Children love detective stories, hidden vaults, and discovery. At first glance, the world of archeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls could be as dead as the people who wrote them. Why should a child be interested in some old scrolls of Isaiah!?
But last week, I took my kids on tiyul to Ein Gedi. On on the way, the kids began reading the road signs, that the municipality was called "Megillot" i.e. "scrolls.' This already had them asking question about the strange name. As we passed the Qumeran site, I told them, in my best adventure story style, about the way in which these scrolls were discovered. We spoke about the Essenes who wanted to live out of the corruption of Jerusalem in a pure environment. We continued talking about mythical battles between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Dark, and Star Wars (Darth Vader in Black) and it was all alive; the kids were really "into it!"
And then this week, we visited the Israel Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Shrine of the Book. I must have done something right because even my 4-year-old was fascinated by the artifacts: combs, cups and scythes of the ancient Essenes, and the clay jugs in which the scrolls were discovered. When we entered the main hall with the scrolls, they all enjoyed trying to decipher the text, and the architecture is also inspiring.
It is just fabulous to be able to do this detective journey here in Israel. This is the type of education I love, whether for my own kids or for the tours I lead, this is the stuff that makes the boring things become fascinating.
One thing that I was unable to transmit was the ecitement people felt by the validation, that the same scrolls which existed in pre-Exilic Judea, were still part of the Holy Books of the Jewish nation. The boost that it gave Zionism, and the feeling of return was a palpable exhilaration which animated the entire project of these ancient textual fragments. Kids aren't so good with a 2000 year Historical perspective, but the adults who were with us enjoyed that bit!
I think that someone needs to make an action packed TV adventure series here in Israel, incorporating adventure, ancient sites, codes, and ancient Historical figures who have come alive. (Sort of - the Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones and National Treasure.) If done well, it could help a generation of Israelis understand just how relevant and rich there History is.