Fayez Barakat

As a young boy Fayez worked beside the famous British archaeologist, Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, sorting and identifying shards from her excavation in the ancient Jerusalem of King David’s time. Fayez became familiar with pottery classifications and with the basic principles of field archaeology.

His facility in learning languages was startling. With his photographic memory he could quickly master a new language, including vocabulary and grammar, and conduct intelligent conversations with visitors from different countries in Europe in their native languages.

At the age of fourteen, when he was deeply engrossed in reading medical textbooks in preparation for his intended career in medicine, he met Father James McGuire of Loyola University. The reverend father, as a good teacher, put Fayez to the test. He thumbed through the texts and asked questions of the young man. So impressed was he by Fayez’s answer that he offered him a Fullbright scholarship.

When the papers arrived in Jerusalem, Fayez’s father distressed at the thought of being separated from his son, quietly secreted the documents until the time for accepting the invitation had elapsed.

During 1967 artifacts from plundered tombs in the hill country west of Hebron began to stream into Jerusalem. Fayez, like other merchants, made purchases from the villagers. He acquired numerous common household objects from periods extending from Middle Bronze I (2100-1900 B.C. ) through the Byzantine era (A.D. sixth century). Soon he began to accept only those choice items that represented the finest statements of the ancient craftsman’s art.

About this same time, Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of Hebrew Union College, a world-renowned scholar and archaeologist, invited Fayez to attend classes in the Jerusalem school. Soon he was enrolled in courses taught by the eminent Middle Eastern archaeologist, Dr. William Denver. Under the guidance of Father Spiekerman, director of the Museum of the Flagellation at the Second Station of the cross in Jerusalem, he researched ancient coinage. He read and studied archaeological journals, excavation reports, and the best sources in art history. Consequently, he has become one of those unique individuals whose knowledge combines the results of classroom studies, extensive reading and research, and practical field experience with intimate familiarity with artifacts developed through handling thousands of items.

Today, Fayez is more than a merchant; he is a connoisseur devoted to a dream. He believes he owes something to the archaeologists and instructors who helped develop his expertise-and indeed, to all who probe the past and help us appreciate our rich human heritage. He has undertaken a duty to preserve the past and to save from possible damage and loss these exquisite artistic statements. He has witnessed the destruction of precious ancient objects by simple villagers who feared fines for possession of such items or perhaps confiscation by the government of the land on which they were found. Once an artifact is destroyed, whatever it might tell us of the past is beyond recovery and its usefulness as a clue to the understanding the creative spirit is forever lost.

Exerpt from “A Preface for The Collection” By Gerald A. Larue