The Palestinian Authority wants Israel to turn over the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible found. The governing body that controls the West Bank said the Hebrew writings were stolen from an area it considers Palestine, according to local media reports this week.
Israel views the scrolls to be national treasures that show the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land. They include one of the earliest copies of the Ten Commandments important to both faiths.
The Palestinian Authority, however, wants the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to order Israel to give up the biblical material. Munir Anis Nasser, a Palestinian representative to UNESCO, said the writings found by a Palestinian sheppard in the caves in the Qumran region in the Judean Desert in 1947 are part of Palestinian heritage. Qumran, which is now an archeological site, is one of the preservation areas the Palestinian government wants listed under “The state of Palestine” on UNESCO's World Heritage list, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Carmel Shama-Hacohen, an Israeli delegate to UNESCO, said Palestinian representatives informally requested that Israel give up the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin when it met in Paris at the end of September and are campaigning for a full session formally dedicated to the subject at the their next meeting.
This latest move by Palestinian officials followed a series of UNESCO resolutions in October that characterized a religious complex in Jerusalem known by Jews as Temple Mount as solely a Muslim holy place, diminishing possible Jewish and Christian roots to the historical site.
“This is another instance of provocation and the ‘hutzpah’ of the Palestinians trying to rewrite history and erase our connection to our land,” Shama-Hacohen told the Times Of Israel.
The origins of the scrolls can be traced to the third century BCE, even before the supposed destruction of the second Temple of David on Temple Mount in 70 CE. The scrolls, which are composed of animal skin parchment mainly, were written predominately in Hebrew, though about 15 percent of the text was written in Aramaic and there are many passages in Greek.
“The fragments of the scrolls are proof and a weighty archeological evidence of the historical connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel,” said Shama-Hacohen.
Palestinian activists and Muslims have long demanded that Israel hand over the scrolls found on land they consider Palestine.