Personal reflection on Palestinians from THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE

In my new book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE, I not only tell the story of how we got the Bible we have today by telling the story of key cities that contributed to its formation, but I also offer many personal stories, discoveries, and reflections on my travels to these important cities.

Here is my reflection on the Palestinian people following a rather eventful dinner in Bethlehem.

“I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethleḥem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people.”
– Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

"I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethlehem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people." - Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

If you’d like to read more, pick up a copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE wherever books are sold.

Dig This Summer in Israel at Tel Azekah with the University of Iowa

The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition

I’d like to invite all who are interested to join us this summer for the second season of exploration at Tel Azekah, Israel. The University of Iowa is proud to be joining with Tel Aviv University and the University of Heidelberg as part of an international consortium of universities participating in the Lautenschläger Archaeological Expedition at Tel Azekah.

Tour the Holy Land and spend a summer doing archaeological research for university course credit.

For more information, visit the Azekah Facebook page, or visit the Iowa Azekah Information page. Biblical Archaeology Review also has information on Azekah. You can also read through last year’s Azekah blog.

2013 season details are also available here.

Excavation dates: July 13 – August 23, 2013.

Excavation Directors: Dr. Oded LipschitsDr. Manfred Oeming, Dr. Yuval Gadot

Iowa Team Director: Dr. Robert Cargill

Consortium members: You will meet students from around the world, including those from Collège de France, Duke University, Georg-August-Universität-Göttingen, Heidelberg University, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Macquarie University, Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Tel Aviv University, Universität des Saarlandes, Université de Lausanne, University of Iowa, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, and the University of Zurich.

Accommodations: Students stay in the Nes-Harim guest-house, a mountaintop village of fully air-conditioned wooden cabins, located on in the midst of a green and lush forest. Students enjoy accommodations and full board, with three delicious meals a day, their own private bar, as well as full complementary Wi-Fi internet services in classes and the surrounding area.

Schedule:

Saturday Evening: The excavation week begins on Saturday evening, with buses that bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house. After a quick dinner, students attend opening lectures and introductions to the week ahead.

Saturday to Thursday: Students wake up very early to work and begin digging as the sun rises over the Judean hills and the Elah Valley. At 9:00 we gather for wonderful Israeli breakfast served on-site at beautiful Tell Azekah, eating and enjoying the breathtaking view of Judean Lowlands. Afterwards, we continue digging until noon, at which point students take the short bus drive back to the Nes-Harim guest-house. Students eat lunch, shower, nap, read, and enjoy time until the time for pottery washing. In the afternoon, students gather for pottery washing where they clean pottery collected that morning in the field, and look for seal impressions and ancient inscriptions. Later, and in the evening, students enjoy dinner a rich academic program, complete with lectures from the world’s leading archaeologists, and enjoy guided tours of the lovely landscape where the ancient history of various nearby excavations is recounted by leading scholars.

Thursday afternoon: Students depart for weekend trips on Thursday afternoon. Two options are available during the excavation weekends (Thursday afternoon – Saturday afternoon):

  1. Students may take part in organized tours to other parts of Israel (for an additional fee).
  2. Students may take advantage of the complimentary bus service to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (leaving the guest-house on Thursday afternoon and returning on Saturday afternoon). Studetns are responsible for their own accommodations on the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv weekends.

Friday and Saturday: Free time to enjoy weekend tours or free time in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Saturday afternoon: Buses bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house.

Weekend Tours: Each weekend, students will take tours of various sites in the Holy Land including, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, the Mediterranean coast, Jerusalem, Qumran, En Gedi, Masada, Dead Sea, Bethlehem, the Herodium, and the Jordan River. And this year, I am planning a special trip weekend for Iowa students to Petra, Jordan – the city carved from stone.

University course credit: Students interested in earning university credit for the excavation can join one or two of the academic courses. (Cost per course: $300 total)

  • Archaeology and History of the Judean Lowland: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • Archaeological Fieldwork – Theory and Methods: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • An additional course, Theological Aspects of Archaeological Work, is also available through the University of Heidelberg:  one session (August 3rd – August 23rd)

Click here for further information about the academic program.

Program Cost: The cost of the summer excavation program depends on how long you participate. I encourage all Iowa students to come for 3 or 6 weeks.

Registration fee: $50 USD

Weekly cost (Saturday night to Thursday evening): $585 USD. This price includes: participation in the excavation, weekly room accommodations (up to 4 people in a room), full board (morning coffee, breakfast at the field, fruit break at the field, lunch, afternoon coffee and dinner), 24-hours internet service, transportation from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the camp on Saturday night and from the camp to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, transportation to the site and back on working days and transportation to midweek tours, security and first aid in the Nes Harim accommodations, all academic lectures and workshops, afternoon archaeological programs and social activities, educational mid-week tours to archaeological and historical sites in the region.

