A display featuring some of the Dead Sea Scrolls — the parchments that include the earliest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible — is coming to Salt Lake City.
Twenty scrolls, some of which date back to near the time of Christ, will be part of an exhibit that will open in mid-November at The Leonardo, downtown Salt Lake City’s art-and-technology museum, officials announced Wednesday.
Alexandra Hesse, The Leonardo’s executive director, called the exhibit “the most significant exhibit The Leonardo has opened to date.”
It includes approximately 600 artifacts from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a site revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. One of the artifacts is a three-ton piece of the Western Wall — better known as the Wailing Wall — the Jewish holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City that dates back to the 1st century BCE.
The Dead Sea Scrolls represent “the historical foundational document of Hebrew culture,” said David Siegel, Israeli consul general, at a news conference announcing the exhibit.
The scrolls are “deep and meaningful for the people of our state,” Hesse said. “What we hope to do is to encourage conversation and introspection around what these precious documents and artifacts have meant to the world historically, as well as what they continue to mean to us today.”
Salt Lake City is one of only 10 cities to host the “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times.” The exhibit has been shown in New York, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, and will open May 19 at Boston’s Museum of Science.
The exhibit, said Rabbi Benny Zippel, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, “is important for the education and appreciation of Jewish culture and values.”
Zippel was among members of the Interfaith Roundtable who attended Wednesday’s news conference. Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also stood with the dignitaries behind the podium.
Also there was Gail Miller, representing the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, the exhibit’s lead sponsor. Utah legislative leaders also attended. The Utah Legislature this session appropriated $350,000 to The Leonardo for the exhibit, Hesse said.
Ten scrolls will be displayed when the exhibit opens in November, Hesse said. At some point during the exhibit’s run, experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the government agency that maintains the scrolls, will remove those 10 and unveil 10 different scrolls. The exhibit will end its run in April 2014.
To augment the touring exhibit, The Leonardo will partner with Brigham Young University to highlight the Provo college’s role in researching the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“BYU has played a very critical role in translating, digitizing, indexing and really advancing the scholarly exploration of the scrolls, all of which has led to a much deeper understanding of the meaning and significance of these very precious artifacts,” Hesse said.
The Leonardo also will work with the Interfaith Roundtable to organize panel discussions and other events
Bringing the exhibit to Utah, Siegel said, is “a hugely significant moment” in relations between Israel and Utah. The scrolls, he said, represent “our shared past, our shared faith and our shared future.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that the scrolls “reflect who we are, why we’re here, and maybe where we’re going.… It’s hard for us to overstate the value of the Dead Sea Scrolls, culturally, historically and religiously.”
Herbert said the exhibit can be “a vehicle to bring us together with the great state of Israel.” Both he and Siegel praised the business relations between Israel and Utah. “As we deal with people economically, they become our friends,” said Herbert, who said the state is sending a trade mission to Israel on Saturday.
Siegel mentioned taking a recent trip to Utah’s national parks, and Herbert made a joke about the similarities between Israeli and Utah landmarks: “We do have the Jordan River, our own dead sea, and the Zions Bank.”
Dead Sea Scrolls
What • An exhibit of portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient artifacts from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Where • The Leonardo. Salt Lake City is one of 10 cities to host the exhibit.
When • November through April 2014.