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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem




Shrine of the Book


Shrine of the Book

Inside the main exhibition hall of Shrine of the Book (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem uses quirky contemporary architecture to house and display ancient manuscripts — including the first Dead Sea Scrolls to be discovered.

The building’s white-tiled dome is shaped like the lid of the first jar in which the scrolls were found at Qumran. In contrast nearby stands a black basalt wall. The black-white imagery symbolises the theme of one of the scrolls — The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness.

The rest of the structure, two-thirds of it below ground level, recalls the caves in which the scrolls were found.

The Shrine of the Book is a wing of the Israel Museum in western Jerusalem.  Also on the museum’s campus is an extensive outdoor Second Temple Model of Jerusalem in AD 66, before its destruction by the Romans.


Longest scroll is 8 metres long

Shrine of the Book

Fragment of scroll found in a Qumran cave

The Shrine of the Book holds all seven of the scrolls found in what is called Cave 1 at Qumran, near the Dead Sea. They are Isaiah A, Isaiah B, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the Community Rule (or the Manual of Discipline), the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (or the War Rule) and the Genesis Apocryphon. All are in ancient Hebrew except the last, which is in Aramaic.

A facsimile of the scroll of Isaiah, arranged around a huge elevated spindle, provides a dramatic centrepiece in the exhibition hall under the dome.

Also at the Shrine of the Book is the Temple Scroll, the best-preserved of the Qumran scrolls. At more than 8 metres long, it is the longest of the Qumran manuscripts.

The Community Rule is the rule book for the group that wrote or copied the library of scrolls — believed to be a group of Essenes, a strict Jewish sect, who lived an austere lifestyle in their remote desert surroundings.


Cloak-and-dagger negotiations

The uncovering of the Essenes’ literary treasure trove has thrown new light on Israel during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, as well as on the origins of rabbinical Judaism and the Jewish society in which Christianity began.

The discovery, by a Bedouin goat- or sheep-herder searching for a missing animal, occurred in 1947. Israel was on the eve of its War of Independence, a factor that lent a cloak-and-dagger character to negotiations for the purchase of the scrolls.

Professor E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University clandestinely acquired three of the scrolls from a Christian Arab antiquities dealer in Bethlehem.

The remaining four scrolls from Cave 1 reached the hands of Mar Athanasius Yeshua Samuel, Metropolitan of the Syrian Jacobite Monastery of St Mark in Jerusalem. In 1949 he took them to the United States and on June 1, 1954, he placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal offering “The Four Dead Sea Scrolls” for sale.

The advertisement came to the attention of Yigael Yadin, Professor Sukenik’s son, who had just retired as chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces and had reverted to his original vocation, archaeology. With the aid of intermediaries, the four scrolls were purchased from Mar Samuel for $US250,000.

Part of the purchase price was contributed by Samuel Gottesman, a New York philanthropist. His heirs sponsored the construction of the Shrine of the Book to house the scrolls.


Scrolls need to ‘rest’

Shrine of the Book

Dome of Shrine of the Book, kept cool by water sprays (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

As the scrolls are too fragile to be on display permanently, a rotation system is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from display and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it “rests” from exposure.

The Shrine of the Book also displays the Aleppo Codex, the earliest known Hebrew manuscript comprising the text of the Jewish Old Testament. It dates from the early 10th century.

Strictly speaking, as the museum acknowledges, only two or four pages are actually displayed at any one time. Behind them is cardboard modelled to look like the rest of the codex (which is in fact stored in a safe place).

Related site:


Model of Ancient Jerusalem


Administered by: The Israel Museum

Tel.: 972-2-6708811

Open: Sun, Mon, Wed, Thur 10am-5pm; Tues 4-9pm; Fri and holiday eves 10am-2pm; Sat and holidays 10am-5pm



Sussman, Ayala, and Peled, Ruth: The Dead Sea Scrolls (Israel Antiquities Authority and Israel Museum Products, 1994)


External links

Shrine of the Book (The Israel Museum)
Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Model of Ancient Jerusalem


Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Looking from the lower city to the Herodian towers of the upper city (Seetheholyland.net)

To visualise old Jerusalem at the peak of its power, look down on the outdoor scale model of the ancient city at the Israel Museum.

The gold-trimmed Second Temple and its vast courtyard dominate the Model of Ancient Jerusalem. Herod’s Palace, the twin-spired Palace of the Hasmoneans, the streets and markets are all identifiable.

The time is AD 66, the fateful year the Great Revolt against the Romans erupted, resulting in the destruction of the city and the Temple built by Herod the Great. All that’s missing from the buildings of Jerusalem limestone are the people.

This is also the time when Christianity was in its formative stages and the Dead Sea Scrolls — now housed in the museum’s Shrine of the Book — were being created.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was only 36 years before, and the mound of Calvary can be seen just outside the Second Wall (but well inside the new north wall begun by Herod Agrippa I).

The ancient city was then at its largest, spreading over 180 hectares — more than twice the size of the present Old City.


Archaeologists and historians contributed

Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Pools of Bethesda (Seetheholyland.net)

Construction of the Model of Ancient Jerusalem was undertaken in the 1960s by Hans Kroch, owner of the Holyland Hotel, in memory of his son Jacob, who was killed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Originally in the grounds of the hotel, it was transported in 1000 pieces to its present site, 5km away, in 2006.

The model covers nearly 4000 square metres, using a scale of 1:50. A human figure on this scale would be about 35 millimetres high.

Archaeologists (principally Professor Michael Avi-Yonah of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), historians and architects contributed their expertise to the re-creation of ancient Jerusalem.

The main sources used were writings from the Roman period, construction techniques used in ancient cities similar to Jerusalem, and archaeological discoveries from Jerusalem itself.

Subsequent excavations in Jerusalem have enabled the model to be refined and updated archaeologically.

Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Second Temple of Jerusalem, destroyed in AD 70 (Seetheholyland.net)


Imagination augmented archaeology

Archaeologist Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says many arbitrary decisions had to be made in the construction of the model, “and imagination often supplied what the texts or archaeologist’s trowel could not provide. The model, therefore, is a hypothesis, a vision of the city as it might have been, and not all elements carry the same guarantee.”

According to Murphy-O’Connor, “The portrayals of the Temple and of the Palace of Herod are excellent, but the presentation of the northern part of the city is almost certainly wrong. The line assumed by the northernmost wall of the model rests on inadequate archaeological evidence, and all the buildings it encloses are the product of pure imagination.”

Another feature which appears to lack archaeological basis is the red-tile roofing. No roof tiles have been found in excavations of Jerusalem, however there are too many tiles in the model to make a change.

Visitors may walk around the model, though there is no protection from sun or rain. They are not allowed to walk inside the walls.

Administered by: The Israel Museum

Tel.: 972-2-6708811

Open: Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs 10am–5 pm;
Tues 4–9 pm (Aug 10am-9pm);
Fri and holiday eves 10am–2pm;
Sat and holidays 10am–5pm




Lefkovits, Etgar: “Second temple model to link history, archaeology”, Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2006
Miriam Simon: “Jerusalem’s Glory Days”, Eretz, September-October 2006
Blaiklock, E. M.: Eight Days in Israel (Ark Publishing, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)


External link

Second Temple Model (The Israel Museum)
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