Palestinian authorities may seek to claim as their own the archaeological site of Qumran and its Dead Sea Scrolls, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has warned.
The scrolls, discovered in the Qumran Caves in the mid-20th century, date from biblical times and comprise handwritten manuscripts of great historical and religious importance.
Palestinians and their supporters argue that, as they were discovered in the West Bank, this makes them Palestinian by right, even though the area was in British hands at the time.
They also claim that The Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, where a significant number of scrolls were housed, was in Arab hands before 1967. Israel captured the museum, and the scrolls held there, in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Speaking at a panel on the denial of Jewish history yesterday, Shimon Samuels, the Center’s director for international relations, criticised the Palestinians’ record of claiming biblical and cultural sites since joining UNESCO in 2011.
He claimed that the request about the Scrolls might be raised at the next meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, to take place in July.
The Committee has previously ascribed to Palestine Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in 2012; the site of the ancient Jewish fortress at Betar in 2014; and Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 2017.
Palestinian authorities have a list of 13 additional sites it seeks to register at UNESCO, according to the Jerusalem Post.
For the first time since the discovery of the scrolls, a fragment went on public display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem yesterday, the Journal Gazette reported.
The damaged piece of the story relates to the alighting of Noah's Ark on the peaks of Mount Ararat after the fabled flood. Noah tells how he “atoned for all the earth in its entirety” by offering up various animal sacrifices.
In December the JC reported that the Frankfurt Bible Museum, in Germany, had to cancel plans to display sections of the scrolls after the museum could not secure the necessary guarantees from the German authorities that they would be returned to Israel.