March 30, 2017 – Qumran
From the bus, we saw an unusual pedestrian on the walkway along the highway.
Qumran National Park is on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, somewhat south of Jericho. It is a place of barren hills and caves, the place where a young Bedoin boy found the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.
How the Dead Sea Scrolls were found:
In the summer of 1947, Bedouin shepherds were pasturing their flocks near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. While looking for a goat that had wandered off into the cliffs (maybe looking for some actual grass to eat?) they came across a curious rock crevice. When they threw a stone into a cave opening, they were surprised to hear a strange echo. They crawled inside and found large jars standing on the floor. Inside the jars were folded pieces of leather, some wrapped in cloth. And that is the beginning of the story of how the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Over 980 scrolls have been so far found in 12 different caves in the area. The originals are kept at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum. Below, in the Qumran museum called “The Secret of Qumran,” are replicas of some of the scrolls, as well a other items found in the caves in the area.
These scrolls are ancient Jewish religious texts, dated from about 300 BCE to the first century CE. They include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts from the Hebrew Bible. The practice of storing worn-out sacred manuscripts in earthenware vessels buried or placed in caves is called Genizah — such texts cannot be just thrown away. If you are interested in more detail, Wikipedia has a number of charts explaining what was found, cave by cave.
Below are some of the scroll-containing jars as they were found. Small replicas were sold in the gift shop, so of course we bought one — and here is Tom holding it.
More items from the museum, including small pots, shards, and shreds of clothing:
In Qumran, there is also a very modern cosmetics center called Ahava (Love) which makes cosmetics and skin care from Dead Sea salts. At right is part of a window poster. Of course one doesn’t have to go to Israel to get this stuff — it’s available on Amazon, too.
They also have a display of salt sculptures made from the Dead Sea salt.
And, of course, there were the usual gift shop items, including familiar — and unfamiliar — snacks, and some beach shoes I came near to buying until I noticed that the tag said (in Hebrew but not in English) “made in China.”