The Israel Exploration Society (IES) (Hebrew: - Hakhevra Lekhakirat Eretz Yisrael Va'atikoteha), originally the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society, is a society devoted to historical, geographical and archaeological research of the Land of Israel. The society was founded in 1914 with the object of studying the History and Civilization of Palestine and of disseminating its knowledge.
The Israel Exploration Society plays a key role in archaeological research covering all periods, from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period. It coordinates much of the multi-institutional archaeological research carried out by both Israeli and foreign archaeological expeditions in Israel. Major activities undertaken by the IES include organizing excavations, enlisting financial support for archaeological projects, publishing excavation reports and liaison and cooperation with Israeli and foreign institutions in the field of publication and in a collective effort to promote the cause of archaeology.
The IES is a non-profit organization governed by an Executive Committee and a Council comprising representatives from all of the institutes of archaeology in the Israel and several major archaeological museums.
The Society's activities were disrupted by the outbreak of World War I but resumed in 1920, when it became known as the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society. During the period of the British Mandate, it was responsible for the first archaeological excavations ever conducted by a Jewish organization in Palestine, at Hamat Tiberias, where Nahum Slouschz discovered a synagogue.Other digs were carried out at Absalom's tomb, around Jerusalem's Old City walls, Ramat Rachel, Beit She'arim and Tel Bet Yerah.
Following Israel's War of Independence, the IES received the first excavation permit issued by the Israeli government allowing it to excavate at Tell Qasile. Since then, the IES has organised and sponsored some of the most important archaeological projects carried out in the country including Tel Hazor, Masada, the excavations in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount, in the Jewish Quarter, and at the City of David, the Judean Desert Expeditions, En-Gedi, Tel Arad, Lachish, Aphek, Jericho, Herodium, Yoqneam, Dor and Tel Megiddo.
Another facet of the IES's activity is the dissemination of knowledge gained from the exploration of Israel to the general public in Israel and abroad. Fifty-nine archaeological conferences have been held for members of the IES. These annual gatherings include lectures by archaeologists and guided tours of recently discovered sites. Hebrew-speaking members receive the semi-annual Qadmoniot, while the semi-annual Israel Exploration Journal caters for English readers. The Eretz Israel festschrift series publishes original archaeological, historical and geographical studies in Hebrew and English in honor of leading international scholars in these fields. Twenty-seven volumes have appeared to date.
The IES, in cooperation with other institutions, has held thirty annual meetings for the professional archaeological community in Israel. Two international congresses on Biblical archaeology were held in 1984 and 1990, attracting hundreds of participants from around the world. The proceedings of both have been published in two volumes entitled Biblical Archaeology Today. In 1997 an international congress was held in Jerusalem marking 50 years since the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. The proceedings appear in the volume The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years after their Discovery.
Publications include The Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic Period prepared together with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the W.F. Albright Institute; and The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, which appeared in four-volume Hebrew and English editions in 1993.
In 1989, the Israel Exploration Society was awarded the Israel Prize for its special contribution to society and the State of Israel. The citation of the judges' committee notes: "It has been the principal and most effective institution for furthering knowledge of the archaeology and history of the country both at home and abroad since it was founded seventy-five years ago."