We visited the Israel Museum which houses the amazing Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls, which date from the 1st Century CE, not only add significantly to the body of sacred texts (including copies of various Old Testament books that vary only slightly from the benchmark text that is commonly used), but sheds light on the small sect that created and preserved the scrolls. This small sect (estimated to consist of 90-150 men) was ascetic and celibate–a precursor to their Christian counterparts? They maintained their own calendar (based on a solar year of 364 days, rather than the lunar calendar typically used), and viewed themselves as the most pure expression of Judaism (they called themselves the “sons of light,” as opposed to the “sons of darkness” in corrupt Jerusalem). It shows how Judaism of the day was practiced in many ways by different people.
Outside the museum is a model of the Old City of Jerusalem as it would have existed before the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. This amazing model gives a vivid glimpse of what the city would have been like in those days. We were also able to see just how well-preserved many of the ancient walls and buildings are, as well as easily see what has changed over the intervening 2000 years.