Elisha asked "Why Not?" - by Uri Dromi
Dr Elisha Linder (1924-2009) is considered one of the foremost marine archaeologists in the world.
Elisha Linder, born in Cernăuţi, Romania, was raised from the age of four by his aunt who was a passionate Zionist. When Hitler came to power she and her family together with young Linder went to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv. Linder’s father was sent to work in Teresinstat and was murdered by the Germans only hours before the camp was freed by the Red Army.
Linder attended the “Herzliya” high school and joined the “Senior Scouts” led by Yaakov Goldin. He volunteered for the Palmach but was forced because of ill health to leave and turned to study education at the Kibbutz Seminary. He went on to be the principal of the “Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad” in Jerusalem, and there, in 1949, fell in love with Pnina, a member of Hashomer Hatzair. Regardless of the Hashomer Movement’s opposition because he was a Mapainik and her counselor, he left for the US to marry Pnina and father their sons Oren, Omri and Uziahu. On receiving his M.A. in the Ancient History of the East, they returned to Israel and settled in Kibbutz Maagan Michael.
Linder noticed that kibbutz members would often decorate their rooms with finds from the beach and he soon organized a small museum at the southern end of the kibbutz for archaeological artifacts. The commander of the Israeli Navy at that time, Yochai Ben Nun suggested at the end of the 50’s that he could get the veterans of the “Shayetet 13” (Israeli navy special forces) to search the sea bed in areas where fisherman had found interesting items. Shuka Shapira tells how Linder organized the group which included Haim Stav and Shaul Ziv, how the skeptics derided his efforts, and how despite them Linder, with equipment gleaned from all kinds of sources, established what was later the “The Association for Underwater Research in Israel (AURI - in 1961 in association with A. Raban, J. Galili and J. Shapira.)
Linder managed to interest Baron Rothschild, and with his help the Association became the organisation in Israel for marine archaeology. Then with Leon Recanati’s backing established the Recanati Institute for Marine Studies and the Faculty for Marine Civilisation where he taught together with his friend and pupil, the late Prof. Avner Raban.. Together they wrote the basic study books for marine archaeology and researched ancient ports both in Israel and abroad. Linder’s name became popular in the world of “Marine Civilizations” and he was invited to participate in many research programs. In 1958 when in Sardinia he heard the exciting news that a member of his kibbutz, Ami Eshel, had discovered an ancient cargo ship exactly in the same area that Linder had begun to explore 25 years earlier. And so it is this “the Maagan Michael Ship” that is on display today at the Haifa Hecht Museum in the wing named after Elisha Linder.
Prof. Aharon Ben Zeev, the president of the Haifa University, boasts that thanks to Linder the Haifa University is considered one of the pioneers of marine archaeology in the world. Hai Idelman of the “Havura Tzolelei HaShayetet” says that many asked “Why?”, but Linder would say “Why not”! Linder’s friend Prof. Shlomo Breznitz adds that during their walks on the beach, Linder would look out to sea, and say “that is where the treasures are to be found, not on the horizon beyond reach, but in between, far enough to make it a dream, but near enough to make that dream come true”.
By Uri Dromi