Dead Sea Scrolls visit Salt Lake City

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The largest collection of artifacts ever to leave Israel, including a collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, is being exhibited at The Leonardo museum in Salt Lake City. The exhibit opened Friday, Nov. 22 and runs until April 27, 2014.

“Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times” features more than 500 artifacts from ancient Israel, including 20 rare scroll fragments that make up some of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible.

While the exhibit will visit 10 cities total in the United States, the Utah showing is paired with an exhibit highlighting the contributions of BYU scholars in the translation, study and digitization of the scrolls. Because of its contributions to the research on the scrolls, BYU has become one of the world’s center of Dead Sea Scrolls research.

The exhibit also has significance in Utah because of the diversity of faiths in Salt Lake City, said Alexandra Hesse, executive director of The Leonardo.

“It’s deeply personal to experience this exhibit,” she said. “All the different faith communities, of course, have very different relationships and many similar relationship as well, to these documents. All I can say is it’s very significant, but every faith has to answer why and how for themselves.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minster of Israel, said in a video message that the people of Utah and Israel share common values.

“I know that we have many friends in America, and many friends in Utah who share these values. And they’re expressed so symbolically and so clearly in these scrolls,” Netanyahu said.

Accompanying the opening of the exhibit were several archaeologists and curators from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). David Siegel, Israel Consul General to the U.S., also visited the exhibit.

“Not everyone can make it to Israel, to the Holy Land; this is an opportunity to see it right here,” Siegel said. “These are really some of the most ancient manuscripts in the world, uniquely showcased here. We’re very proud of that, and we hope that this community enjoys it and learns from it.”

Deputy director of the IAA, Dr. Uzi Dahari, said it is the duty of the IAA to share the scrolls with the public because they are a piece of humanity, and they want to share them with Utah.

“We think it’s our duty to show the scrolls to the public wherever because it’s part of the history of humanity — not only of the Jewish people — also for Christians, also for Muslims, everyone,” Dahari said. “We are proud to show it to the people of Utah. We like the people of Utah. They are similar to Israelis in a way. You have a dead sea, we have a dead sea. But your dead sea is only 25 percent of salt, we have 33 percent of salt.”

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