Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Hebrew and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

In 1947, in the Judean desert, in the Qumran ruins, occurred one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century: the Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery of these original writings is very significant as it allows us to verify the authenticity of our modern scriptures and see in more detail what was at the base of many beliefs. Our guide is the esteemed Professor Yuval Peleg, the Israeli Antiquities Authority’s head district archaeologist for the Jordan Valley. He is a prominent expert who has made extensive excavations at Qumran over many years.

The meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it’s the most ancient document of the Bible, actually, part of the Bible. And maybe there are some connections to ancient Christianity, and for sure how Judaism looked like when the temple still existed in Jerusalem. That’s why it’s so important for us as Jews and for the world. This is the most ancient part of the Bible ever found in archeology.

We are in a very dry area and not much rain. The temperature is stable, almost all the year. And several years ago, we did some exams. In order to preserve the scrolls, we put some equipment inside the caves in order to see if there are changes in the humidity and the temperature inside the caves, and it’s stable all the time. That’s why it is dry, it’s stable temperature. That’s how the scrolls remained for such a long time.

The scrolls are now in Jerusalem in the labs. They are under the control of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and they control everything, the humidity, the heat, in order to preserve these scrolls. That’s one of the most important finds in archeology of Israel, and it’s very important to preserve these scrolls for the next generations.

Among the books of the Dead Sea Scrolls are familiar books from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, such as “Isaiah,” “Genesis,” and “Psalms.” But there are also other books such as “Community Rule,” “Thanksgiving Hymns,” and “The Rule of Congregation.” Who was this community? Today, we will explore the Qumran ruins to find out not only about the precious scrolls, but also the civilization and people who once worked and dwelled here.

We're now about two kilometers north of the site of Qumran, and behind me is the cliff. We can see lots of caves and in these caves, one of these caves, the first scrolls were found by a Bedouin in 1947. The two scrolls were brought by this Bedouin to an antique dealer in Bethlehem and then bought by Professor Sukenik, who published these two scrolls. It’s a very quiet area with lots of caves in the cliffs. We can’t enter the caves now because of the animals and the wild animals that are using these caves now. But the caves were used by people in different periods along the history, and mainly in the Second Temple Period. Sometimes you can find pieces of clothes and ropes because it’s a very dry area, and even seeds, like olive seeds, fruits like olives, pomegranates, dates that people used to eat in these caves while they were in this area. Sometimes you can find coins from that period, jewelry.

Most of the scrolls were found in these two caves. The traditional theory regarding Qumran talks about the Essenes who sat here and wrote the scrolls. And actually, several of the scrolls are very similar to what we know about the Essenes and their way of living as a community. Eating together, praying together, sitting in groups in different communities all around the country.

The site was excavated at first in the early 50s by a French archeologist Roland de Vaux. So when he excavated the site, the biggest room of the site must be the dining room, or as he called it, the refractorium, a Latin word used usually for monasteries. Second big room was the place where they sat and wrote all the scrolls, and they called it the scriptorium. They lived together, they ate together, they wrote together, everything was communal.

Since Father Guérin Roland de Vaux’s excavation, other views emerged regarding the Qumran site, for instance, that it was a trading center, or a monastery for Jews. Some have connected it to the first Christians and John the Baptist.

They’re saying that John the Baptist was here in the area. We know that he lived somewhere in this area. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan, north of the Dead Sea. We don’t know if he was a part of what we have in Qumran, if it was a sect or not. That depends on what you believe.

You can divide the scrolls into two different groups. Some scrolls are just books from the Bible, just almost the same that we know today. That's most of the scrolls. And we have other books that can be related maybe to the Essenes or maybe to other groups or sects in Judaism. Maybe the first Christians – Jesus and his students.

There's lots about the way of living, the way how they see the future, how they see what's happening now during their time.

The Essenes shared everything equally. They were well educated and proficient in healing with herbs. They were vegetarians and never touched alcohol. According to Josephus, they lived incredibly long and healthy lives of 120 years. First-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the Essenes’ day as follows: “Before the sun rises, they utter nothing of the mundane things, but only certain ancestral prayers to [the sun]… after they have worked strenuously until the fifth hour they are again assembled in one area, where they belt on linen covers and wash their bodies in frigid water. After this purification they gather in a private hall, into which none of those who hold different views may enter…”

We know that most of the Jews during that period believed in the same or did the same things as Jews today. But we know also that there were groups that did different things: praying towards the sun, different days. But main ceremonies are the exact ceremony that's today. Ritual bath are the same ritual bath as today.

They used to make bowls and cups out of stone, because stone remains, according the Jewish law, remains pure.

At one point, a date sweetener industry and a pottery industry flourished at this site. For their various activities, they managed water, a scare resource, very well.

They used the floods in the valley to collect the water and to bring them to the site. The valley is over there, and from the valley, they built the dam and they took the water, until the beginning of the aqueduct and food aqueduct into the site. They realized that inside the water there are lots of materials that are suitable for making pottery vessels. So they moved the water from system to systems until the good material sank in the systems and they used it for making pottery vessels, and that’s what we’re going to look at to see in the site.

We’re standing next, next to the aqueduct, the main aqueduct of the land, water from the wadi (valley) to the site. And from the cliffs, they built a wide aqueduct. And it goes in an angle to the site in order to collect all the rain water from this area. This is the entrance of the aqueduct into the site. The main aqueduct enters the site, and from here the aqueduct leads the water and divides it into several systems along its way until the final aqueduct, the final system on the southeastern part of the site, where the clay, the pure clay, sank in this pool and was used by the inhabitants for pottery production.

Thousands of pottery items found at Qumran include vessels for cooking, serving, pouring, drinking, and dining. The same type of unique pottery was found both in the living quarters and in the caves with the scrolls, a fact that also demonstrates the connection of the two.

These rooms were divided by the inhabitants into small pools like these pools here. And inside these pools, they used to put the clay from the systems, mix it with water and different materials in order to make it more flexible. And then the potter took the clay from here and made the vessels out of it, the bowls, the jars, the cooking pots, and all different pottery vessels that were made in the industry of Qumran.

When de Vaux discovered the site in the 50s, he found this room on the southern part of the site, the biggest room of the site, and he believed that this is the place where the Essenes, the sect, sat and ate together their meals. After we excavated the parts of the site, we believe that this room, the biggest room of the site, must be the site where the potters sat and make all the pottery vessels before they took them took them to the kilns. And after they burnt in the kilns, they used to store these vessels in this small room in order to sell them in the markets in Jericho and Jerusalem or in other sites in the area.

The clay sank in these pools. The potter took this clay, mixed it with other materials, made the pottery vessel, and burnt it in these kilns. These two kilns are two out of eight kilns all over the site. This is the first system at the site of Qumran where the first water entered. And this is actually a ritual bath. The Jewish law talks about purity. And in order to be pure, you must bathe yourself in a ritual bath. And you became clean both physically and spiritually. So that’s why we have two different staircases.

Just imagine that I am one of the inhabitants of the site during the Second Temple period and I want to purify myself in the ritual bath. So I’m going down in one direction. After I bathe myself, when I’m pure, I’m going out in different staircases…

Our appreciation, Professor Peleg, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and all others working to increase our understanding of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thanks for bringing to life the world of Qumran’s pious and talented inhabitants. May such findings of this ancient heritage continue to bring beneficial knowledge and inspire wonder.

Gracious viewers, thank you for your company for today’s program. Now please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Enlightening Entertainment, coming up next after Noteworthy News. May you go with joy and purity of heart.