Yaron Eliav was born and raised in modern Israel. He comes from a Jewish orthodox family and received his early exposure to and acquaintance with ancient Rabbinic texts in the traditional learning setting of yeshivot, where he studied between the ages of 8-20. Despite forsaking observant Jewish life in favor of total secularism, Yaron maintained his love and passion for ancient Jewish texts and made them the cornerstone of his academic pursuits. In order to acquire the scholarly tools necessary for his future research, he embarked on a long path of training, studying classical (Greek and Latin) and Semitic (Aramaic and Syriac) languages and texts, ancient history, and archaeology. He received his MA, summa cum laude, from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, from the department of Jewish History and the Institute for Archaeology. He then continued to obtain a PhD from the same institution. As a graduate student he also spent a year at Princeton University as a Fulbright fellow to study Early Christianity, and two years as a post-doctorate at New York University (NYU).
From early on, Yaron decided to conduct his research along the interdisciplinary path that combines literary sources and physical, archaeological remains. As a student he participated in archaeological excavations at Tel Hazor, and later on, while a graduate student, was part of the research teams of the excavations at the sites of Roman and Byzantine Tiberias and Paneas/Banyas. As part of the Tiberias archaeological team, Yaron produced one of his earliest publications – a source book that compiles passages from rabbinic literature, which relate to the physical world of this ancient city (see here). Yaron’s choice of research topics – the Roman bathhouse, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the cultural dynamics that surrounded Roman sculpture – reflects his scholarly agenda; namely to bring together written and physical sources in the study of the Roman Mediterranean in general and the life Jews within that realm in particular.