The 20th Congress of IOSOT 1 - 6 August, 2010


Ms. Jutta Jokiranta, DTh
Congress Secretary
P.O. Box 4
FI−00014 University of Helsinki
E-mail: iosot-2010 AT
phone: +358 9 191 24348

Interviews of IOSOT Main Speakers


On these pages you will find interviews of IOSOT Main Speakers. Who are these scholars? How did they become Biblical scholars? Why should one listen to their papers at IOSOT?

Raz Kletter tells about himself

I was born in Israel in 1960. That was in the past. Small shops had two kinds of bread and one type of tea. Milkmen brought milk in bottles to your doorstep. Open fields and nature were seen nearby, not on TV. I have lived in Tallinn since 2007 – my wife is Estonian. Since moving up north, I have slowly learned to think before I speak, but it is a long process.

I am an archaeologist. After a post PhD year at Oxford I worked at the Israel Antiquities Authority in various positions, and lectured in several Universities. During the years I saw far more antiquities than the doctors recommend. In 2002–2007 I was responsible for the SPR unit. We were the reading boys, working through piles of words: excavation files, preliminary reports, final reports, reports to the management about lack of reports… That is also part of the Romance of Archaeology. Now I teach at Helsinki, where I am docent for Near Eastern Archaeology.

How I chose my career – well Zeev Meshel is to blame. As a boy I was taken on walks and tours of nature, and he was the guide. I wanted to know how he could tell historical periods from pottery fragments. All the fragments looked the same. Now I know.

My main fields are archaeology of the Near East in the Bronze and Iron Ages. I am interested in religion and cult, economy, theoretical archaeology and the history of archaeology in Palestine. Probably four scholars read what I write about a Judean limestone scale weight, and I know them all personally. Naked ancient figurines are more popular. Readers see the face of the past and their own image in them. I also work with the research history of archaeology in Israel, and I write about “operation Stone” – how general Dayan ‘borrowed’ an army helicopter to shoplift stone stelae from a mining temple in Sinai; or how the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, was built from “frozen funds” of the USA intelligence agency. Since the Americans paid, they also chose the name of the Museum. This is not exactly what students learn in introductory courses. Are readers interested in knowing the past “as it really was”, or as they think it should have been? Sherlock Holmes once said, “I can discover facts, Watson, but I cannot change them.”

I am involved in Old Testament studies because the past is one, not divided by our modern disciplines (archaeology, Old Testament, history). Anyone who studies Iron Age Palestine must cope with the Old Testament, even if they want to prove that it is ahistoric. I think scholars should respect scholars of the past a bit more. Currently too much rubbish is thrown at former “Biblical archaeologists” by those who think that they have replaced them with something better. In fact, each scholar builds upon former ones. Those who proclaim revolution every October and find a new theory under every green tree often hinder the careful, slow accumulation of pieces in an unending puzzle.

My main achievements are still to come: to write a final report about a site that does not exist and get it published. It is not difficult, but one needs the correct type of site to ensure that the scientific results are meaningful. I would also like to write a book on “Fifty Ways to Make Money in Archaeology”, but so far I have only 17 ideas. The ideas are good, but sadly I have not managed to put them into practice yet. When older, I would like to be able to sing karaoke in the bar of the Helsinki-Tallinn ships without causing the drunkards to jump overboard.

The catch with my IOSOT presentation is that I need to speak about more than a hundred cultic stands from Yavneh dated to ca. 950–850 BC. Former scholars were lucky. Sellinn published one nice cult stand from Ta’anach in 1904. Scholars had 60 years to study it in peace, until Lapp found a second in 1968. No sane scholar dreams about finding a hundred cult stands. Then there are fire-pans, incense burning and the sect of Korah. I will never finish the lecture. This is how I won my Docentship; I wore out the committee. But the presentation will have some very nice slides.