The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls months before the birth of the modern state of Israel, was arguably the greatest historical (as pertains to writing) find in history. Not only did it verify that the land of Israel had been the national homeland of our people for millennium, it confirmed the authenticity of the Tanach. The Hebrew scrolls dated two thousands years old, would be the same unchanged text passed on throughout the generations by the scribes.
A similar important historical discovery caused waves to sweep throughout Israel and the world this week, when fragments of ancient scrolls, and other treasures, were found in caves on the cliffs that hug the Dead Sea. Many are calling this Israel’s biggest find since the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr Eitan Klein, the archaeologist who led the digs is now a household name. “He has also won the affectionate title ‘Indiana Jones,’ due to the dare incurred in leading his team to salvage the scrolls.
The fragments were discovered due to a plot worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Klein mapped it all out using a fascinating combination of gathering intelligence from Bedouin informers, cutting-edge technology and the sheer guts required to rappel hundreds of meters into the entrance of the caves with an abyss hovering below.
Before the first shovel of earth was unturned, Klein and the Israel Antiquities Authority set up a network of Bedouin informants to retrieve intelligence about the theft of Israeli antiquities. Not only did Klein have to squeeze out information from convicted thieves, who as Bedouin, are loyal to their tribe, he also had to work with the Israeli police, Interpol and even the FBI. This is because looted artifacts can eventually end up in museums as far away as Paris, London and New York.
After gathering the necessary intelligence, Klein used an “air force” of drones that could photograph in such a fine resolution, that it was possible to measure the specifications of the caves and retrieve accurate imagery of up to an astonishing 1 centimeter. The state-of-the-art drones came with a fully autonomous functioning mode which meant no internet connection was required, an absolute necessity when mapping the remote and unforgiving desert. It was thanks to this “air force” of drones, that a 6000 year-old mummified girl was also discovered even before any digging had begun.
The centre of the excavations was the ‘Cave of Horrors’ chillingly named so seventy years ago, when 30 skeletons from the Bar Kochva period were found there. Perching over an abyss, the cave was the home of rebels hiding from the Romans, until, with nowhere to escape to, they eventually starved to death.
These latest finds also date to the Bar Kochva rebellion of 132 CE. For the most they came from the books of the prophets Zechariah and Nahum. Unlike the earlier Dead Sea Scrolls, or the fragments discovered previously from the Bar Kochva period (in which the leader asks for a lulav to celebrate the festival of Sukkoth), these newly discovered pieces were not written in Hebrew. They were for the most in Greek, except for the tetragrammaton, a name so sacred that it is rendered unpronounceable for fear of desecrating His name. The fact that the unutterable name is written in Hebrew, is testimony that Jews stuck stubbornly to belief and creed, just as we did throughout millennium in the face of empires and powers bent on destroying us.
Yet it is absence as much as presence which also bears witness. The absence of the word “Palestine,” is of no surprise, but likely to be ignored by those seeking to undermine true history, ancestry that stretches back thousands of years and legitimate Jewish self-determination.
First published here