(Editor's note: The University of Manitoba has just recognized Dr. Haskel Greenfield as a “Distinguished Professor”. Greenfield is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Manitoba and co-director (with his wife, Dr. Tina Greenfield) of the University’s Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Lab at St Paul's College. The University gives out this honour based on the following criteria: a) outstanding distinction in research and scholarship or in creative professional activity combined with b) a significant record in teaching.
In a related article, the Winnipeg Jewish Review will post an interview with Dr. Greenfield. But firstly, in honour of Dr. Greenfield receiving this Distinguished Professor distinction, I have written this true story, which I believe attests to his teaching skills.]
In 2008, my son Dov and I, who were in Israel, accompanied Haskel Greenfield and his family on a five day trip visiting several archaeological sites across the region. Neither myself, nor my son, (who was then eight years old and in grade four) had any previous archaeological knowledge or particular interest in the subject. But in his own unassuming way, Haskel began teaching my son bits of information that sparked an interest and curiosity in my son that was remarkable, and has forever made me appreciate his teaching skills. Thankfully, since I made my son write a trip journal (in exchange for the fact that I pulled him out of school for 6 weeks), I can easily remember what I am about to detail below.
While we were visiting an ancient well preserved Roman site with an amphitheatre, the kids noticed some pieces of bluish greenish glass on the ground, which I assumed was from broken bottles. But, Haskel knelt down and explained to them that some glass fragments had white marks on it and that this was Roman glass that was two thousand years old. The glass had oxidized over time, leaving the white marks on it. He explained that the ancient glass could be recognised as different from the modern glass which did not have these marks. He showed them how some of the glass was likely from broken bottles that were new. I remember how Haskel waited patiently as the kids picked up pieces they thought were Roman and waited for his approval. When they picked up the modern glass, he would ask them to find the white marks and if they couldn't then they would throw it back on the ground knowing it wasn't ancient. Throughout the trip, as the children found more, they asked him even more questions based on their accrued knowledge. One piece my son found had a round finished edge to it, and Haskel explained that it was probably part of a bowl.
Haskel next showed my son what pottery shards (fragments) from Roman times, also two thousand years old, looked like. These were was easy to recognise since they had lines on them. Before I knew it, my son was looking at all sorts of pieces of items lying on the ground, and asking Haskel lots of questions. Haskel carefully explained that they were not supposed to remove the artefacts from the site. Some pieces of ceramic pottery had a green glaze on them. Haskel explained that this was from the Islamic period.
When Dov found a piece of pottery that Haskel explained was part of a handle from an ancient Roman jug, Dov was thrilled. Haskel also taught the kids how to identify what were pieces of animal bone (that were hundreds if not thousands of years old).My son soon began drawing different pieces of pottery shards and bones in his journal.
We also went to visit churches and ancient Roman homes where Haskel showed Dov how mosaics were made. He learned that these ancient mosaics are made out of little square pieces of rock called "tesserae", that were 200-1400 years old.
I began to realize that my son was more or less inhaling everything Haskel told him. At one archeological site that we visited, Haskel explained that the archaeologists who were reconstructing the ancient site had made a mistake. He showed the kids that the capital (or head) on a column was too small to have been part of the column that it was placed on. Dov began inspecting virtually every column at the site to see if he thought the capital fit the column, and reported back to Haskel any concerns he had (see related photo).
A couple days after our trip with Haskel and his family finished, I took Dov to a relatively small archaeological museum in Kibbutz Sdot Yam, near Caesarea. We were the only ones there. Dov spotted a head on a column that he felt was too small for the column, and proceeded to tell the female curator at the museum that there was a mistake as that head couldn't possibly fit that column. Her jaw dropped as she explained that he was correct and that this head or capital of the column had only been put there temporarily as they were out of space. Dov proceeded to ask her more questions based on all sorts of information he had stored in his head that he had picked up from Haskel, much to my astonishment.
The woman asked me how old Dov was, and when I said he was 8 years old, she asked "How many years has your son been interested in Archaeology?”. I burst out laughing and explained that he had only been interested in Archaeology for five days. She asked me if we could wait while she went to get the head curator/archaeologist of the Sdot Yam Museum who was in his home on the kibbutz so that he could meet my son. When I asked why, she said "In all my years I have never seen a child your son's age who knows so much about archaeology."
We waited until the head archaeologist, a man who was in his 60's, came to meet my so. He asked if he could give my son a private tour of the museum, which lasted about an hour. I followed with my camera.
At the end of the tour, the head archaeologist also told me he had never seen an 8 year old who knew so much about archaeology. He looked down at Dov and asked "Where did you learn all of this from?"
Dov smiled and replied "From Haskel!"
The female curator said "What is this Haskel your son is talking about?"
I replied "Haskel isn't a thing. He's a person. His name is Haskel Greenfield. Haskel is a name that is short for Yecheskel. He is an archaeologist from Winnipeg who is a friend of ours and we travelled with him and his family for five days and everything and anything my son knows about archaeology, is something he learned from Haskel.
When we parted, the head archaeologist said, "Whenever you and your son are in the area please drop in so that I can continue to give your son private tours. And would you please tell your friend Haskel, that whenever he is in the area, he must stop by. Please tell this Haskel that we definitely want to meet him."
Ever since that day in 2008, I realized just how distinguished a Professor Haskel Greenfield was. (Note that the University of Manitoba bestows the honour of distinguished professor on only 20 professors at any one time and they keep the honour for the rest of their career. In order for a new Distinguished Professor to be appointed, one of the previous must leave the university, retire or pass away.)
To end this story, I will reprint below what my son recorded in his journal as a result of his private tour of the Sdot Yam museum (I won't correct his spelling). Dov wrote:
'At the Arkilogakal Museum the curator lifted me up to see a statute that the romans made 2000 years ago. We also saw a pillar with a menorah on it which we think used to be part of a synagogue in Roman times. The Romans used to rule the land of Israel. They destroyed the Jewish temple. The statutes did not have heads on them because the Muslims cut them off when they ruled Caesarea. King Herod built Caesarea. There was only one statute with a head and we saw a statute that was like a gate with a horse."
P.S. My son also learned tons from Dr. Tina Greenfield and I have no doubt that one day she too will be named a Distinguished Professor.