December 1st 2014
At Qumran National Park, you can visit the ancient settlement of Qumran and walk among the ruins of the Essenes to gain a window into how and why they lived in the midst of the desert more than 2,000 years ago. Qumran National Park is located along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.
The world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls, found by a young Bedouin shepherd in 1947, are the oldest biblical books scholars have ever discovered. Many of the findings are on display at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. As you’re viewing the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, you can listen to a description of life as it was lived by the Essenes, the ancient Jews who lived in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Although the Romans destroyed Qumran as they destroyed the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there are still plenty of ruins to see here. Among the most significant remaining structures are a room and table-like structures where scholars believe that Essenian scribes copied the Dead Sea Scrolls. Distinctive remnants of a dining hall and a ritual bath also survived the Roman rampage. In other places, pottery shards, cisterns, trenches, a pottery studio and baking kitchens, as well as fragments of what scholars presume to have been the Essenes’ cemetery are also visible. Don’t miss the view of the cave in which most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were originally found.
The Essenes were a cult-like community who were fixated on ritual purity. Their village was built in and around a series of caves overlooking the Dead Sea. Although scholars estimate that Qumran was never home to more than 200 people, the ascetic way of life of this small group, who left Jerusalem seeking spiritual purity in the barren desert, makes for compelling story.
The Visitors’ Center, whose architecture resembles one of the ancient buildings of Qumran, screens an audiovisual presentation about the people who called Qumran home and also about the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves. The park is open throughout the year. During the summer, it can be quite hot, so it’s important to wear something on your head and to bring plenty of drinking water.