Throughout the years there have been many research studies which contributed to our knowledge of the country in every conceivable aspect. Yet, the significance of the history of the research was hardly recognized. In recent years there has been a great increase in the studies addressing the history of the Land of Israel and its archaeology, and a range of issues relating to this field has expanded. Nevertheless, despite the increasing volume and importance of these issues, so far there has been no center combining contemporary research in the field.
A Chair dedicated to the study of the history of the knowledge of Land of Israel and its archaeology would enable us, for the first time, to seek answers to questions regarding the factors that drove the research. The changes, overtime, in the study of a specific theme as well as the reciprocal relationship among researchers studying the same field. The answers may serve as an additional layer shedding light on the research, and open a porthole into a deeper, more complex comprehension of the research process itself.
About Zev Vilnay
Zev Vilnay was born in 1900 in Kishinev, Russia (now Moldova). His family immigrated to Israel when he was six years old and he grew up in Haifa. In high school Vilnay studied at the Hebrew Reali School and then in the Teachers’ Seminary in Jerusalem. Continuing his studies, he went to the University of London, as well as the Dropsie University in Philadelphia where he completed his Ph.D. in 1938. Vilnay grew up during the years of the Second Aliyah when connecting to nature and the landscape was a key component of Zionist education. He was greatly influenced by the activities of touring the country and courses of knowing the land (‘Yediath Ha’Aretz’), which became very popular during the 1920’s. From then and onwards, for sixty years Vilnay devoted his life to spreading knowledge of the land and love of the country through tours, lectures, and publications. He believed that the right way of bequeathing these values was by walking in the various areas of the country, and the motto that had guided him was “by the sweat of your feet you will know the land.” He attracted thousands of travelers and formed the courses of the knowledge of land of Israel. In his many publications he had addressed a variety of issues related to knowing the land. He collected hundreds of stories and folklore stories and compiled them in the book: ‘Legends of the Sacred Land’. He also documented settlements and regions in the ‘Israel Guide’ and ‘Ariel Encyclopedia’. Vilnay was a member of the naming committee of Israel in which he contributed his vast knowledge to the creation of dozens of names of new settlements.
Even if there were those who preceded Vilnay in the engagement of knowledge of the land, there is no doubt that he can be viewed as the pioneer who had paved the way for dealing with this subject over the years. His preoccupation in knowing the land was popular to a great extent, but the tours he had led and the books he had written formed the basis for the scientific engagement in the field. Vilnay won the Israel Prize for his contribution to imparting knowledge of the land and the love of the country in 1982. To his dying day in 1988, Vilnay continued leading and promoting the study of knowing the land.