Personal reflection on Palestinians from THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE

In my new book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE, I not only tell the story of how we got the Bible we have today by telling the story of key cities that contributed to its formation, but I also offer many personal stories, discoveries, and reflections on my travels to these important cities.

Here is my reflection on the Palestinian people following a rather eventful dinner in Bethlehem.

“I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethleḥem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people.”
– Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

"I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethlehem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people." - Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

If you’d like to read more, pick up a copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE wherever books are sold.

Dig This Summer in Israel at Tel Azekah with the University of Iowa

The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition

I’d like to invite all who are interested to join us this summer for the second season of exploration at Tel Azekah, Israel. The University of Iowa is proud to be joining with Tel Aviv University and the University of Heidelberg as part of an international consortium of universities participating in the Lautenschläger Archaeological Expedition at Tel Azekah.

Tour the Holy Land and spend a summer doing archaeological research for university course credit.

For more information, visit the Azekah Facebook page, or visit the Iowa Azekah Information page. Biblical Archaeology Review also has information on Azekah. You can also read through last year’s Azekah blog.

2013 season details are also available here.

Excavation dates: July 13 – August 23, 2013.

Excavation Directors: Dr. Oded LipschitsDr. Manfred Oeming, Dr. Yuval Gadot

Iowa Team Director: Dr. Robert Cargill

Consortium members: You will meet students from around the world, including those from Collège de France, Duke University, Georg-August-Universität-Göttingen, Heidelberg University, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Macquarie University, Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Tel Aviv University, Universität des Saarlandes, Université de Lausanne, University of Iowa, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, and the University of Zurich.

Accommodations: Students stay in the Nes-Harim guest-house, a mountaintop village of fully air-conditioned wooden cabins, located on in the midst of a green and lush forest. Students enjoy accommodations and full board, with three delicious meals a day, their own private bar, as well as full complementary Wi-Fi internet services in classes and the surrounding area.

Schedule:

Saturday Evening: The excavation week begins on Saturday evening, with buses that bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house. After a quick dinner, students attend opening lectures and introductions to the week ahead.

Saturday to Thursday: Students wake up very early to work and begin digging as the sun rises over the Judean hills and the Elah Valley. At 9:00 we gather for wonderful Israeli breakfast served on-site at beautiful Tell Azekah, eating and enjoying the breathtaking view of Judean Lowlands. Afterwards, we continue digging until noon, at which point students take the short bus drive back to the Nes-Harim guest-house. Students eat lunch, shower, nap, read, and enjoy time until the time for pottery washing. In the afternoon, students gather for pottery washing where they clean pottery collected that morning in the field, and look for seal impressions and ancient inscriptions. Later, and in the evening, students enjoy dinner a rich academic program, complete with lectures from the world’s leading archaeologists, and enjoy guided tours of the lovely landscape where the ancient history of various nearby excavations is recounted by leading scholars.

Thursday afternoon: Students depart for weekend trips on Thursday afternoon. Two options are available during the excavation weekends (Thursday afternoon – Saturday afternoon):

  1. Students may take part in organized tours to other parts of Israel (for an additional fee).
  2. Students may take advantage of the complimentary bus service to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (leaving the guest-house on Thursday afternoon and returning on Saturday afternoon). Studetns are responsible for their own accommodations on the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv weekends.

Friday and Saturday: Free time to enjoy weekend tours or free time in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Saturday afternoon: Buses bring students from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or weekend trips to the Nes-Harim guest-house.

Weekend Tours: Each weekend, students will take tours of various sites in the Holy Land including, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, the Mediterranean coast, Jerusalem, Qumran, En Gedi, Masada, Dead Sea, Bethlehem, the Herodium, and the Jordan River. And this year, I am planning a special trip weekend for Iowa students to Petra, Jordan – the city carved from stone.

