Monday, January 04, 2010

Update on Jordan and the DSS

Scroll exhibit closes amid controversy

Jordan claims Israel seized scrolls from Jerusalem museum. Ottawa says Canada will not intervene


From Monday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Jan. 04, 2010 12:00AM EST Last updated on Monday, Jan. 04, 2010 2:25AM EST

The six-month exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls closed yesterday in Toronto, with scholars baffled by the Jordanian government's last-minute request to Canada to stop the ancient manuscripts from going back to Israel.

The request, delivered to the Canadian chargé d'affaires in the Jordanian capital of Amman, underscores the tortuous history of the region, where custody of the 2,000-year-old fragments of Jewish spiritual writings has become entangled in the politics and warfare of perhaps the world's most fought over piece of geography.


The Canadian government has replied by saying Jordan, Israel and the Palestine Authority should sort out who owns the scrolls and Ottawa will not intervene - a response which, legally, the Canadian government likely had no choice but to make, said Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, chair of New York University's department of Hebrew and Judaic studies and a Dead Sea Scrolls specialist.

Ottawa, he said, was likely party to an indemnification agreement signed before the scrolls left Israel to come to Canada. The agreement - a conventional document protecting cultural property - would guarantee that Israel would get the scrolls back.

What has puzzled scrolls experts is not just Jordan's timing but Jordan's intervention. Why did it wait until just before the exhibit closed? And why did it make the request when 20 years ago it declared that its previous interests in the area, such as the museum in east Jerusalem that once housed some of the scrolls that came to Canada, were now in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.

The article goes on to say that there is doubt that the Hague Convention applies to the particular complicated political circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Scrolls.

Background here.