Report from Jerusalem #36, 6th November 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls On-Line

As mentioned previously, the Scrolls were to be brought on line in a joint project organized by the Israel Museum and Google, and five of the most complete scrolls went on-line at the end of September.  By 5th October, there had been over a million viewers from 213 countries, speaking 236 different languages, including all the Arab countries neighbouring Israel, except for Syria.  Nearly half-a-million viewers originated from the US. The site is named, and the high resolution photographs are considered to show more detail than can be seen by the naked eye.  Chief among the scrolls available is the great Isaiah scroll, which is shown in original and translated into English line-by-line, and can be searched by specific phrases and verses in that language. A Chinese translation is in preparation as Biblical studies are very popular in China.

Ancient Assembly-Line at Qesem Cave

In early October, archaeologists Prof. Avi Gopher, Dr. Ron Barkai and Dr. Ron Shimelmitz, of Tel Aviv University, announced that they had uncovered thousands of cutting blades in the Qesem Caves near Tel Aviv, which they date to the lower Paleolithic age of 400,000 to 200,000 BCE.  Such blades had previously been associated with the emergence of homo sapiens about 35,000 years ago, but it now appears that they were produced at a much earlier date and in great numbers where the conditions were favourable.    The blades were produced in the cave on a kind of production line arranged for selection of  the raw material, choice of cutting implements, and the finished product, that being a flint with one sharp edge and one dull edge for easy handling.  The cave is attributed to the Amudian culture, and shows use of daily fire and a division of space for specific tasks and functions.  The blades were used mainly for butchering animals, whose hides were taken to another spot for processing into skins for several purposes.

Revised Siting of “King’s Garden” in German Colony

The King’s Garden, mentioned in the Song of Songs (4:16; 5:1) has traditionally been located in the area south of Silwan (as mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15) and tradition also has it that Solomon wrote the scroll of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) there, but now Professors Oded Lipschitz and Nadav Na’aman of Tel Aviv University have said it is to be found in the Emek Refaim valley, at what is today the north end of the German Colony of Jerusalem, between the old Railway Station and Liberty Bell Gardens.

Their argument is that the present excavations at Ramat Rahel, to the south of Jerusalem, conducted by Lipschitz and the University of Heidelberg, show that there was an important government tax centre for vegetable produce in the 8th century BCE at a site on level ground  between Ramat Rahel and the City of David, which would place it around the Emek Refaim street that runs through the centre of the German Colony.

They claim that this area was the Valley of Shaveh (the “level” valley), also called the King’s Valley, where the King of Sodom met Abraham (Gen. 14:17).  If they are right, then Emek Refaim, famous today for its cafés, boutiques and two vegetable stores, will have acquired a reputable history going back three thousand years and more.

Heritage Site in Safed

Trial excavations at the Kahal Centre in mid-Safed, in the Galilee, conducted by Livnot Lehibanot, a private NGO, under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority, have revealed a number of late medieval dwellings, a bakery, a ritual bathhouse, cisterns and courtyards.  It is intended to extend the site and prepare it for public viewing to give a picture of Jewish life in the city in the sixteenth century, when it was the premier Kabbalistic centre of the world.  To this end, the government is allocating funds to the tune of four million shekels (about £700,000) to complete the work and prepare it for opening to the public within the next five years.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,

W.F.Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem