AMMAN, Jordan, (AP) – Jordan’s tourism minister said Thursday that her country was seeking the help of Western nations to regain possession of the Dead Sea Scrolls Israel seized from a Jerusalem museum during the 1967 Mideast war.
Maha Khatib said Jordan has given up hope that Israel would directly give back the more than 2,000-year-old scrolls and now hoped Western nations would return them to the Arab kingdom when they host them in exhibitions.
Israel rejected the Jordanian claim to the scrolls, which include the earliest known version of portions of the Hebrew Bible and have shed important light on Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity. Their origin is the subject of an insular, but notoriously heated, academic debate.
They will next be exhibited in Milwaukee, WI, starting Jan. 22.
Jordan says Israel seized 14 scrolls kept in a museum in the eastern sector of Jerusalem when its army occupied that Jordanian-controlled part of the city along with the West Bank in the 1967 war. Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem soon after the war and now says the entire city is its unified, eternal capital.
In Jerusalem, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Jordan’s claims were “ridiculous” and that the scrolls were an “intrinsic part” of Jewish religion, culture and history and have no connection to Jordan. “This claim is totally unfounded,” he said.
But Khatib said: “The Dead Sea Scrolls are owned and will always be owned by the government of Jordan and we’ll continue emphasizing our right to get them back.”
She told The Associated Press: “We know very well that the Israelis will not give them back.”
Jordan, she added, would contact countries where the scrolls are put on exhibition and ask them not to return them to Israel, but to Jordan instead.
“We are very keen on getting them (the scrolls) by reminding different countries of the international accords on cultural wealth they signed,” she said, citing the 1954 Hague Convention governing the protection of cultural property during armed conflict.
Earlier this month, Canada refused a Jordanian request to stop the scrolls’ return to Israel, after they were displayed at a Toronto museum. It also refused a similar request made by the Palestinian Authority, according to Canadian diplomats.
The scrolls were found in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956.