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.

Advertisements

‘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.

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.

israeli-palestinian peace process during the first decade of the 2000s: an assessment

the following is the text of comments i made as a part of a march 10, 2010 panel discussion at pepeprdine university on the israel-palestine peace process during the first decade of the 2000s. the symposium was sponsored by the middle eastern peace and awareness (mepa) student group at pepperdine. other panelists included pepperdine faculty members david simonowitz, visiting assistant professor of middle eastern studies, and milton shatzer,  assistant dean of teaching and director of the center for teaching excellence, and loyola marymount’s najwa al-qattan.


Middle East Peace in the First Decade of the 2000s
March 10, 2010

My thanks to MEPA and the organizing panel for the invitation to speak to you tonight.

I am actually an archaeologist digging and researching in Israel, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. We work with and rent from Israeli Jews, Palestinian Arabs, Muslim, Druze, Christians, agnostics, and even good ol’ American Pepperdiners—everyone. And we did so happily and successfully. We respect and learn the languages and cultures of all of these peoples and I and my archaeological colleagues demonstrate how foreigners, namely we Americans, can work with and invest in the people of Israel and Palestine peacefully.

I shall be teaching a course on the History of Jerusalem at UCLA beginning at the end of this month. If you are interested in taking this course, fear not. Because I still love Pepperdine and remember dearly my time teaching here before moving to UCLA, I am making the course lectures available for free on iTunesU. Go to iTunes, go to UCLA, click on Jerusalem the Holy City, and watch or download for free.

~~~

The celebration of the Oslo Accords in 1993 raised the hopes of Israelis, Palestinians, and many around the world for a final resolution between Palestinians and Israel leading to a lasting peace in the Middle East. But while the turn of the millennium saw some opportunities for peace, the first decade of the 2000s will be remembered by most as a lost decade in the struggle for peace.

No sooner had Israel withdrawn from Southern Lebanon in 2000 under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, some Arab groups, namely the Shi’a militant group Hizbullah, began to arm themselves for potential conflict, against the wishes of many Lebanese Christians, Muslims, and Druze, Palestinian Arabs and Christians, as well as most Israelis.

Simultaneously, Israel took advantage politically of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City and couched all armed resistance or attacks on Israel as terrorism, and rightly so. However, the U.S. was compromised politically with respect to the Israel-Palestine conflict because the U.S. could not rightly tell the Israelis not to respond to Palestinian armed conflict, while the U.S. was engaged in conflict with not one, but two entire countries-Afghanistan and Iraq-in response to the September 11th attacks. As long as the U.S. was on the attack against terrorists, Israel had political cover to attack what it believed to be Palestinian terrorists.

During this time of a war on terror, Israel continued to permit and build Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and in 2002 began the construction of a border wall between Israel and the West Bank in order to delineate between the two territories and did so using a rhetoric of preventing terrorist attacks in Israel launched from Palestinian territories. Some saw this as a positive step towards the permanent recognition of a Palestinian state on the part of Israel, but many Palestinians saw the wall as an attempted land grab and have disputed the location and route of this border wall. Others have decried the logistical limitations the wall creates for Palestinians attempting to get to work at jobs inside Israeli territory.

In 2004, Israel, responding to mounting pressure and repeated calls for disengagement from U.S., Palestinian, and International communities, announced a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2004, which was enacted in 2005, against the protests of many Jewish settlers in Gaza. Just as it had in southern Lebanon in 2000, Israel withdrew all Jewish settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip and relocated, forcibly at times, its own people to new settlements within Israel.

Despite some expected disagreement, a two-state solution and a realization of a secure Israel existing side-by-side to a permanent Palestinian state was begging to take shape, granted on many of Israel’s terms. But while the average Palestinian and the typical Jewish Israeli welcomed these gestures toward peace, many leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian, who derive their power and position from discord between the two peoples, and who regularly sabotage peace and incite conflict by playing on old wounds and religious animosity in an effort continue the conflict, began to oppose the march toward peace. These representatives attain and maintain power from chaos.

Following the death of Palestinian National Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in 2004, and accusations and revelations of widespread fraud on the part of Arafat’s Fatah administration, Palestinian militants stepped up their activity in an effort to stall a peace with Israel, which they felt had given away too much.

Tension escalated with the kidnap of two Israeli soldiers in Northern Israel, which led to Israeli retaliation and a full-blown war in July 2006, a war that I witnessed first hand from the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. The Israeli-Hizbullah War brought widespread destruction to much of southern Lebanon and terrified Israeli civilians in the exchange of Hizbullah Katyusha and Qassam rockets and Israel’s devastating retaliation. The war ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire, which called for the disarmament of Hizbullah and the withdraw of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hamas shocked the world when it scored surprise victories in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas quickly drew international condemnation, and its administration was quickly placed under widespread international sanctions for its continued refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist in contradiction of the earlier Oslo accords, which Hamas did not recognize as legitimate. With Palestinians suffering, especially in the Gaza Strip, and with Jewish settlers no longer present in the West bank to blame, Palestine broke into a Civil War in December of 2006, with the Fatah military fighting armed Hamas factions. The Palestinian Civil War, called by many Palestinians the Wakseh, meaning “embarrassment” to Palestinians because of the self-inflicted, self-destructive damage, resulted in Hamas driving Fatah out of the Gaza, leaving Fatah in control of the West Bank, while Hamas exercised control in Gaza.

Unable to govern effectively in Gaza both because of an inept administration and due to crippling international sanctions because of their stance against peace with Israel, Hamas militants began to provoke a war with Israel by firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel’s response was immediate and severe, with some calling it a grossly disproportionate exercise of retaliation. In a military response dubbed “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel responded in the winter of 2008-2009 with a devastating response to the Hamas hostilities. Many reports credit Israel’s crushing success to several Fatah and Egyptian informants, who actually wanted Israel to disable and destroy Hamas. Reports say that these Palestinian and Arab informants provided the Israeli military with the exact locations of Hamas rocket installations and smuggling tunnels. Israel soon declared a unilateral ceasefire in response to international calls for mercy against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who were the unfortunate causalities of the Gaza War. However, Operation Cast Lead differed from previous armed conflicts in that the International Community did not decry Israel’s response to Hamas to the degree that was expected because of the international community’s disagreement with the provocative actions of Hamas. While many other countries did not like Israel’s military actions, they seemed at least somewhat justified on this particular occasion because of Hamas’ provocations.

With the recent election, again, of Likkud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel changed directions and began brazenly to announce once again the building of new settlements in the West Bank. This policy of Jewish settlement reached an embarrassing new climax for the Israelis only yesterday [March 9, 2010] when the Israeli government announced the permitting and construction of 1,600 new housing units in the West Bank while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel calling for a cessation of these very expansions. The Israeli government apologized for the timing of the announcement, but did not apologize for or rescind the decision to build new Jewish settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

This is the legacy of the first decade of the 2000s: conflict. Some argue that this is a step backward in the march towards peace. Others-both Israelis and Palestinians-argue that the Palestinian civil unrest is a tragic, but necessary and inevitable part of the evolution of the Palestinian National Authority from an organization relying too heavily on violence, intimidation, and mob or gang-like rule, to a responsible government accountable to its people and seeking peace and prosperity for its people and with other nations. We may be witnessing a step backward away from peace, or, we may be witnessing the necessary growing pains of two nations-Israel and Palestine-toward a lasting peace of mature nations.

Or, perhaps, we may be seeing the end of the struggle for a forced, two-state solution, and we may be witnessing the beginnings of a much more natural three-state solution, which I support. A three-state solution would formally separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, isolating Hamas from Fatah, and freeing the Fatah-controlled West Bank to make a much desired peace with Israel. While some West Bank Palestinians may initially oppose a secession from Gaza out of solidarity for the Palestinian people as a whole, many Palestinians realize that the fracture has become so deep between Fatah-leaning West Bank residents who are looking to make peace with Israel and tomove forward and Hamas-leaning Gaza Strip residents looking to undo much of what has been done, many West Bank Palestinians are ready to cut their losses with both Gaza and Hamas, and make peace with Israel on their own, which would place tremendous pressure on Israel to stop their settlement program in East Jerusalem.

Only time will tell. Insha’Allah, there will be peace. Until then, we must work hard for peaceful, fair, and just solutions to both sides, and we must continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thank you.


update:
looks like somebody was listening: “Palestinian Authority To Hold Elections Without Gaza” by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR)

dr. robert cargill discusses the curious protests surrounding the dead sea scrolls exhibit in toronto

The Toronto Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

The Toronto Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

bible and interpretation has published my latest editorial entitled ‘on the curious protests of the dead sea scrolls exhibition in toronto‘ in the ‘in my view’ section of their website. in the article, i discuss the political reasons behind the protests at the dead sea scrolls exhibit. i conclude the following:

The Toronto ROM protests are nothing but a drummed up political show, and one, I might add, which was curiously absent when the scrolls toured the United States. Pro-Palestinian protesters in Toronto are misusing the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition as a venue to make their claims to anyone who will point a camera in their direction.

to read the whole article, click here.

owen jarus interviews dr. robert cargill on virtual qumran

A Reconstructed Locus 30 Scriptorium at Qumran

A Reconstructed Locus 30 "Scriptorium" at Qumran

journalist owen jarus interviewed me a few weeks ago and has posted his interview entitled “exclusive interview: dr. robert cargill on virtual reality qumran” on the heritage-key.com website. mr. jarus did perhaps the best job i’ve seen at relaying the technological theory behind the digital archaeological reconstruction process. i also appreciated his professional tone, moderation, and fairness, which is especially welcome in academic issues surrounding qumran archaeology.

for those of you who are interested, yuval peleg (iaa), who was mentioned in the interview, will be a respondent on a panel reviewing my new book, qumran through (real) time: a virtual reconstruction of qumran and the dead sea scrolls, at this year’s november sbl in new orleans. other respondents will be dr. jodi magness (unc), dr. larry schiffman (nyu), dr. eric cline (gwu), and dr. bob mullins (apu). come and watch what is sure to be some ‘cordial, professional difference of opinion’ ;-).

%d bloggers like this: