Sunday, February 17, 2008


We continued on our Tanch Tiyul from Kfar Adumim down to Qumron. This is the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The scrolls detalied the lives of a fringe group of Essenes, the Essenes being one of the four major Jewish theological movements of the late Second Temple Period, in the two centuries before the year "zero" on the secular calendar (or as one of my rabbis calls it, the idolatrous calendar.)
Some of the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
The scrolls described a life of solitude and near-monasticism, although the celibacy of the Catholic Church had yet to be concieved of. The caves have been used again and again throughout Jewish history, by King David centuries before when he was hiding from King Shaul, and later by the Macabbees as they hid from the Seleucid imperial troops. They are also known to have been used to hide some of the vessels used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed by the Romans in the hope that the temple would be rebuilt and they could be retrieved. Little did those who hid them know that what they had experienced was but the beginning of two thousand years of exile to the four corners of the Earth.
While the leather scrolls described their somewhat out-there religious beliefs, a copper scroll was found which gave a description of the location of the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the red heifer. These ashes, mixed with mayim chayim, are used to bring Jews to a state of purity necessary for ascending to the temple mount. To this day, Jews are not able to walk on the Temple Mount and rebuild the temple due to their impurity. The discovery of these ashes would remove the last obstacle to rebuilding the temple. Well, that and the mosque that's up there now.
The ashes are described as having been hidden in "The cave with the pillar." Some archaeologists believed this to be the cave:
But excavations have so far revealed nothing.

Yours truly. Perhaps the ashes of the Parah Adumah are behind me. But we are not allowed to approach the caves.

Back in the gift shop, they're selling books about the Temple (shown in the photo above.) I found the scene a bit amusing. The shop is run by a bunch of surly Hamas-looking Arab guys, selling books about the Jewish temple to Korean Christian tourists.

Because of the similarities of the Essene behavior and attitudes towards those of early Christians, it is believed that the group of Jews who eventually founded Christianity were very closely related to those who settled Qumron. It has now become a site of pilgrimage for Christians seeking to explore the roots of their faith. And to go for touristy camle rides.

German Christian tourists riding camels.

The site itself is quite well-preserved.

Foreground: ruins. Background: rain falls on the Dead Sea.
Rain over the Dead Sea. This site only happens maybe once a year. This is normally one of the hottest spots on Earth. As well as the lowest.

Herds of Ibex forage among the rocks.
The tower (really, more of a big pile of rocks now,) is believed to be from the Hasmonean period (the dynasty which took power after the Maccabean Revolt.) The rest of the village was likely built around it two centuries later by the Essenes.

The mountains of Moav (biblical neighbor and enemy of the Jews,) today in Jordan.

Upper right: It was the Israeli Air Force's flying practice day.

The cave in which many of the most importand scrolls were discovered.

A closer-up of the cave.

Snow? Nope, evaporated salt piles left behind by the receeding Dead Sea.

Yours truly, in front of the Dead Sea.


Beaman said...

Fantastic photographs. I especially like the two of the cave and the geography of the surroundings. Beautiful country.

daddydooga said...

great pics! my wife Sue is really into biblical archaeology, & we've visited many sites in the north of Israel; we never visited Qumron.
Your remark about the surly Arabs selling books to (Korean) tourists reminds me of an incident in the Old City, where shortly inside the Arab quarter of the Market I bought an olivegreen t-shirt with the IDF logo on it. Right before hotpressing the image on the shirt, the young man put a tape on his recorder, of some man giving an angry-sounding diatribe. The only words I could make out were "jihad" (multiple times) and "allah"; guess this tape made his job bearable when selling to the accursed invaders. O well, another day, another shekel.