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July 17, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 17, 2009 By Sheri Shefa Canadian Jewish News After months of promoting the historic Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Toronto's Royal On- tario Museum, the organizers eagerlywelcomed people from all backgrounds to explore the scrolls and other artifacts that offer Jews, Christians and Muslims a link to their past. The Israel Antiquities Au- thority (IAA) and the ROM have collaborated to produce the exhibition, which opened last month and will be on display until Jan. 3, 2010 in the ROM's new addition, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Sixteen scrolls, discovered in 1947 buried in caves in the Judean Desert by a Bedouin shepherd, will be divided into two groups of eight and each group will be on exhibit for three months. Among the 16 scrolls--written between 250 BCE and 68 CE, from the books of Genesis, Deu- teronomy and Psalms, as well as the sectarian Community Rule, War Scroll and Mes- sianic Apocalypse--are four that will be on public display for the first time ever. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was at the media preview event on June 24, during which photographers and videographers were given the only opportunity to pho- tograph and film the exhibit. "My hope is that all people, people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds, will come to- gether to marvel at the scrolls and take this rare opportunity to discuss their meaning and significance," McGuinty said. Dead Sea Scrolls guest curator Risa Levitt Kohn, an alumna of both York Univer- sity and University of Toronto and director of the Jewish studies program at the San Diego State University, said that the show is about more that the scrolls themselves. "This show is a show about the world from which they came, the culture that spawned the scrolls," she said, adding that the texts are a key to the ancient people at a critical juncture as the ancient Israel- ites transformed into the early Jews and early Christians. "In fact, this is my favorite exhi- bition, because these scrolls, these small, fragmented, aged Dedzd Sea Scrolls exhibit opens in Toronto mikeyphotog/ A visitor examines the portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum. parchments are truly a link between us and the past," Levitt Kohn said. Uzi Dahari, deputy direc- tor of the IAA, who was in Toronto for the opening of the exhibit, said that despite the painstaking efforts to safely transport the scrolls to Toronto and create ideal conditions to put them on display while preserving them, it's worth it to be able to share these artifacts with people around the world. "We demand a lot of conditions. First of all, you can exhibit a scroll under certain condi- tions for three months and then it must rest for at least a year in a climate-controlled condition without any light," said Dahari, who has a PhD in archeology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In addition to biblical scrolls and non-biblical texts from the Book of War and Apocry- phal Psalms, the exhibit will also showcase jars that held the scrolls in the caves for hundreds of years, oil lamps, bibles and a fragment from the Temple Mount from the first century BCE. As part of the exhibition, there will also be a limited presentation from Oct. 10 to 18 of a fragment from Deuteronomy that depicts the oldest written expression of the Ten Commandments. The Anne Tanenbaum Lec- ture Series, featuring some of the world's most renowned scholars on the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, is meant to compliment the six-month exhibit. The lectures will run until December. For a listing or to register, visit and click on "events," or call 416- 586-5797. The ROM also partnered with the Koffler Centre of the Arts to display contemporary artwork by Joshua Neustein, who "explores themes and ideas suggested by the scrolls, shaping a dialogue with their historical and cultural tradi- tions." "I have seen a lot of exhibi- tions of the scrolls in many other venues around the world, believe me," Dahari PAGE 11A said. "This is the most beau- tiful one, in my opinion. The ROM did a beautiful job." Despite the excitement sur- rounding the historic exhibit, the opening did not come and go without controversy. On June 25, Palestine House, a non-profit educational and cultural centre in Missis- suaga, Ont., issued a state- ment calling for a boycott of the exhibit. The call came two months after Palestinian of- ficials called on the Canadian government to cancel the show, because of claims that the scrolls were acquired ille- gally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed east Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestine House state- ment said that it's calling for a boycott because the ROM is "displaying the artifacts looted by Israel from the Palestine Archaeological Mu- seum. This is not the ethical or legal standard Canadians expect of the ROM." It said it will boycott the exhibit unless the ROM admits the scrolls are Palestinian property. In response to the claims from Palestinians that the artifacts are stolen property, Dahari said that at the mo- ment, that debate is "irrel- evant." "Let's say the debate is that they say we are not the owners of the scrolls. OK, they can say that, but we are protecting the scrolls now. It is our responsibility. We are preserving the scrolls, we are investing a lot of money in do- ing it, we have the best lab to protect the scrolls... So we also exhibit them according to our responsibility of the curators at the moment," Dahari said. "Even concerning the law, the only state that ever acted according to the Hague Con- vention [for the protection of cultural property] in 1954 was Israel, when it returned all the antiquities excavated by Israelis in the Sinai to Egypt after the peace agreementwas signed between us," he added. "To say that we are stealing their heritage, it's chutzpah. It is an insult. I don't under- stand. I am a historian, so I know that Islam is from the seventh century AD. The scrolls are from the second and third century BC and first century AD. This is not their heritage... This is Jewish heri- tage. It is written in Hebrew. It is our language, our Bible. What do they want from us? "The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by Jews, were hidden in the desert by Jews... and they should remain in Israel." Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Jewish News. rmricci/ The Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls and other rare ancient manuscripts. The dome covers a structure that is two-thirds below the ground, and is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls Readers interested in learning more about the subject can scroll through the following books and Web sites: "What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why Do They Matter?"by David Noel Freedman, et al, Eerdmans, 2007. A short primer on the Scrolls, written with humor and behind-the-scenes information about Scroll research. "Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls:A Reader From the Biblical Archaeology Review" edited by Hershel Shanks, Vintage Books, 1993. "Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls" (Anchor Bible Reference Library) by Lawrence H. Schiffman, Anchor Bible, 1995. Schiffman, a Hebrew and Judaic studies expert, abandons earlier, Christianized interpretations of the Scrolls to present them as specifically Jewish texts. "The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls" by Philip R. Davies et al, Thames & Hudson, 2002. Features fact files, reconstructions, scroll photo- graphs, and 450 illustrations and photographs, 75 in color. The Library of Congress Web page "Scrolls from the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship" The Israel Museum's Web site section on the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Scrolls: