Normally, a visit to the Qumran caves takes up about two hours of your time and entrance costs NIS 21 for adults and NIS 9 for the kids. It’s boring, and indeed, after a hour, you saw one cave, you saw them all! And it’s hot. So hot! And there’s no ice cream or cool Coca Cola or hotdogs or any other snack! It’s suffering!
But is that so? With the discovering of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the whole area suddenly became famous. Why? The Dead Sea Scrolls proved that the old testament and the Hebrew Torah were true and independently confirmed! Who and why? Read the next post about the Dead Scrolls.
Thinking about that didn’t scare the heath away. Neither it brought any ice cream or Coca Cola!
There is of course more. The whole thing about the Dead Sea Scrolls is surrounded in mystery. When they found the first set of scrolls, they started to search for the others of course and that process took years. Over time, they managed to find other copies, but what was unknown or not published was, that they found scrolls in caves, which were destroyed because of collapse of the caves. It’s known that there are caves ending somewhere in the surroundings of the Dead Sea,m Masada and the Qumran caves. Those caves are long and go on for many kilometers. Some of them led to Jerusalem, others are unknown. If for whatever reason some of you want to have a extended tour of the Qumran caves, please let us know. Our flying Dutchman, the Qumran caves specialist (and further obsessed with sweet foot, junk food and caves) is more then willingly to take you on adventure. But you will live like a Bedouin!
Anyway, here goes the story about the Qumran caves.
Qumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered not so long ago. Located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert approximately, Qumran is located between Jerusalem and the major Dead Sea beaches and attractions such as Ein Gedi and Masada.
Missed by many tourists, Qumran tells an interesting historic story, and offers some amazing opportunities for adventure sports.
Remains dating back to the Iron Age have been uncovered at Qumran as well as walls, pottery and a cistern from later settlements. Even all those years ago fresh water was an issue in this dry environment, and aqueduct systems were added to bring fresh water to the city from the greener regions of the north.
Qumran was established during the Hellenistic Period c. 134-104BC and remained inhabited up until c. 68BC, multilevel structures, reservoirs, pottery kilns and houses have been excavated in this era. It was during the Hellenistic Period that the Essenes Jewish sect settled here, isolating themselves from big city life and living as a communal monastery-like community. The sect is thought to have eaten communal meals, studied sacred scriptures for most of the night, taken a daily ritual bath, practice celibacy and they had their own calendar. From information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls scholars have managed to get a clear picture of the community’s way of life and beliefs. It is thought that about 200 people once lived here. In later periods of history there were Arab settlements here and during the Bar Kokhba Revolution the rebels may have taken refuge here.
The Essenes Jewish sect were the ones, who hid the Dead Sea scrolls in the caves, right before the Roman armies were arriving, who killed everyone. More about this later.
There are about 230 natural Qumran caves in the area and ten artificial caves and they are all spread over a large area. There are caves discovered, which were partly collapsed. Some natural caves went deeper then anyone had thought. It’s the be believed, that there are caves, not discovered yet, which connects several places together in the wilderness outside the case.
It’s know that a long, deep cave connects Jerusalem with Masada. Also it’s know a cave connecting Jerusalem and the surrounding of the Dead Sea.
The whole area is filled with caves. There is an underground Christian cave discovered near Jericho from 1st Century A.D.(see images above)
A visitor makes his way down a 10-meter deep slope into an artificial underground cave quarry, which Israeli archaeologist Professor Adam Zertal dates to the 1st century A.D., on June 24, 2009 near the biblical city of Jericho in the West Bank. The unique cave, some 100 meters long and about 40 meters wide, was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and also could have been an early monastery, Zertal said. It is supported by 22 massive stone pillars, many of which are engraved with Byzantine crucifixes and other symbols including one attributed to a Roman legion.
Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran so important?
The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the Qumran caves. But what makes them so important?
At the Qumran caves, a desolate place overlooking the Dead Sea, a discovery was made that gave us dramatic new evidence that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is accurate and trustworthy. This was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
How were the Dead Sea scrolls discovered?
The story of the discovery of these famous scrolls begins at these caves in 1947 when two young, Bedouin shepherd boys were searching on the rocky hillsides for a lost goat.
One of the boys, Mohammed ed Dhib, tossed rocks into one cave hoping to scare the animal out. Instead of hearing the goat he heard the sound of pottery breaking. He ran off, but later came back with friends.
Inside the cave they found large clay jars. Upon looking inside the jars they found seven very old scrolls.
Mohammed ed Dhib took all seven scrolls to a Bethlehem shopkeeper named Kando. Kando divided them into two groups.
Three went to a Jewish scholar named Sukenik at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The other four went to the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Athanasius Samuel. Samuel took his scrolls to the American School for Oriental Research in Jerusalem about a year later where a young scholar named John Trever, quickly realized that one of the scrolls was a manuscript of the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
Trever rushed photographs of the scrolls to the well-known American archaeologist William F. Albright at the Johns Hopkins University. Albright cabled back the exciting news. This manuscript of Isaiah was an old one, probably a thousand years older than any possessed at that time. In respect to the text of the Old Testament, this was the greatest archaeological discovery ever made.
On April 11, 1948, the existence of the Dead Sea Scrolls was announced to the world. But, what was written on these precious scrolls?
Two of the scrolls were copies of the book of Isaiah. One was a complete copy. There was also an ancient commentary on Habakkuk and a book of rules for a religious community. There was a scroll describing the great final battle between good and evil at the last day called “The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness”. And there were scrolls of psalms and the stories of the patriarchs as found in the book of Genesis.
The Isaiah scroll was produced between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. and is the oldest complete copy of a Biblical book ever discovered. It is of great interest that this ancient manuscript is essentially identical with the Hebrew text of Isaiah which has been copied and passed down through the centuries.
A visit to Qumran takes one to two hours and although it is possible to visit throughout the year the heat in summer can be unbearable.
Qumran Opening Hours: The park is open from April to September from 8am to 5pm and from October to March until 4pm.
Entrance costs NIS 21 for adults and NIS9 for kids.