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P.A. Sets its Sites on the Dead Sea Scrolls

Courtesy GPO archives, Avi Ohayon

JERUSALEM, Israel – The Palestinian Authority is petitioning UNESCO against Israeli ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls, saying the caves where the ancient manuscripts were found are beyond the "green line" and therefore they are stolen property.

The P.A.'s latest move follows recent resolutions by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declaring the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City an Islamic site and attempting to sever both the Jewish and Christian connections to it.

The ancient manuscripts were discovered and excavated from 11 caves in the Qumran between 1947 and 1956.

Of the 981 manuscripts, about 230 of them are included in the Old Testament. While most of the scrolls are written in Hebrew, about 15 percent were written in Aramaic and Greek. Most were written on parchment, some on papyrus and one etched on copper.

Israeli researchers have painstakingly pieced together and translated the fragments, which are housed in the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book. They are the oldest biblical manuscripts ever discovered.

Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO David Sharma Hacohen called the latest move "another provocative and audacious attempt by the Palestinians to rewrite history and to erase our connection to the land."

"The Dead Sea Scrolls are factual and weighty archaeological evidence of the presence of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel," he said.

The Israel Museum, in partnership with Google, digitized five of the scrolls several years ago to make them available for study on the website. The five include the Great Isaiah Scroll, War Scroll, Temple Scroll, Community Rule Scroll and the Commentary on the Habakkuk Scroll.

The P.A. has made several other attempts to claim Jewish historical sites as Palestinian. Among them are Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem, the burial place of the biblical patriarch Jacob's wife, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, where the Jewish patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and their spouses are buried, again claiming they are Islamic rather than biblical Jewish sites.

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