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Adolf Reifenberg

REIFENBERG, ADOLF (1899–1953), Israeli expert in soil chemistry, archaeologist, and numismatist. Reifenberg, who was born in Berlin, studied agricultural chemistry and graduated from Giessen University. A Zionist from his youth, he was among the first ḥalutzim who arrived in Ereẓ Israel from Germany after World War I. After working as an agricultural laborer at Kinneret for two years, he joined (1922) the laboratory for agricultural chemistry of the mandatory government. In 1924 he became a member of the staff of the Institute of Chemistry of the newly founded Hebrew University. He later founded and was head of its department of soil science. In 1947 he was appointed professor at the university. Reifenberg also served as dean of the faculty of agriculture and of the faculty of mathematics and science. In World War II Reifenberg, although overage for military service, volunteered for a Palestinian unit of the British Army, was torpedoed off Malta, but was rescued after a long time in the sea.

Reifenberg's contributions to agricultural chemistry were mainly in the field of soil research. Through his familiarity with the peculiar climatic and topographical conditions of the Mediterranean countries and his knowledge of chemistry and physiology, he was able to formulate a theory of the red soil (terra rossa) formations in the Mediterranean (Karka Ereẓ Yisrael (1938); The Soil of Palestine, 19472). He investigated one of the major problems of Erez Israel: soil erosion and its prevention (Milḥemet ha-Mizra ve-ha-Shimmamon (1950); The Struggle Between the Desert and the Sown, 1955). Reifenberg also dealt with various practical problems connected with the use of the few raw materials provided by Ereẓ Israel, such as the Ḥuleh peat, potash, phosphate, and citrus peel.

Reifenberg was also an archaeologist and numismatist. He built up one of the finest collections of Palestinian and ancient Jewish coins (presented after his death to the State of Israel), and in 1951 became the first president of the Israel Numismatic Society. Together with L.A. *Mayer, he examined several ancient synagogues such as the one at Eshtemo'a (Samoa), south of Hebron, and that of Naveh in Hauran.

His main archaeological publications are Architektur und Kunstgewerbe im alten Israel (1925); Palaestinensische Kleinkunst (1927); Denkmaeler der juedischen Antike (1937); Ancient Jewish Coins (19472); Ancient Hebrew Seals; Ancient Hebrew Arts (both 1950); and Israel's History in Coins… (1953). In 1950 he founded the Israel Exploration Journal, which he edited until his death.


IEJ, 3 (1953), 213–6; M. Cassuto-Salzmann, ibid., 4 (1954), 143–9 (bibl.); AJR Information (Oct. 1953), 4; Jerusalem Post (Aug. 28, 1953).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.