It sounds like the plot of a blockbuster summer movie, but instead it’s an initiative of the Israeli government that’s underway in the Judean desert. In an effort to foil antiquities robbers and preserve Israel’s history, the Israeli government is mobilizing hundreds of volunteers with a team of archaeologists to find and secure historical artifacts in the cliffs of the Judean wilderness.
The cliffs are so challenging to the project, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) had to get permission to build a new trail up the cliffs—and still rappelling-equipment will be necessary. The initial location for the project is the “Cave of the Skulls”, and the most notable target is saving the remaining Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered in the middle of the last century, include 2,000-year-old copies of the Hebrew Scriptures from the Bible. While some have been recovered already, there are thought to be more in the caves. A press release from the Israeli government outlined the plan and quoted Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport, MK Miri Regev, who is among those promoting the plan.
“The antiquities robbers are plundering the Land of Israel’s history, which is something we cannot allow,” said Regev in the press release. “The Dead Sea scrolls are an exciting testament of paramount importance that bear witness to the existence of Israel in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago… It is our duty to protect these unique treasures, which belong to the Jewish people and the entire world.”
The project is expected to last another couple weeks, if that is enough so they can secure the archaeological information from the cave. The IAA has spent years policing the desert to prevent robbers from taking historical artifacts, but the only way to secure them all is to find them first.
Israel Hasson, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was quoted as saying, “For years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 24, 2016)