On November 29, 1947, only 17 months after its own creation, the United Nations approved General Assembly Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into two states; one Arab, one Jewish. Incredible joy was demonstrated that day, as Zionist Jews danced and sang in the streets
, behind ghetto-like barbed wire that separated them from their Arab co-residents in Old Jerusalem. The leaders of the Arab and Jewish people in Palestine had no illusions about the UN document’s inability to disassemble the barbed wire barrier with love and respect. For them, control of key areas and institutions was the principle objective before the British army eagerly deserted the occupied Holy Land they had conquered 30 years before. The Britt ’s would exit, no longer willing to referee between the two enemies, Isaac and Ishmael, no later than August of 1948, only nine months away.
In Jerusalem, the Jews and Arabs raced for position, weapons, and military advantages that would be needed in the war that everyone knew would come
, once the British were out of the way.
The first appointed Professor of Archeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem was a Russian born atheist named Eleazar Sukenik. A Jewish Zionist, the 58 year old archeologist, like all residents of Jerusalem in 1947, was living two lives. In his work life
, he was finding it more and more difficult to move freely about Palestine with tensions at extreme heights between Arabs and Jews. In his personal life, his son Yigael was attending Hebrew University, as an archeology student, following in his father’s footsteps. They were best friends and colleagues.
The Hebrew University itself had been constructed on Mt. Scopus, located on the same mountaintop Roman General Titus viewed the Temple Mount in 70AD. Its construction began not long after the British defeated the Ottoman Turks in Palestine in 1918. The view of the Old City from Mt. Scopus was unsurpassed and it was here that Eleazar Sukenik kept office as the head of Archeology, in the department of Palestine Natural History.
On Saturday November 29, 1947, Sukenik took a perilous trip to Bethlehem to visit an antiquities dealer named Faidi Salahi. His student son, Yigael, a Haganah trained military specialist, had already been drafted into the senior command structure of the Jewish forces and would remain so throughout the 1948-9 “War of Independence.” Yigael was worried about the risk his father was taking that Saturday evening, traveling within Arab territory.
His concern was not misguided. The emotional impact of the UN announcement that evening would further enrage the Arabs, who initiated what seemed to be indiscriminate rioting among young roving street gangs.
But Eleazar Sukenik never felt more motivated to tempt danger if the scrolls were what he thought they were. Just that day, Faidi Salahi, an Arab antiquities trader, had enticed Sukenik to meet his agent at the barbed wire fence crossing separating the Jews and Arabs in the old city. What Salahi’s agent showed Sukenik caused him to salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It was a Dead Sea Scroll fragment from the 1st Cave Discovery of Khirbet Qumran, near the Dead Sea. A Bedouin shepherd boy had stumbled upon this cave earlier in the spring of 1947, where Sukenik learned that a total of seven scrolls had been found.
Without his son Yigael’s approval, Eleazar Sukenik became the sole Jewish passenger on a southward bound Arab bus after the sun set on that particular Sabbath. It was an unnerving ride to an antiquities shop in Arab Bethlehem for the American educated scholar. It didn’t help to know that even Faidi Salahi would not be at this rendezvous. No, Sukenik would meet Salahi’s sub-dealer, a Christian Arab named Ohan.
It was an incredible risk to take on the day of Israel’s rebirth, emerging from 1,900 years of exile,but Sukenik was willing. He knew this could be the archeological find of a lifetime that defined one’s career. The question was, could he get his hands on the three scrolls and were they forgeries?
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Ohan handed the scrolls to Sukenik in the dark backroom of his antiquities shop. Sukenik surprisingly was not asked to pay for them. It was as if Faidi Salahi wanted him to assess their market value before asking too low of a price. Salahi knew that Sukenik was just the man to tell him.
Eleazar was quickly on to the next Arab bus to Jerusalem. He was astonished by what he had in his possession: A War Scroll, a Thanksgiving Psalm Scroll, and an incomplete Isaiah Scroll. All copied and preserved by an unknown group of librarians who had been living outside the boundaries of the mainstream of Jewish history. When Sukenik made it home, he found his wife nervously waiting for him.
