Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

Will World Let Peres Give Away the Dead Sea Scrolls to the PLO?

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The most important archaeological discovery of many a century was the find of the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls: a large number of hand-written, 2,000-years-old biblical and non-biblical texts, which were found in caves along the Dead Sea near an ancient settlement called Qumran. When they were found, starting in 1947, the area was under Jordanian rule. For many years only a Catholic-dominated committee of scholars was allowed access to the bulk of the Scrolls. A half dozen that had been purchased indirectly by Israeli scholars. But hundreds of fragments remained "off limits" to Jews.

Only when Jerusalem was liberated in 1967 did all of them -- except the so-called Copper Scroll, which remained in Amman -- come into Jewish possession. Since The Scrolls represent the most important Jewish patrimony and heritage, it was natural that Jewish scholars in Israel and the United States concentrated great efforts to open up the secrets that the Scrolls conveyed to us, the ascendants of the people of the Scrolls. Marvelous revelations poured forth from these studies. Literally thousands of articles and books have been published, and the flow of publication has continued unimpeded.

At the same time, excavations at the caves of Qumran are still going, in the hope that still-hidden writings can be located. One of the most promising operations has been conducted by Professor Jones, of Arlington, Texas, who has converted to "Noahide Judaism," meaning that he has accepted the Seven Noahide Mitzvot. Two of his sons are full-fledged converts to Judaism -- one having become a chasid.

Professor Jones has excavated over 25 years in the Qumran area. His Efforts were rewarded when he made two sensational discoveries. He found a small jar, holding a rare oil identified as the "shemen afarshimon," (persimmon oil) made from now extinct plants, which was used for anointing kings and priests. It is said to be so sweet that it cannot be compared with any other sweet substance. In biblical and talmudic days the composition of this oil was kept secret. A chemical analysis conducted by Israeli scholars was made difficult because no kindred plants exist anymore in the Dead Sea area.

Jones’ second great find was a horde that constituted the "pittum haqetoret" ("preparation of the incense"). As we know from the Talmud, one family was in charge of preparing the incense in the Temple and they guarded the secrets of its ingredients so closely that they were criticized by the rabbis for making it impossible for others to produce the qetoret. An analysis by the Weizman Institute has yielded that the materials found in the Qumran Cave by Jones consisted of 15 species, all of which are listed in the Talmud.

Now Professor Jones is following the guidelines provided in the Copper Scroll to find further hidden caves. By using the most advanced laser serial technology, he has located a subterranean cave, which -- according to the Copper Scroll -- may very well be the hiding place of the Mishkan (Sanctuary) and some of the ashes of the Red Heifer. The excavation of this un-opened cave is to begin very soon this year. This is where the present political situation comes into the picture.

In the disastrous negotiations with the PLO at Taba, Shimon Peres -- now acting prime minister -- promised The PLO more than was anticipated. Instead of only ceding the enclaves around seven major towns in Judah and Shomron, Peres gave the PLO virtual autonomy over all the "West Bank." This includes the Qumran area at the shores of the Dead Sea, although it is far from the "autonomy" towns and villages. Based on Peres’ cave-in, the Palestinians have issued demands to freeze all archaeological excavations in the entire "West Bank," including Qumran. They have even displayed the unmitigated chutzpah to demand that Israel yield to them the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are now in Jerusalem under the care of expert Israeli scholars.

The outrage of these demands, to which Peres does not seem to give the minimal resistance, places in danger our most precious, meaningful patrimony -- testimony to the most significant religious and legal literature and institutions Of our forefathers before the destruction of the Second Temple. Needless to say, every word in these scrolls is 100 percent Jewish in character. The question is, why would the PLO press for ownership over them? There are two answers:

  1. They stand to make fortunes of money on these scrolls. Since they themselves do not have the minimal knowledge or interest in the contents of the texts, they would immediately peddle them around the world to the highest bidders. They may have illusions that they can collect millions of dollars in "ransom" money.

  2. In their ferocious hatred for Jews, they would destroy some of the scrolls, just as they have systematically destroyed archaeological sites, synagogues, etc., wherever their autonomy extends. There wanton destruction of Jewish sites has already claimed irreplaceable archeological Remnants of the First Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They do this to destroy the embarrassing evidence of the presence of Jews in Israel long before the Arabs came there.

It is a tragedy that the fate of these negotiations is left to a man like Peres, who has consistently bid his Jewish audiences that the time has come to forget our historic past. His sacrificing the most important and precious remnants in our literature, as preserved for 2,000 years at the Dead Sea, is another demonstration of the disastrous effect that this indifference to Jewish history has created.

I can only appeal to everyone with a feeling for our history and proud heritage not to allow this rape of our culture! We must protest to the Israeli government by pointing out that these ancient scrolls were preserved by our forefathers to be found and studied by us thousands of years after their deaths. The piety that our forefathers displayed by assuring the survival of their religious and cultural heritage deserves our response by continuing to guard them -- for the Jewish people, for all eternity.

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