Dr. Avraham Biran awarded Israel Prize - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Dr. Avraham Biran awarded Israel Prize

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Monday, April 1, 2002


Avraham Biran, a third generation Israeli, received his MA and Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he is Director of HUC-JIR's Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem. He participated in the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania in Iraz, at Tepe Gawra near Mosul and Khafaje near Baghdad and in the American Schools of Oriental Research excavations near Irbid in Jordan. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama'alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan, 1966-1993.

"It gives me the greatest joy to congratulate our teacher Professor Avraham Biran on this Yom Ha'atz'ma'ut (Israel Independence Day). He is so richly deserving of the prestigious Israel Prize, and we at the College-Institute bask in the rays of his glory and celerbate his accomplishments on this day. His work in the field of archaeology has brought great distinction to HUC-JIR, and has contributed so richly to the cultural heritage of the Jewish people. We applaud Professor Biran today, and give thanks for his energy, his character, and his knowledge.In the words of our tradition, we thank God, "she-halak meihachmato l'ireiav -- who share divine wisdom with humans." May Professor Biran continue to grow from strength to strength," stated Dr. David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President.

Prominently located at the most copious of the Jordan River's headwaters, Tel Dan has intrigued generations of explorers and archaeologists. Its identification with biblical Dan by Edward Robinson in 1838 conjured up images of a thriving Israelite cult center rivaling the temple in Jerusalem. In 1966, with the site threatened by military activities related to its forward position on the Syrian border, Avraham Biran, then director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, embarked upon salvage excavations which developed into a full-fledged and still active research project. Tel Dan has revealed an almost uninterrupted sequence of occupation from the Neolithic period through the late Roman period in a series of unique discoveries whose full implications are only just beginning to be understood. Avraham Biran's book, "Biblical Dan" (Israel Exploration Society/Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1994) is a chronicle of Tel Dan's history: its initial settlement at the dawn of civilization, its first urban episode in the Early Bronze Age, the massive earthwork fortifications and unique mud-brick gate of the Middle Bronze Age (with an arch structure predating by 2000 years the Roman "invention" of this architectural form), the tombs of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, the evidence for the migration of the tribe of Dan in the early Iron Age, and finally, the rise of a national cult center in the Israelite period in all its architectural and artifactual glory. In 1993 at Tel Dan, the northernmost city in the biblical kingdom of Israel, Dr. Biran discovered the "House of David" stele. The inscription on this stele, written in early Aramaic paleo-Hebrew script and dating from the 9th century B.C.E., is the first archaeological evidence supporting the existence of the House of David.

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Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu