writing the dead sea scrolls to air july 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm on national geographic

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls on Nat GeoWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” will air on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM on the National Geographic Channel. The NatGeo website has complete details of the show, including a synopsis of the program, photos, quick facts, and video clips from the beginning and the end of the show.

I mentioned my trip to Israel and the West Bank earlier this year to make this program in a previous post.

National Geographic Israel previously featured the UCLA Qumran Visualization Project in 2008. The QVP resulted in the digital model of Qumran, a 3D virtual reconstruction of Qumran that was a central component of my doctoral research at UCLA. The UCLA Experiential Technologies Center website has a description of the Qumran project, complete with a video introducing the project, which can be viewed in the virtual reality visualization portal on UCLA’s campus.

the 2010 megiddo excavation enters its second summer season

The northeastern sector of the mound, Area J with Early Bronze temples in the center at Megiddo.

I must admit: I am jealous. My friend and colleague, George Washington University’s own Dr. Eric Cline, has just completed the first of two summer excavation seasons at Megiddo. And they appear to be having a great time.

The Megiddo team is maintaining a great daily blog of the 2010 season. They are publishing tons of pictures on Facebook. They are even singing songs about archaeology on YouTube. I admit, I wish I were there participating in the excavations, debating Solomon vs. Omri and Ahab, 10th century vs. 9th century, watching Finkelstein and Cline arm wrestle… let’s just say I am jealous.

Check out the blog. And maybe next season, you can see if you too can survive Armageddon!

Helen Thomas ‘gets the hell out of’ journalism

Helen Thomas89-year old press icon Helen Thomas has resigned and retired after being a fixture in the White House press room since the Eisenhower presidency.
Her resignation came as several politicians and journalists – both conservative and liberal – began to call for her to be fired. She was rebuked by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who called her remarks “offensive and reprehensible.” She was dropped by her agency, she had an invitation to speak at a high school graduation rescinded, and the White House Correspondents Association also issued a rare statement, calling her comments “indefensible.”

In a May 27 interview with RabbiLive.com, Thomas stated:

Reporter: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today….

Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

Reporter: Ooh. Any better comments on Israel?

Thomas: [Chuckle] Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German. It’s not Poland.

Reporter: So where should they go? What should they do?

Thomas: They can go home.

Reporter: Where’s their home?

Thomas: Poland. Germany.

Reporter: So, you’re saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany.

Thomas: And America and everywhere else.

It seems like Helen Thomas has taken her own advice and gotten the hell out of journalism.

Flotilla the Hun: How Not To Do A Nonviolent, Humanitarian Protest

Gaza Flotilla AttackMuch has been made about the conflict (dubbed Operation Sky Winds) between the Israeli military and passengers aboard the MV Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara), a Comoros-flagged passenger ship purchased in 2010 by the Islamic charity IHH. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 9 activists. The Turkish aid group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, whose full name is the İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı, and in English is known as “The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief “or “Humanitarian Relief Foundation,” (commonly referred to as IHH), is a Turkish Islamic non-government organization active in more than one hundred countries, all over the world. The IHH owned and operated three of the six flotilla ships involved in the incident. Established in 1992, the IHH is registered in Istanbul, Turkey and provides humanitarian relief into areas of war, earthquake, hunger and conflict. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Danish Institute for International Studies, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center have all published reports alleging links between IHH and Hamas, al-Qaeda or other Islamist and Jihadist organizations, but Mark Hosenball of Newsweek has reported that the U.S. is questioning Israeli claims that the IHH has ties to terrorist organizations.

This recent episode is the latest in a series of protests drawing attention to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which many claim is a collective punishment of Gazan Palestinians for backing and electing the terrorist organization Hamas to lead their government. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to keep arms and other military assets out of the hands of Hamas, whose prior provocations led to a full-blown War in Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” by the Israelis. Precedent does exist. In January 2009, the Israeli air force bombed a Sudanese caravan transporting arms to Hamas in Gaza from Iran. Seventeen trucks full of weapons were destroyed and 39 smugglers were killed in the attack. In February, 2009, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, loaded with ammunition and mortar shells. UN Resolutions 1737 (adopted by the Security Council in December 2006), 1747, and 1803 prohibit the export of weapons from Iran to any party.

The Blockade of Gaza has its roots in the aftermath of the 2007 Palestinian Civil War fought between the two major Palestinian political factions: Hamas and Fatah. The conflict resulted in the militant group Hamas ousting rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Fatah continued to rule in the West Bank while Hamas ruled in Gaza. In the wake of the Fatah-Hamas War, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for a limited amount of inspected humanitarian aid into Gaza. The blockade has continued to this day. Israel and Egypt’s rationale for the blockade of goods into Gaza was to prevent weapons – specifically materials needed to build rockets and mortars – from being moved into Gaza that could be used in rocket attacks against Israelis and Egyptians. To prevent another War in Gaza, which resulted from the Israeli response to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for inspected humanitarian aid to be brought into the city. Egypt has gone so far as to begin the construction of an underground steel barrier to prevent Palestinian smuggling tunnels from circumventing the blockade.

But, if there is a blockade of goods into Gaza, Hamas cannot rearm itself, meaning not only can it not fight the Israelis, but neither can it control its own Palestinian people, including Gazans loyal to the rival Palestinian political group Fatah, who are calling for the ouster of the failed Hamas government. Hamas wants its weapons, but the blockade makes this more difficult.

Of course, the problem with a military blockade of goods to Gaza is that Gazan Palestinians cannot get the goods they need to live normal lives. The constant conflicts – both Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian-Palestinian (Fatah vs. Hamas) – have left the Gaza Strip in shambles. Buildings are destroyed, public services are lacking, government officials remain unpaid, and the people suffer. And while many of these people take up arms and blame Israel, many do not. Many Palestinians in Gaza don’t want Hamas or its violence. They are tired of war; they just want to be left alone to live their lives, get married, raise their children, own their businesses, and live normal lives. And there are many humanitarian organizations that are trying to help, but the Israeli blockade prevents much of this assistance from getting to Gaza.

So what is to be done? How does one advocate for social justice in a place where the people are governed by terrorists? The answer is a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. It brings attention to Israel’s blockade policy, and delivers much needed aid to Gazan Palestinians, without allowing arms into Gaza. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do a nonviolent protest. Here’s a general rule of thumb:

If you’re going to participate in a nonviolent, humanitarian protest, it had better be both “humanitarian” and “nonviolent.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not attack the police officers who came to arrest him. Mahatma Gandhi did not beat the British soldiers who attempted to arrest him with metal pipes. The whole point of a nonviolent protest is to use your body in a peaceful protest to draw attention to a cause and to shame what the protester believes to be the offending party into rethinking and ultimately changing its policies. Reverend King’s nonviolent protests were instrumental in the American Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Gandhi’s protests helped bring about the departure of the British from India. Closer to my home in Fresno, César Chávez led nonviolent protests to bring attention to often invisible migrant farm laborers in the central San Joaquin Valley of California. Nonviolent, humanitarian protests must be just that: nonviolent and humanitarian.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen State College student and peace activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. Visit http://www.rachelcorrie.org/.

This is the beauty of the nonviolent, humanitarian protest recently carried out on the Irish ship, the Rachel Corrie, sponsored by the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement, whose passengers set sail from Ireland toward Gaza. The ship is named after the American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, a student at Evergreen State College who was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer as she acted as a human shield in protest over house demolitions in Gaza in 2003. The Rachel Corrie set out from Ireland loaded with nonviolent peace activists and loads of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza. The ship was painted with the organization’s website address and a Palestinian flag, and the protest was announced to the press well in advance of its departure to ensure a maximum visibility of the protest. And, when the Israeli navy enforced the blockade, approached the ship, and boarded it on June 5, 2010, the passengers on the ship sat down in the truest and most powerful sense of a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. The activists refused to obey the orders of the Israeli military in a nonviolent fashion. They welcomed their arrest and deportation, and their actions – their journey, defiance of the blockade, arrest, and deportation – become a symbol of Israeli insensitivity policies towards Gazan civilians. Meanwhile, the Israelis diverted the ship to the Israeli town of Ashdod, just north of the border with Gaza. They will inspect the goods, release the passengers, and deliver the ship’s aid to humanitarian non-profit organizations that will deliver the aid to Gaza. Because of this process, the world’s attention is drawn to the humanitarian suffering of the Gazan victims of the Hamas government and Israeli policies. This is how to do a humanitarian, nonviolent protest properly:

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the MV Mavi Marmara, whose crew lay in wait and attacked the Israeli soldiers as they boarded the ship. The harrowing ordeal is described by The Times Online reporters Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Gareth Jenkins in Istanbul. Watch as the so-called “peace activists” attack the Israel soldiers as they boarded:

The video below shows some of the weapons discovered aboard the MV Mavi Marmara:

Ultimately, this recent conflict will lead to a reexamination of Israeli policies in Gaza. I doubt Israel will lift its blockade; doing so will just open the doors for Hamas to rearm. However, if the coming June 2010 Palestinian elections (which Hamas has vowed to boycott) lead to a victory for Fatah, then Israel and Fatah-led Palestine may find themselves at such mutually weakened positions that they may finally agree to sit down and negotiate a peace settlement. Neither Fatah nor Israel want to see Hamas elements in Gaza rearmed, and both Fatah and Israel know that the continued suffering of the Gazan people and the blockade of humanitarian aid helps nether of them.

Of course, Islamic groups and anti-Israel factions will tout images of the funeral of the flotilla “martyrs” and condemn Israel. Likewise, pro-Israeli groups will highlight the connections between the IHH and Hamas, and will remind the world of the “true feelings” and lack of objectivity of many international journalists (like the recent comments made by Helen Thomas) condemning Israel.

Rachel Corrie (ship)

A of the MV Rachel Corrie, taken during its October 29, 2009 inauguration. AFP Photo/freegaza.org.

And while this can serve as a lesson for Israel and Palestine and encourage the two parties to return to the negotiating table and make peace once and for all, it should also serve as a lesson for those of us who use non-violent means to protest injustice around us. When protesting a perceived injustice, let’s say, by attempting to break through an Israeli naval blockade, do not become “Flotilla the Hun” like the Islamic protesters aboard the MV Mavi Marmara did. Attacking the police only leads to violence, retaliation, and a justification for return fire from the authorities. Rather, do as the passengers aboard the other five boats in the Gaza Flotilla did, and as the 19 passengers and crew aboard the Rachel Corrie did: sit in silent, nonviolent protest. As Mairead McGuire, an Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate on board the Rachel Corrie told the Associated Press, “We will sit down.” “They will probably arrest us… but there will be no resistance” if Israeli forces come aboard.

And that is how nonviolent resistance is done. Repeated, peaceful, thoughtful, protests shame those targeted by the protest into changing their ways. A “Floatilla the Hun” strategy only perpetuates the violence and empowers one’s perceived enemy. Only a nonviolent, peaceful resistance can bring about the long-term change to the way things are. Think like MLK and Gandhi, and not like Islamic militants, and Israel will be forced to do the same.


For more, view a picture essay of the conflict.

For my thoughts on the incident, watch the YouTube video below.

blessed be the memory of hanan eshel

Dr. Hanan Eshel

hanan eshel has died. he will be missed.

the dead sea scrolls scholar was not only prolific, he was kind – a trait that is sorely lacking in our field. dr. eshel always had a moment for a young archaeologist or dead sea scrolls student, and sat with me to discuss my dead sea scrolls research and make recommendations to my work. he was well liked and well respected by his colleagues, and will be sorely missed.

let me recount a brief memory. while i was digging at hatzor in 2006, i picked up a hitchhiker while driving. the man was a few years my junior and asked me to take him to the next kibbutz, which i happily did. we got to talking. he asked me where i was digging. i told him hatzor, but that i was actually a dead sea scrolls student. he replied, ‘ah, qumran. the second temple period is a fascinating time.’ realizing that my new friend knew a little about archaeology, i asked him if he was an archaeologist. he replied ‘no, but that both of my parents are.’ those parents were hanan and esti eshel. i smiled.

the following year, i had the opportunity to meet hanan eshel in san diego at asor/sbl and the san diego natural history museum exhibition of the dead sea scrolls. i remember him being so tall, so imposing, and yet so affable. he spoke with a soft voice, which was very welcoming – a wonderful trait for a scholar. there was always a small crowd around him and he was always smiling. i walked up and introduced myself, and to my surprise, the first thing he said was, ‘you’re the one that gave my son a ride up north. thanx for that.’ we both smiled.

