August 4, 2014

The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority mourns the passing of Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yehoshua (Shuka) Dorfman, Director General of the Israel Antiquities Authority since 2000.

Shuka, aged 64, passed away Thursday, July 31, 2014, after a long battle with a serious illness.

Shuka, who held a BA and an MA in Political Science from Haifa University, devoted his life to serving Israel. He served in a variety of military positions, the most senior of these being chief artillery officer in the IDF with the rank of brigadier general. During his military service, he commanded the artillery corps during Operation Accountability in southern Lebanon and upgraded the corps with advanced weapons systems and guided missiles.

Shuka fought in the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon War, and in the Security Zone. In his last position in the IDF he served as a military attaché and headed the Defense Ministry's delegation in Japan and South Korea. Upon leaving the army he worked at the Israeli company, Elisra.

In November 2000 he was appointed as Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority by the Israeli government. His term of office was twice renewed.

Shuka had no formal academic training in archaeology, yet his name will be respectfully remembered in the history of Israeli archaeology because of his enormous contribution to archeology in the country.

Under his leadership, the scope of archaeological rescue excavations in Israel was significantly expanded. During these years, the Authority was granted extensive authority in all matters regarding the supervision and preservation of antiquities. At the same time, he strove to maintain a proper balance between the archaeological needs and the development needs of Israel.

Under his leadership, extensive archaeological excavations were conducted throughout Israel and particularly in Jerusalem. Shuka was a fervent believer in the importance of Jerusalem’s archaeological research and was at the forefront of the expansion of archaeological excavations in the City of David, on Mount Zion and at King David's Tomb, at the Western Wall and in the Western Wall tunnels.

In recognition of his contribution to the archaeology of Jerusalem, Shuka was granted the Guardian of Zion award, which he subsequently donated to a fund he established for IAA employees.

Believing that archaeology cannot be detached from the preservation of archaeological sites, Shuka promoted conservation as one of the Authority's main areas of activity. He believed that archaeological sites should be developed and made accessible to the public, and emphasized the need not only to expose sites, but also to preserve and develop them for the public good in the highest professional international standards. Among other successes in this field, he was responsible for the promotion of key sites, such as Masada, Acre and the Spice Route, and their designation as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Shuka emphasized the professional nature of the IAA and its detachment from politics. Aware of the problem of using archaeological remains for political ends, he determined the position of the Authority, namely that important sites will give proper representation to all periods. Shuka wrote a book about politics and archaeology, which is soon to be published.

Shuka led the IAA into the twenty-first century by using advanced technologies, both for research purposes and for the conservation and treatment of finds. He also accelerated the computerization and digitization of the archaeological archives. 

Recognizing the importance of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls as the most important archaeological find of the twentieth century, Shuka led the research of the scrolls with the assistance of advanced technologies. During his term of office, the laboratory conserving the scrolls became one of the most advanced such laboratories in the world. All the Dead Sea scroll fragments have been uploaded to the Internet and are freely accessible at the click of a button.

The establishment of the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel in Jerusalem, making the archaeological heritage of the Land of Israel available and accessible to the public, was one of Shuka’s main visions for the future of the IAA, and the campus will serve as a focal point of his legacy.

Shuka left behind a wife, Talma, three sons, eight granddaughters, and two grandsons.

He was laid to rest in Gedera.

May his memory be blessed.

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