A short account of Qumran, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide
Qumran is a small ruin-covered hill near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, but its significance is far greater than its looks. In 1947, what is referred to as “the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century,” the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was found at Qumran. When excavations were conducted at a later time, much information about the daily life of the people who wrote the scrolls was revealed.
A bit of history
In the 2nd century BCE, probably soon after the beginning of the Hasmonean (Maccabee) independent rule, a group of men retreated into the desert for the sake of living a pure life, away from the riches and corruption of the external world (that you can see in the Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem). For the next 200 years, this group lived in the same place and led the same kind of life, until its final destruction during the Great Revolt in 70 CE, a couple of years before Masada.
Their way of life was reminiscent of the communal and pure life led by the Essenes. However, they were more extreme than the Essenes in their ways of living together, not having private property, being dedicated to the purposes of the community, the strict purity rules, having a different calendar and the daily agenda of every member.
The daily agenda consisted of getting together every morning from their living caves to the communal area. They prayed together, went to work in the fields and returned to the communal area for the first meal. Before eating in sacred silence, they took a bath of purification. They returned to work after eating. In the evening, they repeated the same ritual, finishing the day by learning together. Some of them specialized in writing different kinds of scrolls.
What can one see in Qumran?
- See a short video about the site, the sect and about their habits and rules.
- Visit the communal area that teaches us much about their life. You can see the following:
- The aqueduct and water channels running through the site, along with many pools and ritual baths (mikvahs). The large dining room and storage room next to it.
- The scriptorium – where the scrolls were written.
- The watchtower rising above the site.
- The kiln
- The view to Cave No. 4