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orion DSS Congress report
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Abstracts of papers presented at the congress may be found at
An International Congress
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
FIFTY YEARS AFTER THEIR DISCOVERY
Major Issues and New Approaches
Jerusalem, July 20-25, 1997
WATCH THE CONGRESS UNFOLD
Thursday, July 24, 1997.
The last day of the conference continued with some 24 lectures and
presentations, covering the teachings of the Qumran Community in
the context of Second Temple Judaism, studies in particular texts
and lectures on texts from sites other than Qumran: Nahal Hever and
Professor Emanuel Tov, Editor in Chief, Hebrew
University, Jerusalem sums up the conference:
"In the course of the 1997 conference on the
Dead Sea Scrolls, papers were read on all [Image]
literary genres represented by the texts from
the Judean Desert as well as general problems
relating to the scrolls.
The most recent theories on the identification of the Qumran
community and an archeology were discussed and new ones were added.
Special attention was given to the contribution of the sciences to
the study of the scrolls. More than any other conference on Qumran
studies, the 1997 meeting has succeeded to reach out to the
community as the sessions which were open to the general public
drew audiences of up to 500".
In the late afternoon, participants were
[Image] invited to a preview of the exhibition at the
Rockefeller Museum, "Conservation and
Preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls".
Before leaving for the special closing session of
the congress at the Qumran National Park in the
Judean Desert, Professor James Vanderkam,
University of Notre Dame commented:
"The conference has brought together a large
percentage of the scrolls' scholars in the world.
The contribution offered by the experts revealed
how variegated the field has become, with the
textual, literary, liturgical, historical, [Image]
archeological and scientific studies being well
It is interesting that there have been no
presentations of unpublished texts: at this stage
assimilation and reassessment seem to be more
important. The tensions and controversies of the
past few years rarely surface: a more congenial
spirit now characterises work in Qumran studies".
Arriving at Qumran as the sun set, the participants took their
seats for a festive dinner against the magnificent backdrop of the
Judean Hills and the caves where the scrolls had been discovered
some fifty years before. It was an appropriate setting for the
closing presentations. Ernest Frerichs read out Frank Cross's
paper, who shared with us the excitement of the early days in the
Scrollery and the inside story on how the some of the scrolls had
first been purchased and how these researchers rose to the
formidable challenge, the reconstruction of the fragments, "the
mother of all jigsaw puzzles."
Avraham Biran read out Joseph Aviram' s paper, his reminiscences of
Yadin's part in the Dead Sea Scroll's research, and told how Yigal
Yadin, the son of Professor Eleazer Sukenik had announced the
discovery of the scrolls, at the home of the Second President,
Itzhak Ben Zvi.
The closing presentation, by Professor Hartmut Stegemann,
Georg-August University, Gottingen outlined the challenges that
awaited the scholars in the next century. He explained how research
may disqualify many theories, which are presently still discussed,
regarding the Qumran/Ein Feshkha settlement, the identity of its
former inhabitants, or its relationship to the scrolls from the
caves, and while their interpretation will be discussed well into
the next century, they will surely shed light on, the Hebrew Bible,
the economic and historical aspects of early and middle Temple
times, and the background of the Qumran scrolls for Rabbinical
Judaism and early Christianity.
Based on selected text from the Dead Sea
Scrolls, a special, musical composition,
commissioned by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem
in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of
the discovery of the scrolls was performed by
the Caprizma Chamber Ensemble, the Liron Choir
with soloists, Mira Zakai and Ofer Halaf. This
nine-part composition, incorporating Yigal
Yadin's famous speech and a recording of the
[Image] poetess Lea Goldberg's readings from her Songs
of the Land I Love, produced an eerie blend of
classical and Middle Eastern harmonies,
resonating through the hills around us and
carried by the wind back into the desert. The
inspiration for the piece came from the
scrolls' texts themselves, and the composer
Michael Wolpe, describes his creation as an
exhilarating experience, drawing from the
Qumran texts which took on new meanings for
him and connected to todays' realities.
In this mystical setting, I couldn't help but wonder, if the
hundreds of scholars assembled in Qumran that evening, listening
together to passages from Pesher Habakkuk, the War between the Sons
of Light and the Sons of Darkness, the Rule of the Community,
Apocryphal Psalms and the Thanksgiving Scrolls brought alive by the
music, were, after hours of painstaking study over every letter and
word, perhaps hearing the texts for the first time.
At the close of the concert,ŻLawrence H.
Shiffman, Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic
Studies at New York University concluded: "the
conference has allowed a wide variety of
scholars from all over the world to come
together to celebrate the recent advances in
Dead Sea Scrolls' scholarship and the successful
effort to publish the entire corpus. The
numerous lectures showed how interaction, [Image]
cooperation of scholars, despite many legitimate
differences of opinion, can enable major
accomplishments. There is still much for us to
learn in these texts regarding the history of
Judaism and the background of Christianity.
Judging from the success of this conference,
this is a good indication that a large body of
scholars is dedicated to the task, and to
bringing the results to the public".
Even as the participants left Qumran that evening, there was a buzz
of excitement on the buses as the scholars already planned the
programs for future conferences both in Israel and abroad for the
months to come, proving that even after these fifty years of
documentation and interpretation, there was still much to do.