hanan was kind enough to sit with me and discuss my digital reconstruction of qumran. i appreciated the effort he made to reach out to a graduate student, especially one that was not studying directly under him, and one that did not agree with everything he concluded regarding qumran. and this is to be commended: dr. eshel was more concerned with encouraging, promoting, and developing good, young scholars than he was about insisting his academic conclusions were always right. i appreciated the kindness he showed in writing a blub for the back cover of my book. and i shall always remember his height, his smile, his work on the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls, and his kind, soft voice.

may the memory of hanan eshel be blessed, and may god bless and comfort his wife and family at this time of grief.

journey to discover who really wrote the dead sea scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

who really wrote the dead sea scrolls? that is the subject of a forthcoming documentary produced by ctvc in london for the national geographic channel. i was asked to be among the interviewees which include (in alphapetical order):

  • robert cargill
  • rachel elior
  • shimon gibson
  • jan gunneweg
  • gideon hadas
  • jean-baptiste humbert
  • jodi magness
  • yuval peleg
  • stephen pfann
  • ronny reich
  • adolfo roitman
  • lawrence schiffman
  • orit shamir
  • pnina shor

the documentary is designed to take all evidence into account, including the site of qumran, the known sects of the second temple period, the caves in which the dss were found, and the contents, shape, size, date, paleography, orthography, language, and ideology of the scrolls themselves.

we discussed several aspects of the scrolls including what it meant to be understood as ‘jewish’ in the second temple period. would orthodox zadokites have understood pharisees to be ‘real’ jews? how about essenes? can one be perceived as jewish if one celebrates yom kippur and passover on a date different from other ‘orthodox’ jews? what does it mean that some jews followed different calendars? what if they believed in various versions of an afterlife if they even believed in an afterlife at all? what happens if different groups claim different biblical canons or have a different understanding of what is ‘scriptural?’ what happens if they expected different messiahs or even multiple messiahs? that is to ask, how far can one stray from orthodox temple judaism before one is no longer considered ‘jewish’ and is considered something else?

on my trip, i visited the kidron and og wadis. i walked through ronny reich’s excavation in the drainage tunnels leading from the temple mount to the kidron valley. i dug the destruction layers at en gedi with gideon hadas and climbed atop masada to ask what copies of genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, psalms, ezekiel, and most importantly, songs of sabbath sacrifice (fragments of which were also found in qumran caves 4 and 11) would be doing on top of the mountain fortress. i walked around qumran with yuval peleg and had him interpret the site for me based upon his ten seasons of excavations there. we later had a drink at the american colony and discussed the various interpretations of qumran and a couple of recent scandals surrounding the study of the scrolls. i read from the actual isaiah scroll in the basement vault of the shrine of the book with curator adolfo roitman. i held actual scroll jars and viewed roland de vaux’s actual field notes at the école biblique with jean-baptiste humbert. i walked around the walls of jerusalem to what shimon gibson believes to be the gate of the essenes. i visited cave 11 with stephen pfann and listened while he explained his multiple cave theory. i visited the israel antiquities authority’s organic materials lab and had orit shamir show me the scroll linens, the tefillin (phylacteries), wooden bowls, and other domestic items from the caves like combs and sandals. i visited the iaa’s restoration lab with pnina shor and watched as her crew restored fragments of the dss and prepared others for travel abroad for exhibition in the united states.

the production crew was wonderful. led by ctvc executive producer ray bruce, the field team consisted of director/producer john fothergill, associate producer paula nightingale, director of photography lawrence gardner, sound engineer david keene, israeli producer nava mizrahi, and antonia packard.

when it was all said and done, i felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow the path of the dead sea scrolls from their creation to their hiding, their discovery, restoration, and exhibition. i have a much better picture of who really wrote the dead sea scrolls. did the essenes really write them? some of them? were the scrolls written at qumran or elsewhere? should we even consider the dead sea scrolls a single corpus? or, should see it as a bunch of different collections of writings from various different jewish groups throughout the land? want to know what i think? it might surprise you. keep your eyes peeled in april for the national geographic channel’s presentation of the answer to the now 60 year old question: who really wrote the dead sea scrolls?

