About Joseph Aviram
In the world of Israeli archaeology, Joseph Aviram is the man who was there. He was there when Alexander Zaid [a founder of Hashomer, a Jewish defense organization] arrived on horseback to show a group of students the Beit She'arim excavations in the 1930s. He organized the first professional Jewish digs in the 1940s. He brought David Ben-Gurion one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was found in the Judean Desert in the 1950s, and he took Yigael Yadin up to Masada in the 1960s.
Aviram, who is 97, probably holds the record for successive employment at the same place of work. For 70 years he has been with the Israel Exploration Society (previously known as the Society for the Reclamation of Antiquities ). Next month, the IES will celebrate its centenary, an achievement matched only by a handful of institutions in Israel.
Aviram started working for the IES in 1943 as a secretary, at a salary of one Palestine pound a month. For most of the subsequent period, he headed the society while also holding various posts at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Even today, he continues to come to his office - located in the basement of a residential building in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood - every day. His memory is lucid, the stories he tells riveting.
"I immigrated in 1936 from Poland, where I had graduated from the Hebrew teachers' college in Vilna," Aviram recalls. "So why was I in archaeology? I was actually a teacher, but on the ship I saw a small notice: 'This evening, Prof. Moshe Schwabe will lecture on the Beit She'arim excavations.' I didn't know what it was about but I told myself, 'We'll go to the talk.' He brought many pictures, but there was no 'magic lantern' [slide projector]. He explained how it all began and how he was invited to read the Greek inscriptions. I was very much taken by the whole story.
Source: HaAretz Weekend Edition May 29, 2013
The Dorot Foundation recently announced its sponsorship of a prize to honor Joseph Aviram of the Israel Exploration Society (IES). Dorot president Ernest Frerichs said the prize recognizes Aviram’s “staunch advocacy” of archaeology in Israel throughout his 70-year career at the IES.
The Biblical Archaeology Society is now accepting applications for the 2011 Joseph Aviram Fellowship. The fellowship brings Israeli scholars to the United States to participate in the annual scholarly meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), held in the same city every November. This year’s meetings are in San Francisco. The fellowship’s stipd of $2,500 is intended to cover the cost of the winner’s travel expenses. The fellowship honors Joseph Aviram on his retirement as director of the Israel Exploration Society (IES). Aviram, who, at age 93, remains president of the IES, has been associated with the society for more than 70 years and, as director, oversaw the publication of countless excavation reports, encyclopedias and journals on the archaeology of Israel. He also participated in important excavations and offers sage, conciliatory advice to generations of Israeli archaeologists.
Hometown of Przerosl
Josef Aviram (Abramsky) re-visited his home town of Przerosl, Poland in the Suwalki region in 1988:
"We also found a local newspaper from 1992 with some articles about Jews. In one of them there was a letter written by Motko Abramski. He wrote, "Our relations with Polish people were generally good, but just before the war they simply got worse and worse. Maybe it was the fault of German occupation. The Poles were forbidden to buy from Jews. I and my brother Josef [my grandmother's cousin Joseph Aviram the Israeli archeologist who I met in 1969], were last in Przerosl in 1988. Everything had changed, and we were sorry not to have met many familiar people. The cemetery is in very bad condition..."
Motko's father, Nysko Abramski, was the local grocery shop owner. He also bought cereals from the local farmers. People who remember those times showed us the place where it was located (Suwalska Street). Now it is Mr. Rant's house. Our interviewees say that some young boys used to steal cereals from the local owners to sell them to Nysko Abramski, and then the army in Suwalki bought them."