German Qumran Scroll Exhibit Canceled Over PA Demand Fears

Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls, found in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. (Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

A scheduled exhibition of ancient scrolls found in the Qumran Caves that was set for Germany in 2019 has been canceled. The Frankfurt Bible House said that the show was canceled because of “political developments.” According to Yisrael Hayom, the reason for the cancellation of the show is the refusal of the German government to guarantee that it will return the scrolls to Israel in the event that the Palestinian Authority attempts to claim ownership of them.

The show was to feature nine Qumran scrolls that are currently in a museum in Yerushalayim. Eight of the scrolls were discovered in a cave located in areas liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. The PA has sought to claim ownership of all archaeological and historic finds discovered in these areas. It is not clear if the PA has already threatened to demand that Germany submit the scrolls to it, but Israel does not want to take a chance, especially given Berlin’s refusal to guarantee the scrolls’ return.

This was the first time the scrolls were to be displayed outside of Israel. Israeli officials involved in the matter expressed surprise to Yisrael Hayom that Germany would violate the protocols of such exhibitions, in which the country where the exhibition takes place guarantees to return the items on display to the lending country. Among the countries where “disputed” archaeological items have been displayed – and which guaranteed the return of the items to Israel – were Holland and Austria.