Breakdown by week:

  • Two weeks: $1170 USD ($1150 USD for return team members)
  • Three weeks: $1755 USD ($1725 USD for return team members)
  • Four weeks: $2340 USD ($2300 USD for return team members)
  • Five Weeks: $2925 USD ($2875 USD for return team members)
  • Six Weeks: $3510 USD ($3450 USD for return team members)

Price does not include: Flights to and from Israel; personal health insurance; weekend tours and board; free time room and board from Thursday evening to Saturday evening.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

If you are interested in participating in the excavation, or as traveling/participating with the University of Iowa team, please contact Dr. Robert Cargill at robert-cargill@uiowa.edu.

To download the registration form, click here and email it to: azekah.excavations@gmail.com.

 I’m looking forward to seeing you all this year at Azekah!

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY!

Mitt Romney on the Israel-Palestine Peace Process (and my response)

There’s really not much to say. This election is over.

Here are two videos. The first is Republican Candidate Mitt Romney attempting to “delve into” the Israel-Palestine situation. He can’t even articulate the right-wing Israeli argument properly. But he is attempting to regurgitate what he’s been fed.

The second is my response.

It’s over Mr. Romney. Stop talking.

The ‘negative space’ argument: another reason why the U.S. should back Palestinian statehood (and why Hamas opposes it)

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

A University of Iowa colleague of mine, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, and I were discussing the planned Palestinian proposal for statehood to the United Nations this week. Dr. Souaiaia mentioned that Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip and actually engaged in a Palestinian civil war with the larger Palestinian political party, Fatah, was one of the only Arab organizations actually opposed the proposed Palestinian bid for statehood (a little-reported fact I later confirmed in a number of articles that U.S. media outlets apparently don’t want you to see).

In fact, despite the fact that the 22 nation-members of the Arab League have endorsed the Palestinian bid for statehood, Hamas does not. This is because the negative space left behind by the proposed pre-1967 borders of the Palestinian state to be proposed at the United Nations would, by default, define a state of Israel. That is, the area that is not claimed within the borders proposed by Palestine (encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), and, that is not claimed by adjacent nations must belong to someone, and that someone is Israel.

This is precisely why Hamas does not support the bid: it has less to do with political representation of Palestine by Fatah (which Hamas opposes), and more to do with a simple acknowledgment of the reality of the state of Israel.

Hamas would rather not have a Palestinian state than acknowledge an Israeli one.

And that is precisely why Hamas should be ignored, and why Fatah should move forward with the bid on behalf of Palestine. It is why the 22-member Arab League has endorsed the bid, why Israel should concede (if they cannot politically support the plan), and why the United States should not veto the bid.

Palestinian statehood through recognition at the United Nations is the two-state solution. Israel and Palestine should set aside old arguments over olive trees (hat tip: Thomas Friedman) and allow the bid for Palestinian statehood to move forward. It’s the win-win for Israel and Palestine that everyone has been seeking for decades. It allows for something that has never existed: an internationally recognized Palestinian state! It allows Israel to save face by allowing them to oppose a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, and yet concede that the United Nations is the same organization that set the foundation for an Israeli state in 1947. It allows the United States to support its own policy of a two-state solution. (President Obama just needs to articulate the fact that a vote in favor of the Palestinian statehood bid forces Arab League states to recognize Israel.) And, it thumbs an international nose at Hamas, the terrorist organization that has stood in the way of peace (or at least has been the Israeli excuse for avoiding it) for decades.

And if Hamas so much as fires a single shot in an attempt to sabotage the process, the newly formed coalition of neighbors – Palestine, Israel, the Arab League, the US, the UN, and anyone else who wants to join in – should once and for all end Hamas’ reign of terror and oppression of its own Palestinian people. We can remind those in Gaza that Hamas would rather forfeit a Palestinian state than make peace with Israel (and Fatah). We can remind them what life has been like under Hamas leadership. And, we can point out the imminent reality of their centuries-long dream of an internationally recognized Palestinian state is near.

All that needs to happen is for President Obama and the United States not to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood. Until this, we wait, and we hope that 2012 electoral college math doesn’t influence Mr. Obama’s judgment on the matter at hand.

Robert R. Cargill

‘writing the dead sea scrolls’ to re-air on national geographic channel december 11, 2010

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” is scheduled to re-air on NatGeo December 11, 2010. I’ve previously posted about this here.

If you’re interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the show to watch.

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

more on ‘writing the dead sea scrolls’

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

the ucla press room has a short writeup by meg sullivan on my coming nat geo documentary probing the question of who wrote the dead sea scrolls. the documentary will appear on national geographic channel, tuesday, july 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM. you can read more about the show here or preview clips form the show here.

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