The Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa was inaugurated in 1984. It was the initiative of the late
Dr. Reuben Hecht, founder of the Dagon Silos in the port of Haifa
and a founding member of the University of Haifa Board of Governors. The founding of the Museum that was to bear his and
his wife's name may be cited as Dr. Hecht's crowning achievement in support of the University. He had previously
established the Reuben Hecht Chair for the Study of Zionism and History and the Herzl Institute for Research and
Study of Zionism. From his youth, Dr. Hecht was interested in the archaeology of the Land of Israel, and for a
period of sixty years he assiduously collected archaeological artifacts representing the material culture of the
Land of Israel in ancient times. He took special interest in finds from the Canaanite period to the end of the
Byzantine period, a time of great significance for the Jewish people. Dr. Hecht,
who was known for his Zionist activities, believed that archaeology was an important expression of Zionism and that
the discovery of ancient artifacts was proof of the link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
The Permanent Archaeological Exhibition is
based on the collection of the Museum's founder, who
donated it to the university. The layout of the Hecht Collection is based upon two principles:
that the displays are presented both didactically and chronologically and that the collection continues
to highlight the Israelite period, thereby remaining faithful to Dr. Hecht's vision.
Part of the Hecht Collection is integrated into a
display arranged in chronological sequence,
beginning with the Chalcolithic period and ending in the Byzantine period. Another part
is integrated into a display arranged chronologically and thematically. Coins, seals,
weights, jewelry, toys, oil lamps, and the 'seven species' are all exhibited with particular
emphasis on two collections: Jewish coins and inscribed seals from the Biblical period. The
museum's collection of ancient seals is one of the largest and most important in the field.
About two years before his death, Dr. Hecht began planning an expansion of the Museum, but he died in April 1993,
before he could see the realization of his intentions. The management of the University of Haifa and the directors
of the Hecht Foundation, however, continued with this initiative, and the new wing of the Museum was inaugurated
in October 1998. The permanent displays in the new wing are thematic and based both on archaeological artifacts
from the Hecht Collection and those on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The latter include finds from
excavations conducted by the University of Haifa.
The permanent thematic displays:
Phoenicians on the Northern Coast of Israel in the Biblical Period –
This display stresses the role of the Phoenicians as sea-going traders and focuses
on their contribution to marine architecture and the technology of harbor engineering.
Ancient Crafts and Industries –
The focus of this display is on seven ancient crafts and industries: metalworking,
woodworking, stone vessels, glassmaking, mosaic art, the art of writing, and the physician's craft.
The Ma'agan Mikhael Ancient Ship –
The 2,400-year-old ship, its anchor, and part of its cargo are all on display.
The Art Wing
of the Museum was inaugurated in early 1989. Displaying artwork from the Hecht Family
Collection, this wing presents important trends in art, beginning in the 19th century. Its emphasis is on
Impressionism and the work of
Jewish artists in the School of Paris.
Included in this collection are works by Van Gogh, Manet, Monet,
Pissarro, Soutine, and Modigliani.
It might seem that the art collection is very distant in place, time, and content from the archaeological
collection, but Dr. Hecht did not think so. Both the art and archaeological collections were linked to his
concept of Zionism. In his view, the two movements, Impressionism and Zionism, marked the end of one period
and the beginning of another; both were rooted in tradition and in the past, but led toward the future.
The new wing contains a grand and acoustically superior auditorium that seats 380. A pipe organ, which was put
together from parts of organs used in churches in Israel more than a century ago, was also installed, a gift of Dr.
Hecht. Its sonorous tones reflect the traditional quality, rich variety, and romantic style of 19th-century organs.
As a lover of culture, Dr. Hecht hoped that the addition of the auditorium would make the Museum a center for
cultural events, complementing its special atmosphere and character, which combine art and archaeology.
The Hecht Museum, in addition, serves as a study and research center for students and academic staff,
as well as a venue for enrichment studies in the fields of archaeology, art, history, and the Bible for school
pupils, soldiers, teachers, and all other members of the community. The Museum holds an annual competition in the
plastic arts for high school pupils, soldiers, and students in the University's Department of Fine Arts.
The Hecht Foundation grants scholarships to winners of these competitions, and awards fellowships to
M.A. and Ph.D. students in the Departments of Archaeology and Maritime Civilizations. The Museum
holds conferences, symposia, seminars, and lectures and publishes
of its exhibitions of archaeology and art.
the museum's annual publication, publishes scholarly articles on archaeological research and on
artifacts in the Museum Collection.