hanan eshel has died. he will be missed.
the dead sea scrolls scholar was not only prolific, he was kind – a trait that is sorely lacking in our field. dr. eshel always had a moment for a young archaeologist or dead sea scrolls student, and sat with me to discuss my dead sea scrolls research and make recommendations to my work. he was well liked and well respected by his colleagues, and will be sorely missed.
let me recount a brief memory. while i was digging at hatzor in 2006, i picked up a hitchhiker while driving. the man was a few years my junior and asked me to take him to the next kibbutz, which i happily did. we got to talking. he asked me where i was digging. i told him hatzor, but that i was actually a dead sea scrolls student. he replied, ‘ah, qumran. the second temple period is a fascinating time.’ realizing that my new friend knew a little about archaeology, i asked him if he was an archaeologist. he replied ‘no, but that both of my parents are.’ those parents were hanan and esti eshel. i smiled.
the following year, i had the opportunity to meet hanan eshel in san diego at asor/sbl and the san diego natural history museum exhibition of the dead sea scrolls. i remember him being so tall, so imposing, and yet so affable. he spoke with a soft voice, which was very welcoming – a wonderful trait for a scholar. there was always a small crowd around him and he was always smiling. i walked up and introduced myself, and to my surprise, the first thing he said was, ‘you’re the one that gave my son a ride up north. thanx for that.’ we both smiled.
hanan was kind enough to sit with me and discuss my digital reconstruction of qumran. i appreciated the effort he made to reach out to a graduate student, especially one that was not studying directly under him, and one that did not agree with everything he concluded regarding qumran. and this is to be commended: dr. eshel was more concerned with encouraging, promoting, and developing good, young scholars than he was about insisting his academic conclusions were always right. i appreciated the kindness he showed in writing a blub for the back cover of my book. and i shall always remember his height, his smile, his work on the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls, and his kind, soft voice.
may the memory of hanan eshel be blessed, and may god bless and comfort his wife and family at this time of grief.