“I had no idea how much I love limestone,” I said to Ron over and over as we walked around Israel.
“Me, too,” he said.
“I love its look, its texture, and its smell,” I said.
The sandstone color lit up the land.
As we toured the country there were certain places I thought I’d feel indifferent about, but it turned out I absolutely loved. Qumran was one of those places. It’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Toward the end of the second century B.C. and during the first century A.D., the Essenes, a Jewish sect, lived and studied at the site. In addition to composing non-biblical writings (prayers, commentaries, and hymns), the Essene scribes copied down Hebrew Scripture in a special room called the Scriptorium. The scribes were so accurate and precise—down to every last jot and tittle—that a single mistake meant the page/scroll was discarded and the scribe started his work over. In 1947, Bedouin shepherds discovered seven of the ancient scrolls. Archaeologists then excavated the area and found thousands of manuscript fragments. The scrolls had been so well preserved because the Essenes hid them inside pottery jars before they placed the jars in arid limestone caves (the “library”). The Dead Sea Scrolls include portions or complete copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther. It was so neat to see a handful of the scrolls on display—they’re the oldest known copies of biblical texts.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been back home for three weeks now. In much of the time since, I’ve been squirreled away at the Colorado cabin, writing, writing, writing. I now call my writing area the Scriptorium. The word means “place of writing.”