University course credit: Students interested in earning university credit for the excavation can join one or two of the academic courses. (Cost per course: $300 total)

  • Archaeology and History of the Judean Lowland: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • Archaeological Fieldwork – Theory and Methods: one session (July 13th – August 10th) 3 credits
  • An additional course, Theological Aspects of Archaeological Work, is also available through the University of Heidelberg:  one session (August 3rd – August 23rd)

Click here for further information about the academic program.

Program Cost: The cost of the summer excavation program depends on how long you participate. I encourage all Iowa students to come for 3 or 6 weeks.

Registration fee: $50 USD

Weekly cost (Saturday night to Thursday evening): $585 USD. This price includes: participation in the excavation, weekly room accommodations (up to 4 people in a room), full board (morning coffee, breakfast at the field, fruit break at the field, lunch, afternoon coffee and dinner), 24-hours internet service, transportation from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the camp on Saturday night and from the camp to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, transportation to the site and back on working days and transportation to midweek tours, security and first aid in the Nes Harim accommodations, all academic lectures and workshops, afternoon archaeological programs and social activities, educational mid-week tours to archaeological and historical sites in the region.

Breakdown by week:

  • Two weeks: $1170 USD ($1150 USD for return team members)
  • Three weeks: $1755 USD ($1725 USD for return team members)
  • Four weeks: $2340 USD ($2300 USD for return team members)
  • Five Weeks: $2925 USD ($2875 USD for return team members)
  • Six Weeks: $3510 USD ($3450 USD for return team members)

Price does not include: Flights to and from Israel; personal health insurance; weekend tours and board; free time room and board from Thursday evening to Saturday evening.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

Iowa students and staff participate in the 2012 excavations at Azekah.

If you are interested in participating in the excavation, or as traveling/participating with the University of Iowa team, please contact Dr. Robert Cargill at robert-cargill@uiowa.edu.

To download the registration form, click here and email it to: azekah.excavations@gmail.com.

 I’m looking forward to seeing you all this year at Azekah!

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY!

Mitt Romney on the Israel-Palestine Peace Process (and my response)

There’s really not much to say. This election is over.

Here are two videos. The first is Republican Candidate Mitt Romney attempting to “delve into” the Israel-Palestine situation. He can’t even articulate the right-wing Israeli argument properly. But he is attempting to regurgitate what he’s been fed.

The second is my response.

It’s over Mr. Romney. Stop talking.

The ‘negative space’ argument: another reason why the U.S. should back Palestinian statehood (and why Hamas opposes it)

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

"Negative Space" left behind by proposed "1967 borders" of the 2011 UN Palestinian Statehood proposal would mandate an acknowledgment of a state of Israel.

A University of Iowa colleague of mine, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, and I were discussing the planned Palestinian proposal for statehood to the United Nations this week. Dr. Souaiaia mentioned that Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip and actually engaged in a Palestinian civil war with the larger Palestinian political party, Fatah, was one of the only Arab organizations actually opposed the proposed Palestinian bid for statehood (a little-reported fact I later confirmed in a number of articles that U.S. media outlets apparently don’t want you to see).

In fact, despite the fact that the 22 nation-members of the Arab League have endorsed the Palestinian bid for statehood, Hamas does not. This is because the negative space left behind by the proposed pre-1967 borders of the Palestinian state to be proposed at the United Nations would, by default, define a state of Israel. That is, the area that is not claimed within the borders proposed by Palestine (encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), and, that is not claimed by adjacent nations must belong to someone, and that someone is Israel.

This is precisely why Hamas does not support the bid: it has less to do with political representation of Palestine by Fatah (which Hamas opposes), and more to do with a simple acknowledgment of the reality of the state of Israel.

Hamas would rather not have a Palestinian state than acknowledge an Israeli one.

And that is precisely why Hamas should be ignored, and why Fatah should move forward with the bid on behalf of Palestine. It is why the 22-member Arab League has endorsed the bid, why Israel should concede (if they cannot politically support the plan), and why the United States should not veto the bid.