Sukenik’s son, 29-year-old Yigael Yadin, was an emerging archeologist in his own right. He was in the middle of writing his Ph.D. thesis when the scrolls arrived with his father that night in November. Yigael also held the position of Colonel, Chief of Operations, in the underground Haganah army of David Ben-Gurion. Yigael thus found it a strange irony, upon considering the ancient writings which his father had perilously rescued, that the scrolls had arrived at such a time as this. On a breathtaking night, Sukenik found himself reading the “War Scroll” that the ancient Qumran librarians had preserved in a clay jar (an intentional permanent time capsule). His son Yigael would soon direct action in a war against a multitude of Arab enemies, but here he was reading an ancient scroll describing a different war, a scroll that spoke about the “Sons of Light” fighting the “Sons of Darkness.” Could it be that God did exist and was giving a Jewish scholar, even an atheist, a message at Israel’s critical moment of revival? Even the most skeptical of his secular students or colleagues at Hebrew University could not have resisted thinking that thought, if only for a fleeting spiritual moment.
In his memoirs written prior to his death in 1984, Yigael Yadin, then the most recognized archeologist in Israel, describes his own thoughts at his father’s discovery of the scrolls at the very moment that the reborn State of Israel was going to war. Yadin said,
“I cannot avoid the feeling that there is something symbolic in the discovery of the scrolls and their acquisition at the moment of the creation of the State of Israel. It is as if these manuscripts had been waiting in caves for two thousand years, ever since the destruction of Israel’s independence, until the people of Israel had returned to their home and regained their freedom. This symbolism is heightened by the fact that the first three scrolls were bought by my father for Israel on 29 November, 1947, the very day on which the United Nations voted for the re-creation of the Jewish state in Israel after two thousand years. These facts may have influenced my approach to the scrolls. It was a tremendously exciting experience, difficult to convey in words, to see the original scrolls and to study them, knowing that some of the Biblical manuscripts were copied only a few hundred years after their composition, and that these very scrolls were read and studied by our forefathers in the period of the Second Temple. They constitute a vital link–long lost and now regained–between those ancient times, so rich in civilized thought, and the present day.” 
Yadin’s father felt something similar and perhaps the two of them discussed it. Sukenik wrote,
“I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful Biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms. One of these was the Isaiah scroll, which I saw recently in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem: sections of goat-skin parchment, sewn together, 27 feet long. I felt in the presence of something numinous, although I have been a convinced atheist since boyhood, but this document is a testament to the inexplicable persistence of the human mind, in the face of all the evidence, in believing that we are on earth for a Divine purpose.”
That common notion Sukenik and his son had recorded in their memoirs obviously expressed the emotion and trepidation that many Jews felt on that day in 1947: Yigael’s more so, as a critical officer to the Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Yaakov Dori.
Second only to David Ben Gurion, Yaakov Dori was in ill health and was completely dependent on the young Yadin to provide council and execution of his strategies.
The twenty-nine year old colonel eventually seceded Dori as the IDF Chief of Staff, immediately following the war of 1948-9. It was a default appointment as he was already serving in that capacity in every way but title.
Temperamentally, young battle hardened Yadin was outspoken and passionate. He found himself leaving the military in 1952 after butting heads with Ben-Gurion over military budget cuts. It was natural for Yadin to go back to his father’s bosom, the world of archeology and the exciting realm of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Now with first hand scroll experience coupled with a heroic military reputation, Yigael Yadin found himself traveling to the United States in 1954 as a popular lecturer on the fascinating topic of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It soon came to his attention that the possessor of the other four scrolls from Cave #1 (a complete Isaiah Scroll, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Manual of Discipline also called the Community Scroll, and the Genesis Apocryphon/Secret writing) had taken out an ad in the Wall Street Journal in an attempt to peddle the manuscripts. These four scrolls had made a secretive journey to the US via the Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem (St. Mark’s Monastery), now assigned to the United States. Metropolitan (Archbishop) Athanasius Samuel of the Greek Orthodox Church had paid $97 for the four scrolls. He bought them from a Christian Arab named Kando. Archbishop Samuel then smuggled the four scrolls out of post-war Palestine, in search of a big money buyer. Using an intermediary in 1948, he kept his identity hidden and had the four scrolls authenticated by Sukenik in Jerusalem. If he could prove their legitimacy by Israel’s foremost Biblical Archeologist, then a high price would be secured. By 1954, he was frustrated that no American University would pay up.
