On February 13, 1955, Israel acquired four of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls through a private sale.

The exchange was just the first in a series of steps the Jewish state would take to bring these precious manuscripts, discovered between 1947 and 1956, to rest in Israel.


The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to a collection of 800-plus articles, originating from the first centuries BC and AD.

The items include documents written on canvas and papyrus, as well as coins and other artifacts, and are the earliest known surviving copies of biblical papers.

The collection is significant for its rare date of origin as well as its window into the political and religious practices of the time.

The articles are written mostly in Hebrew, though some are penned in Aramaic or Greek. The first of the series was discovered tucked inside ancient pottery in 1947 by a Bedouin settler at the Caves at Qumran, an archaeological site in what is now the West Bank.

Over the course of the next few years the caves were thoroughly excavated, uncovering hundreds more like items.

As the scrolls were unearthed, public interest grew. Many of the articles were translated and published, but still others remained shrouded in mystery.

Decades of struggle and debate ensued, as efforts began to not only unite the scrolls in one select location, but also make them as accessible as possible to the public.

Today, the scrolls are on display at Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book, a branch of the Israel Museum. The antiquities are placed on a rotating system, put on display for a set amount of time before being tucked away for a period of “rest.”

The majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now recognized as under the ownership of the State of Israel, though both Jordan and Palestine contest this ownership.