Palestinian statehood through recognition at the United Nations is the two-state solution. Israel and Palestine should set aside old arguments over olive trees (hat tip: Thomas Friedman) and allow the bid for Palestinian statehood to move forward. It’s the win-win for Israel and Palestine that everyone has been seeking for decades. It allows for something that has never existed: an internationally recognized Palestinian state! It allows Israel to save face by allowing them to oppose a unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, and yet concede that the United Nations is the same organization that set the foundation for an Israeli state in 1947. It allows the United States to support its own policy of a two-state solution. (President Obama just needs to articulate the fact that a vote in favor of the Palestinian statehood bid forces Arab League states to recognize Israel.) And, it thumbs an international nose at Hamas, the terrorist organization that has stood in the way of peace (or at least has been the Israeli excuse for avoiding it) for decades.

And if Hamas so much as fires a single shot in an attempt to sabotage the process, the newly formed coalition of neighbors – Palestine, Israel, the Arab League, the US, the UN, and anyone else who wants to join in – should once and for all end Hamas’ reign of terror and oppression of its own Palestinian people. We can remind those in Gaza that Hamas would rather forfeit a Palestinian state than make peace with Israel (and Fatah). We can remind them what life has been like under Hamas leadership. And, we can point out the imminent reality of their centuries-long dream of an internationally recognized Palestinian state is near.

All that needs to happen is for President Obama and the United States not to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood. Until this, we wait, and we hope that 2012 electoral college math doesn’t influence Mr. Obama’s judgment on the matter at hand.

Robert R. Cargill

‘writing the dead sea scrolls’ to re-air on national geographic channel december 11, 2010

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” is scheduled to re-air on NatGeo December 11, 2010. I’ve previously posted about this here.

If you’re interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the show to watch.

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

more on ‘writing the dead sea scrolls’

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

the ucla press room has a short writeup by meg sullivan on my coming nat geo documentary probing the question of who wrote the dead sea scrolls. the documentary will appear on national geographic channel, tuesday, july 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM. you can read more about the show here or preview clips form the show here.

writing the dead sea scrolls to air july 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm on national geographic

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls on Nat GeoWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” will air on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM on the National Geographic Channel. The NatGeo website has complete details of the show, including a synopsis of the program, photos, quick facts, and video clips from the beginning and the end of the show.

I mentioned my trip to Israel and the West Bank earlier this year to make this program in a previous post.

National Geographic Israel previously featured the UCLA Qumran Visualization Project in 2008. The QVP resulted in the digital model of Qumran, a 3D virtual reconstruction of Qumran that was a central component of my doctoral research at UCLA. The UCLA Experiential Technologies Center website has a description of the Qumran project, complete with a video introducing the project, which can be viewed in the virtual reality visualization portal on UCLA’s campus.

Flotilla the Hun: How Not To Do A Nonviolent, Humanitarian Protest

Gaza Flotilla AttackMuch has been made about the conflict (dubbed Operation Sky Winds) between the Israeli military and passengers aboard the MV Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara), a Comoros-flagged passenger ship purchased in 2010 by the Islamic charity IHH. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 9 activists. The Turkish aid group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, whose full name is the İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı, and in English is known as “The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief “or “Humanitarian Relief Foundation,” (commonly referred to as IHH), is a Turkish Islamic non-government organization active in more than one hundred countries, all over the world. The IHH owned and operated three of the six flotilla ships involved in the incident. Established in 1992, the IHH is registered in Istanbul, Turkey and provides humanitarian relief into areas of war, earthquake, hunger and conflict. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Danish Institute for International Studies, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center have all published reports alleging links between IHH and Hamas, al-Qaeda or other Islamist and Jihadist organizations, but Mark Hosenball of Newsweek has reported that the U.S. is questioning Israeli claims that the IHH has ties to terrorist organizations.

This recent episode is the latest in a series of protests drawing attention to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which many claim is a collective punishment of Gazan Palestinians for backing and electing the terrorist organization Hamas to lead their government. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to keep arms and other military assets out of the hands of Hamas, whose prior provocations led to a full-blown War in Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” by the Israelis. Precedent does exist. In January 2009, the Israeli air force bombed a Sudanese caravan transporting arms to Hamas in Gaza from Iran. Seventeen trucks full of weapons were destroyed and 39 smugglers were killed in the attack. In February, 2009, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, loaded with ammunition and mortar shells. UN Resolutions 1737 (adopted by the Security Council in December 2006), 1747, and 1803 prohibit the export of weapons from Iran to any party.

