(Communicated by the IAA Spokesperson)We learn from this press release that the current expedition to explore the Cave of Skulls in Nahal Tse'elim (Se'elim) is only the first of a proposed series of such expeditions.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and together with the Minister of Culture and Sport, MK Miri Regev, is promoting a national plan for comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, and rescuing the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language.
According to Israel Hasson, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “For years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state”.
According to the Minister of Culture and Sport, MK Miri Regev, “The antiquities robbers are plundering the Land of Israel’s history, which is something we cannot allow. The Dead Sea scrolls are an exciting testament of paramount importance that bear witness to the existence of Israel in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago, and they were found close to the Return to Zion and the establishment of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel. It is our duty to protect these unique treasures, which belong to the Jewish people and the entire world. I will work to increase the punishment against those that rob our country’s antiquities”.
Israel Hasson, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, added, "It is exciting to see the extraordinary work of the volunteers, who have lent a hand and participated in the excavation in complicated field conditions, out of a desire to join in an historic undertaking and discover finds that can provide priceless information about our past here. The time has come for the state to underwrite broad action so as to rescue the cultural assets of enormous historical importance while they still remain in the caves. Substantial amounts need to be allocated which will allow the Israel Antiquities Authority to embark upon a large scale operation for studying the desert, including the caves, and excavating the artifacts. After all, the Dead Sea scrolls are of religious, political and historical importance to Jews, Christians and all of humanity”.This project is well worth the full support of the Israeli Government.
More on the current Cave of Skulls expedition is here and here, with background links.