A Very General Archaeologist—Moshe Dayan and Israeli Archaeology

  • Raz Kletter

Abstract

This article is a preliminary investigation of three decades of robbery, collection and trade in antiquities by General Moshe Dayan, perhaps Israel’s most famous commander and politician. In trying to separate facts from the many rumors that follow his name, this contribution is mainly based on written sources, some never published before. They prove that, since 1951, Dayan was involved in large-scale robbery of antiquities in dozens of sites in Israel and the occupied territories. Dayan used army equipment and personnel for robbery and transfer of antiquities; established a vast collection of stolen and bought antiquities, and exchanged and sold antiquities in Israel and abroad. He became a negative model for others and damaged the cause of Israeli archaeology as a whole. Although Dayan was caught in person at least four times during robbery, he was never brought to justice. After his death, his collection was sold by his widow to the Israel Museum for 1 million US$. Though Dayan’s activities are a sort of a known secret in Israel, they were never investigated from an archaeological perspective. Many facts remain unknown since they appear in remote Hebrew sources, hence writers about Dayan, including some of his biographers, often follow the wrong, romantic view of him as the ‘good guy’- a sort of an Israeli Robin Hood that fights stupid bureaucracy and social rules. This article brings a representative sample of Dayan’s deeds and tries to evaluate them and to ask how they were possible, and what has changed since those “good old days”.
Published
2003-12-31
Section
Articles