Shraga Qedar


Shraga Qedar died this year on September 23. Shraga was born in 1933 in Kraków. His father, Meir was a dry goods merchant and Naava his mother had a degree in German culture and literature from the University of Kraków (now Jagiellonian University). Both parents had graduated from the Hebrew gymnasium there and spoke Hebrew at home.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, six-year-old Shraga found himself with his family in a concentration camp. In 1942, Shraga succeeded in escaping from the inferno and made his way to Slovakia and from there to Hungary where he remained for two years and was one of those saved by the celebrated efforts of Raoul Wallenberg. In late 1945, under the auspices of the Youth Aliyah program, Shraga emigrated from an Italian DP camp to Palestine, aged only 12.
Shraga studied at the Rosa Cohen School of Agriculture in Petah Tikva and between 1951 and 1953, he served in the army. Afterwards he lived in Ḥazor Haglilit. Shraga fought as a reservist in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and received a head wound. Around that time he became active in the Labor Party. In 1962–1966 Shraga served as Secretary of the Worker’s Committee for Afula and the Esdraelon Valley. As the youngest Labor Committee secretary at the time a political career for Shraga appeared promising. However, around age 30, Shraga was bitten by the archaeology bug. Upon a visit to Haluza, Shraga found some ancient coins, and this lighted his curiosity. Through his work at identifying the coins, he added Arabic to the five other languages in which he was fluent. Around this time, Shraga spent a period in Iran.

Shraga’s first numismatic discovery was a coin of Darʿā, the Islamic mint at the former polis of Adra‘a in southwestern Syria, which was his first publication (1967). Shraga went on to publish many other numismatic discoveries. His primary fields of interest spanned well over a millennium of the numismatics of the southern Levant: Samarian, Jewish, Nabatean, Roman provincial and early Islamic coins but of these, he was proudest of his work on early Islamic coins. His two books on numismatics were on Samarian coins, written together with his close friend Ya‘akov Meshorer (1991; 1999). Before that, in the 1970s, he had expanded his interests to the study of scale weights, and wrote the texts for four sales catalogues of scale weights (Münz Zentrum 1978; 1979; 1981; 1983), though his name nowhere appeared.
Shraga was one of the last of a generation of Israeli autodidacts in the field of numismatics; they excelled despite their very limited formal education. Early on, Shraga turned his interest in ancient coins into his livelihood, and became a member of the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN). Nevertheless, he always described himself as a scholar. His intense curiosity, his generous spirit and his amiable personality won him friends among a number of the best numismatists of his generation. Some of them contributed to volume 16 of the Israel Numismatic Journal (2007–2008) published in his honor.
(Yosef Weiss contributed to this tribute)