Was the Mysterious Home of the Dead Sea Scrolls a Place for an Annual Gathering, Rather Than the Home of an Isolated Community?

Sept. 2 2021

The cliffs of Qumran in the Judean desert, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, have long been thought to have been occupied by some sort of Jewish sect, with which a number of the scrolls seem to be connected. For years the opinion prevailed that it was the dwelling place of the ascetic group known as the Essenes, but many scholars have contested that opinion, with one even arguing that no such sect ever existed. Drawing both on the scrolls themselves and manuscripts found in the Cairo Genizah, one researcher has come to a different conclusion. Rossella Tercatin explains:

Why have archaeologists only found remains of public buildings [at Qumran] and not of private dwellings? How is it possible to explain the presence of thousands of pottery vessels in a place that had a few dozen residents at most? And why did the area feature such a multiplicity of mikva’ot (ritual baths), including very large ones, for such a small population?

According to Daniel Vainstub [of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev], Qumran was intimately connected to the Essenes, but rather than a permanent settlement of the group, it was the site where all its members and candidates would flock from communities all over the country to hold their annual celebration of the “passing of the covenant.”

The ceremony was modeled after one described in Deuteronomy, chapters 27-28. In the passage, Moses instructs the Israelites on how to proclaim God’s blessings and curses on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim after they enter the land, which is subsequently described in the book of Joshua.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, Qumran

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism