Antiquities and Inequities
The antiquities dealer acquired the scrolls from a couple of pickers that found them in some caves near the Dead Sea. The scrolls that would be subsequently discovered, found their way to a Bethlehem antiquities dealer nicknamed
Kando. Kando was the middleman for the Bedouin. The story of who bought them and where they are now are shown in this excellent presentation.
Dhib (“The Wolf”), on the right, who are said to
have discovered the ﬁrst seven intact scrolls
from what has become known as Cave 1. Sup-
posedly edh-Dhib was searching for a lost
sheep; he threw a stone into a cave, thinking
that the sheep might be in there and be scared
and come running out. But instead of bleating
sheep, he heard the cracking of pottery. When
he went in, he discovered pottery jars in which
were some ancient scrolls.
What happened then is obscure, but
what we know is that in one way or
another the scrolls and, more impor-
tantly, the scrolls that would be subse-
quently discovered, found their way to a
Bethlehem antiquities dealer nicknamed
Kando. Kando was the middleman for
Three of the seven scrolls were ac-
quired by the Israelis through a pro-
fessor of archaeology at Hebrew
University named Eleazer Lipa
Sukenik acquired three of the seven
Dead Sea Scrolls, including a scroll
of the book of the prophet Isaiah.
When Sukenik returned to Jeru-
salem, with the three scrolls in a
paper bag, the place was in pande-
monium. The Jews were celebrat-
ing, singing and dancing in the streets because the United Nations had just voted by a two-thirds
vote for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, creating a Jewish republic
for the ﬁrst time in 2,000 years.
Sukenik saw that as almost messianic: to recover a 2,000-year-old
scroll, from the time the Jews last had their own state, on the same day that a Jewish state was
again being created was a moving spiritual experience for Sukenik.
The other four original scrolls came into the posses-
sion of the Metropolitan Samuel, the Syrian Christian
cleric who led that community in Jerusalem. He
attempted to sell the scrolls, but when he couldn’t sell
them, he brought them to the United States in the
hope of increasing their value and ﬁnding a buyer
there. They were displayed in the Library of Congress.
But he still couldn’t sell them. So in desperation, the
Metropolitan Samuel placed this ad in The Wall Street
Journal, advertising four Dead Sea Scrolls for sale.
As it turned out, Sukenik’s son, the great
archaeologist Yigael Yadin, was in the
United States at the time. Someone pointed
out to him the ad in The Wall Street Journal.
Here is a picture of Yadin, with his bald
head, watching as another scholar tries to
pry apart some small fragments of ancient
scrolls. Having seen the ad in The Wall
Street Journal, Yadin made a clandestine
effort to purchase them. He was purchas-
ing them on behalf of Israel, but he was
fearful that if the Metropolitan Samuel
knew that he represented Israel the Metro-
politan would not sell them to him. So
Yadin used some fronts and in that way
negotiated the purchase—four intact Dead
Sea Scrolls for $250,000, which was an
enormous bargain even then.
Did the Metropolitan Samuel know that
he was selling them to Israel? I think he
did. The reason that he couldn’t easily sell
them to anyone else was that he couldn’t
show good title. Qumran was then con-
trolled by Jordan, so Jordan had a claim, which it asserted, to title to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The
Metropolitan must have suspected that only Israel would buy them. Israel wouldn’t be con-
cerned with that difficulty of getting good title. So Yadin purchased them on Israel’s behalf.
The sale had an unfortunate consequence for the Metropolitan Samuel and his Syrian community
in the United States, who lived largely in New Jersey. The papers were badly drawn, and the United
States sued the Metropolitan Samuel, claiming that the sale was a taxable transaction. Most of the
money from the sale of the four Scrolls went to the United States government.
The Dead Sea Scrolls—What They Really Say
© 2007 Biblical Archaeology Society 12
With the purchase by Yadin, all
seven of the intact Dead Sea Scrolls
found by the Bedouin were now in
Israeli hands. A special museum,
the Shrine of the Book, was built to
house them. The architecture mim-
ics certain aspects of the Scrolls.
The white dome is shaped like the
lid of the scroll jars in which the
scrolls were found. The contrast
between the black slab and the
white dome is meant to echo the
Wars of the Sons of Light against
the Sons of Darkness, the subject of
one of the scrolls.
And now...for the rest of the story
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