Metropolitan Samuel, pessimistic about a private sale, took out the WSJ ad in a desperate move to cash out on his $97 investment.
Miraculously, the New York Israeli consulate had contacted Yadin between lectures and notified him that the scrolls were being peddled publicly. Was he interested?
Together with American Jews, Yadin and the Israeli consulate raised the funds necessary to satisfy the greedy smuggler. Yadin paid Samuel $250,000 for the remaining four scrolls from Cave #1 through a go-between. Yadin needed to hide the identity of the Israeli government, lest the Metropolitan get spooked and feel he was about to be arrested. After the purchase, the scrolls were transported back to Israel, destined to reside in the “Shrine of the Book” museum.
Simultaneously resurrected, the scrolls and the nation of Israel both fell into the hands of the young warrior-archeologist, son of an atheist, Yigael Yadin.
Prior to the purchase of the remaining scrolls in 1954, Yadin and his father Eleazar had made an assumption. Armed only with the knowledge of Jewish historian Josephus writings regarding a religious group known as the Essenes, they hypothesized that this religious order was responsible for the preservation of the Biblical scrolls and habitation of the village of Qumran. They made this assumption in 1947, without the witness of the important “Manual of Discipline (Community Scroll)” that makes it clear that the inhabitants of Qumran did not hold to the doctrines of the Essenes which Josephus had greatly admired. After commitment to this hypothesis, Yadin and his reputation have been joined by a majority of archeologists who have left this issue unchallenged. Yadin said in 1957,
“We therefore have before us two alternative conclusions: either the sect of the scrolls is none other than the Essenes themselves; or it was a sect which resembled the Essenes in almost every respect, in its dwelling place, its organization, its customs”.
Now in the 21st century, new voices are being registered on the ‘Essene hypothesis.’
Vehemently disagreeing with Yadin and Sukenik is a modern expert on Josephus writings, the historian Steve Mason. Mason sees a great divide between the language and rituals of the Community Scroll versus the ascetics of the Essene Sect that Josephus admiringly details in his writings. To Mason, these were not the same Communities and thus, Yadin and his father must have jumped to an easy, familiar conclusion, being only familiar with Josephus’ histories.
Jean-Francois-Revel, the French social critic said,
“Intellectual dispensation fosters untruth by retaining only facts favorable to the thesis one is defending, even if you must invent them or suppress those unfavorable.”
In other words, if your only knowledge is how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Historian Mason states it this way,
“If the scrolls were written by the Essenes, that cannot be demonstrated by reference to Josephus”.
As a Josephus expert, Mason must be taken seriously. Yadin and his father unwittingly created a tradition that linked the Scrolls to the Essenes. As Mason says,
“The Essene hypothesis … leads to the supposedly ineluctable conclusion…”
Unquestioning scholars jumped on board the ineluctable conclusion, the Essene hypothesis. However, if the Essenes did not occupy Qumran and were not the Scroll Librarians, then a mystery exists. Who were the Librarians of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Based on the Community Scroll, there can be no doubt that the Qumran people were religious, communal, and consumed with interpreting the Levitical rules of the Aaronic priesthood. Is it possible that the Qumran sect were none other than what the Librarians claimed for themselves, a group of vanquished Zadokites, exiled from Temple ministry before the time of Judas Maccabeus?
 Levensohn, Lotta “Vision and Fulfillment: The First Twenty-Five Years of the Hebrew University, 1925-1950”, The Greystone Press, New York, 1950. pg. 86.
 The Dead Sea Scrolls and Why They Matter, Biblical Archeology Review, 2008
 Eleazar Sukenik, quoted in Justin Cartwright, ‘The indestructible power of belief’, The Guardian, 27 May 2000, Saturday Pages, Pg. 3.
 Breind, Jacques. “Samuel, Athanasius Yeshue” In Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Lawrence Schiffman and James VanderKam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
 Yigael Yadin, The Message of the Scrolls (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), p. 186.
 Mason, Steve “Did the Essenes write the Dead Sea Scrolls?”, Biblical Archeology Review, Nov/Dec 2008 34:06, p. 62