When the exhibit was announced in April, Israeli Consul General David Siegel told the Deseret News the exhibit would be a reflection of Utah’s long-standing relationship with Israel, a “hugely significant moment for Israel, for Utah, for our shared past, for our shared faith and our shared future.”
Ten scrolls will be displayed at a time during the Leonardo museum. The IAA will come back in February with a new set of 10. Two scrolls in each session have never before been seen by the public.
“I think people in Utah will be delighted to see these. There is something about the actual fragment, no matter what fragment it is,” said Seely. “They all have a little history.”
Scholars believe the majority of the scrolls were written between 200 B.C and 200 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times exhibit at The Leonardo will give visitors the chance to see the largest collection of scrolls and Holy Land artifacts ever assembled outside of Israel.
“The idea is to show the complete story and give the background,” said Debora Ben Ami, Iron Age collection curator at the IAA, while crews worked on finishing construction of the Salt Lake exhibit. “These are not just artifacts, they represent people's lives and their spiritual evolution."
The scrolls contain the library of a Jewish sect called the Essenes. The Essenes left Jerusalem to live a purer life. Seely said little was known about this group prior to the discovery of the scrolls.
“They provide context of the world of Jesus. We find out there was a rich variety of Judaism at that time that had lots of views similar to Christianity, explained Paul. Before the Scrolls were found there was no literature that could point to roots of Christianity in Judaism. “The discovery is amazing, and I feel an affinity towards them because you see the Bible in its developmental stages.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls also shed light on the rules and beliefs of the Essenes. Daily routines revolved around ritual baths, a practice not followed by other sects of Judaism. "They believed in purification. Everything must be pure," said Dr. Uzi Dahari, deputy director for archaeology for the IAA.
Only the people considered most pure were allowed to live inside the compound at Qumran. Everything had to be pure, including perhaps the dishes. One of the first mysteries archeologists unearthed were thousands of bowls. And some of those bowls are part of the exhibit.
Another focal point of the exhibit is an 8-ton section of the Western Wall, which is one of the last remnants of Israel’s holy temple.
BYU has also provided additional artifacts, and a display will showcase how local innovation contributed to the work done on the scrolls.
The exhibit opens to the public Friday. General admission is $23.95. Discount prices are available for students, seniors, youth and military. Since this is a popular exhibit, patrons are encouraged to buy tickets online and sign up for a specific entry time.
Candice Madsen is a senior producer of special projects for KSL-TV and produces the weekly television program Deseret News Sunday Edition. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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