Located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, Qumran is home to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and many archeological excavations that have unlocked the mysteries of the inhabitants that once occupied that area. Many of the scrolls and thousands of fragments were discovered in 11 different caves throughout the park and all the books of the Old Testament were represented except for the book of Esther.
The national park consists of a visitor center giving an extensive background, including a video presentation, on the history of the Essene Sect, the people that once occupied that area, with the possibility of John the Baptist being one of them. They also have many trails around the park with a lot of information about the excavated remains that have been uncovered there. Some of the trails even lead up to the caves where some of the scrolls were discovered.
The scrolls were first discovered in 1947 by two Bedouin shepherds throwing a rock into a cave, heard a strange echo and came across clay jars containing folded pieces of leather, some of which were wrapped in cloth. After being separated and some smuggled out of the country, all 7 scrolls were returned to Israel and later put on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It’s also interesting to note that these priceless scrolls were discovered right before Israel became a nation on May 14th, 1948. Could there possibly be some kind of divine connection between the two?
The shrine of the book which is a section of the Israel Museum, is where all the scrolls are stored today. The architecture of the building is astonishing because it has been built like a cave for the scrolls, two thirds of it are underground and the roof resembles a white dome with water fountains constantly spraying it down. I’ve also been told that if a possibly war were to break out, the building would close up like an actual vault, safely securing the scrolls inside.
Today, tourists and locals alike can enjoy fragments of the scrolls on display including a replica of the entire Isaiah scroll which measures about 24ft long and 11inches high when it’s rolled out completely. The actual Isaiah scroll along with the others are tucked away in a vault below the exhibit to keep it preserved for many years to come. Due to the extreme frailty of the scrolls, they are rotated every 3-6 months, to let them rest from exposure. What makes the scrolls such an amazing find, is that being 1100 years old, they are the oldest copies known in this age and has been extremely beneficial to biblical scholars around the world.
The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, is open year round to the public but keep in mind that they have very strict rules including no photography which comes with a hefty fine if caught.
One thing that I really enjoy about Qumran National Park is not only is it rich in history and archeological findings, there is still always that possibility of something else being discovered and you could be the one possibly making the next discovery. This seems to be the case all throughout Israel as well, because there is still a lot rich cultures, treasures, archaeological discoveries and possibly even the Ark of the Covenant, just waiting to be found and pieced together within a giant historical puzzle. Who knows, maybe the next rock you throw in the Holy Land could get your name into the history books.
If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience of the Qumran National Park, I encourage you to please leave a comment below.
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