The Secret of Qumran
Visitors overlooking the Dead Sea from the edge of the Judean Wilderness will gain a greater appreciation of the Dead Sea Scrolls when standing in the ruins of Qumran, which date back 2,000 years.
In, you’ll find a room where the scrolls may have been copied by scribes, pavement where Qumran’s old inhabitants dried dates, a dining hall, a ritual bath and a potters’ workshop.
Qumran’s visitor center, which follows the design of the nearby ancient buildings, features a film that tells the story of the landscape and its people. It even tells of how John the Baptist may have once lived in Qumran. A visit to the cave in which the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found will round out the perfect experience. You can also see the scrolls themselves when you visit the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.
The location is about 15kn south of Jericho but northwest from the Dead Sea. In 1947, Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed, a Bedouin goat and sheep herder, threw a rock into the cave trying to drive out a missing animal. When he heard pottery break, he went into the cave, where he found seven jars of clay. Inside the jars were the scrolls, which had been wrapped in linen for almost 2,000 years.
Soon after that, more people searched the area.
Searchers found pieces of almost 850 scrolls in 11 caves off the cliffs of Qumran. Only a handful of the scrolls were intact, and most were in different stages of completeness. The longest scroll was more than 8 meters long. Most were on parchment, with a few written on papyrus.
While most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, some of them were in Aramaic and Greek. The dry, desert climate in Qumran preserved them for 2,000 years.
Written on the scrolls are fragments from each book of the Old Testament with the exception of Esther. Other scrolls give new insight into the Jewish society once Christianity was formed.
Experts regularly debate who hid the scrolls at Qumran. Most believe that a devout group of Essenes – a strict Jewish group formed from what they saw as a religious lack in Judaism – wrote and copied the scrolls.
The Essenes lived in remote desert surroundings and had shifts around the clock. Roman statesman Pliny the Elder admired the community, saying: “They are unique and admirable beyond all other peoples in that they have no women, no sexual desire ,no money and only palm trees for company. Owing to the influx of newcomers, they are daily reborn in equal numbers.”
The Essenes were driven from Qumran in 68 AD, leaving behind their library of scrolls.
The visitors can watch a small film about the lives of the Essenes, and then visit an archaeological site.
Most of the scrolls are now located in Jerusalem. Eight are at the Shrine of the Book, and the others are located at the Rockefeller Museum. The rest of the scrolls can be found in Jordan and Europe.
If you enjoyed this you will love reading about Ein Gedi.