, besieged Gibbethon. During the siege, Baasha the son of Ahijah, a member of the tribe of Issachar, killed King Nadab of Israel and made himself King, reigning over the northern kingdom for 24 years. Gibbethon has been identified with al-Majdal, near Ashkelon, and so possibly on the border of Danite Israel and Philistia. John James Blunt, in his Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings both of the Old and New Testaments (1882) suggested that "the place had been deserted by the Levites, in the general exodus to Judah, [so] that the Philistines availed themselves of the opportunity to seize and fortify it". Israeli Archaeologist Benjamin Mazar locates it in a region to the north of the Sorek Valley.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew: הַאוּנִיבֶרְסִיטָה הַעִבְרִית בְּיְרוּשָׁלַיִם, Ha-Universita ha-Ivrit bi-Yerushalayim; Arabic: الجامعة العبرية في القدس‎, Al-Jāmiʿa al-ʿIbriyya fī l-Quds; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, established in 1918, 30 years before the establishment of the State of Israel. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J. Safra Givat Ram campus.

The university has 5 affiliated teaching hospitals including the Hadassah Medical Center, 7 faculties, more than 100 research centers, and 315 academic departments. As of 2018, a third of all the doctoral candidates in Israel were studying at the Hebrew University.

The first Board of Governors included Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, and Chaim Weizmann. Four of Israel's prime ministers are alumni of the Hebrew University. As of 2018, 15 Nobel Prize winners, 2 Fields Medalists, and 3 Turing Award winners have been affiliated with the University.

Monastery of the Virgins

The Monastery of the Virgins is a structure uncovered during Benjamin Mazar's excavations south of Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The large number of Christian religious finds from the site have prompted its identification with a monastery described by a pilgrim, Theodosius the archdeacon, in his De Situ Terrae Sanctae, a work of the early 6th century. The building was constructed in the 4th century on the remains of an earlier Herodian building identified with the Second Temple courthouse, and was destroyed during the Persian sack of Jerusalem in 614.

Second Temple

The Second Temple (בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי, Beit HaMikdash HaSheni) was the Jewish holy temple which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced Solomon's Temple (the First Temple), which was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, when Jerusalem was conquered and part of the population of the Kingdom of Judah was taken into exile to Babylon.

The Second Temple was originally a rather modest structure constructed by a number of Jewish exile groups returning to the Levant from Babylon under the Achaemenid-appointed governor Zerubbabel. However, during the reign of Herod the Great, the Second Temple was completely refurbished, and the original structure was totally overhauled into the large and magnificent edifices and facades that are more recognizable. Much as the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE as retaliation for an ongoing Jewish revolt. The second temple lasted for a total of 585 years (516 BCE to 70 CE).Jewish eschatology includes a belief that the Second Temple will be replaced by a future Third Temple.

Sheikh Bureik, Lajjun

Sheikh Bureik (Arabic: الشيخ بريك او الشيخ اِبريق‎), locally called Sheikh Abreik or Sheikh Ibreik in recent times, was a Palestinian Arab village located 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Haifa. Situated at an ancient site that shows evidence of habitation as early as the Iron Age, it was known as Bet She'arayim in the Roman and Byzantine periods and became an important center of Jewish learning in the 2nd century, with habitation continuing during the Early Islamic period and limited signs of activity from the Crusader period.The village appears under the name Sheikh Bureik in 16th century Ottoman archives. Named for a local Muslim saint to whom a shrine was dedicated that remains standing to this day, it was a small village whose inhabitants were primarily agriculturalists. Rendered tenant farmers in the late 19th century after the Ottoman authorities sold the village lands to the Sursuk family of Lebanon, the village was depopulated in the 1920s after this family of absentee landlords in turn sold the lands to the Jewish National Fund.

A new Jewish settlement, also named Sheikh Abreik, was established there in 1925. Excavations at the site in 1936 revealed the ancient city, known in Greek as Besara and identified as Beth Shearim by Benjamin Mazar. The excavated part of the ancient town has become the Beit She'arim National Park, which is managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Southern Wall

The Southern Wall (Hebrew: הכותל הדרומי‎ HaKotel HaDromi) is a wall at the southern end of the Temple Mount and the former southern side of the Second Temple (also called Herod's Temple) in Jerusalem. It was built during King Herod's expansion of the Temple Mount platform southward on to the Ophel.


Tanis (; Ancient Greek: Τάνις; Ancient Egyptian: ḏꜥn.t /ˈcʼuʕnat/; Arabic: صان الحجر‎ Ṣān al-Ḥagar; Akkadian: URUṣa-aʾ-nu; Coptic: ϫⲁⲛⲓ/ϫⲁⲁⲛⲉ) is a city in the north-eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. It is located on the Tanitic branch of the Nile which has long since silted up.

Tel Gerisa

Tel Gerisa (alternate transliterations: Tell Jerishe, Tell Jarisha), also known as Napoleon's Hill, is a Middle Bronze Age archaeological site on the southern bank of the Yarkon River, in Israel.

Temple in Jerusalem

The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. These successive temples stood at this location and functioned as a site of ancient Israelite and later Jewish worship. It is also called the Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Modern: Bēt HaMīqdaš, Tiberian: Bēṯ HaMīqdāš, Ashkenazi: Bēs HaMīqdoš; Arabic: بيت المقدس Beit Al-Maqdis; Ge'ez: ቤተ መቅደስ: Betä Mäqdäs).

Trumpeting Place inscription

The Trumpeting Place inscription is an inscribed stone from the 1st century CE discovered in 1968 by Benjamin Mazar in his early excavations of the southern wall of the Temple Mount. The stone, showing just two complete words written in the Square Hebrew alphabet, was carved above a wide depression cut into the inner face of the stone. The first word is translated as "to the place" and the second word "of trumpeting" or "of blasting" or "of blowing", giving the phrase "To the Trumpeting Place". The subsequent words of the inscription are cut off. The third word (...לה), which is incomplete, has been interpreted as either "declare" or "distinguish", giving either: "to declare [the Sabbath]" or "to distinguish [between the sacred and the profane]", where the words in square brackets represent scholarly conjecture.It is believed to be a directional sign for the priests who blew a trumpet announcing the beginning and end of the Shabbat in the Second Temple period. It is thought to have fallen from the southwest corner of the Temple Mount to the street below prior to its discovery. It has been connected to a passage in Josephus's The Jewish War (IV, ix, 12) in which he describes a part of the Temple: "the point where it was custom for one of the priests to stand and to give notice, by sound of trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close, of every seventh day".

Views of the Biblical World

Views of the Biblical World (Library of Congress Catalogue Number 59-7767) is a five-volume set of reference books published in 1959 by the International Publishing Company J-M, of Israel. Also published under the name World of the Bible, the series was acclaimed at the time as a landmark. It was the first publication dedicated exclusively to the correlation of archaeological and historical discoveries in Palestine with biblical texts.

The volumes included contributions from biblical scholars and archaeologists including Benjamin Mazar, William Albright, Yigael Yadin and Michael Avi-Yonah. The books' Editorial Manager was biblical historian Prof. Ory Mazar.


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