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert with the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert reviewing photographs and Roland de Vaux's actual field notes at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Adolfo Roitman, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, reads from a portion of the Isaiah-a Scroll discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran. The Isaiah-a scroll is presently housed in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman viewing a portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir at the organic materials lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Yuval Peleg shows Robert Cargill parts of his excavation at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran.

in case you were wondering where kids can pee in the ben gurion airport

i arrived in israel without incident. i had a wonderful flight on us air.

i flew on us airways from lax to tel aviv via philadelphia. i love the new airbus 330. each seat (and there was no one next to me :) has an on demand touch screen for tv shows (i watched flight of the conchords), movies (i watched australia) music, games, etc. the meals were great too. us air really impressed me.

the ben gurion airport is nice. i had a quick time at the passport checkpoint. however, i had to chuckle when i stepped into a bathroom and saw the following sign on the wall. just in case you needed to know where children can pee in the airport:

Children Pee Here

In case you wanted to know where children can pee at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

the sign was above that one urinal that is lower to the ground than the others. it is written in multiple languages for the international traveler. hebrew and english appear on the top, and the pee stream appears to be written in braille. ;-)

anywho, all is well in israel, an now you know where your kids can pee when you get to ben gurion.

on looted archaeological objects, the antiquities market, the heliodorus stele, and the israel museum

Heiodorus Stele

The so-called Heliodorus Stele is said to be both authentic and from an archaeological excavation in Beit Guvrin, Israel. Scholars wonder how an object discovered in a sanctioned excavation made it onto the antiquities market.

there is an excellent editorial on the bible and interpretation site by editors mark elliot and paul flesher about the so-called ‘heliodorus stele.’ specifically, the editorial asks the question why this inscription, if authentic, wound up in the hands of collectors and antiquity dealers?

the article concludes:

In short, we would argue that there are many questions which need to be answered about the Heliodorus Stele, above and beyond the inscription written upon it: when was it found; how was it found; if it were looted from Beit Guvrin, did the dig directors know when and how it was taken; did the IAA and the Parks Authority know that such looting was going on and, if so, what steps did they take to prevent further looting; how did Gil Chaya really come into possession of the stele; how did the Steinhardts find out about it and buy it; how much did they pay for it and was Chaya allowed to keep the money; why wasn’t the sale stopped; why was the sale allowed in the first place; what role did the Israel Museum play in this; and why isn’t the IAA (and the dig directors) questioning all this if the object has been shown through analysis to come from the same place on a licensed dig as three other similar objects?

there are a few different conclusions we can draw about the heliodorus stele, and each one of them raises some serious questions. i want to know the following:

  • looted – if it was taken from beit guvrin, why aren’t the authorities trying to apprehend the looter(s)? who received money for the transfer of this looted object?
  • antiquities market – if it was not looted, but is simply an unprovenanced object on the antiquities market, why are scholars and journals publishing articles about unprovenanced materials?
  • forgery – if it is a forgery, what is the israel museum doing displaying it? and who got duped into saying this forgery is authentic? also, if a forgery, were the fragments discovered during the ‘dig for a day’ excavations planted?

put simply, if it was discovered in a legitimate excavation, what on earth is it doing on the antiquities market? and who took it?

on the resumption of peace talks between israel and palestine: it’s time

regarding the rumor that president obama is close to brokering a deal to renew peace talks between israel and palestine, i have little to say beyond: let us hope beyond hope.

inshallah!

israeli archaeologists upset after being ‘excluded’ from conference on palestinian archaeology

Hishams palace is one of many important archaeological sites in the West Bank. (source: wikimedia commons)

Hisham's palace is one of many important archaeological sites in the West Bank. (source: wikimedia commons)

now here’s a turn of events.

apparently, several israeli archaeologists, including uzi dahari, the vice-director for archaeology with the israel antiquities authority (iaa), felt they were not invited to the archaeological conference entitled ‘overcoming structural violence’ in ramallah.

apparently,

Senior Israeli archaeologists have accused conference organizers of including only speakers who presented Palestinian points of view. But Claire Smith, president of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), the organization that sponsored the conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, says Israelis were not deliberately excluded.

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