The Blockade of Gaza has its roots in the aftermath of the 2007 Palestinian Civil War fought between the two major Palestinian political factions: Hamas and Fatah. The conflict resulted in the militant group Hamas ousting rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Fatah continued to rule in the West Bank while Hamas ruled in Gaza. In the wake of the Fatah-Hamas War, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for a limited amount of inspected humanitarian aid into Gaza. The blockade has continued to this day. Israel and Egypt’s rationale for the blockade of goods into Gaza was to prevent weapons – specifically materials needed to build rockets and mortars – from being moved into Gaza that could be used in rocket attacks against Israelis and Egyptians. To prevent another War in Gaza, which resulted from the Israeli response to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for inspected humanitarian aid to be brought into the city. Egypt has gone so far as to begin the construction of an underground steel barrier to prevent Palestinian smuggling tunnels from circumventing the blockade.

But, if there is a blockade of goods into Gaza, Hamas cannot rearm itself, meaning not only can it not fight the Israelis, but neither can it control its own Palestinian people, including Gazans loyal to the rival Palestinian political group Fatah, who are calling for the ouster of the failed Hamas government. Hamas wants its weapons, but the blockade makes this more difficult.

Of course, the problem with a military blockade of goods to Gaza is that Gazan Palestinians cannot get the goods they need to live normal lives. The constant conflicts – both Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian-Palestinian (Fatah vs. Hamas) – have left the Gaza Strip in shambles. Buildings are destroyed, public services are lacking, government officials remain unpaid, and the people suffer. And while many of these people take up arms and blame Israel, many do not. Many Palestinians in Gaza don’t want Hamas or its violence. They are tired of war; they just want to be left alone to live their lives, get married, raise their children, own their businesses, and live normal lives. And there are many humanitarian organizations that are trying to help, but the Israeli blockade prevents much of this assistance from getting to Gaza.

So what is to be done? How does one advocate for social justice in a place where the people are governed by terrorists? The answer is a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. It brings attention to Israel’s blockade policy, and delivers much needed aid to Gazan Palestinians, without allowing arms into Gaza. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do a nonviolent protest. Here’s a general rule of thumb:

If you’re going to participate in a nonviolent, humanitarian protest, it had better be both “humanitarian” and “nonviolent.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not attack the police officers who came to arrest him. Mahatma Gandhi did not beat the British soldiers who attempted to arrest him with metal pipes. The whole point of a nonviolent protest is to use your body in a peaceful protest to draw attention to a cause and to shame what the protester believes to be the offending party into rethinking and ultimately changing its policies. Reverend King’s nonviolent protests were instrumental in the American Civil Rights movement in the 60s. Gandhi’s protests helped bring about the departure of the British from India. Closer to my home in Fresno, César Chávez led nonviolent protests to bring attention to often invisible migrant farm laborers in the central San Joaquin Valley of California. Nonviolent, humanitarian protests must be just that: nonviolent and humanitarian.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen State College student and peace activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. Visit http://www.rachelcorrie.org/.

This is the beauty of the nonviolent, humanitarian protest recently carried out on the Irish ship, the Rachel Corrie, sponsored by the Cyprus-based Free Gaza Movement, whose passengers set sail from Ireland toward Gaza. The ship is named after the American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, a student at Evergreen State College who was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer as she acted as a human shield in protest over house demolitions in Gaza in 2003. The Rachel Corrie set out from Ireland loaded with nonviolent peace activists and loads of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza. The ship was painted with the organization’s website address and a Palestinian flag, and the protest was announced to the press well in advance of its departure to ensure a maximum visibility of the protest. And, when the Israeli navy enforced the blockade, approached the ship, and boarded it on June 5, 2010, the passengers on the ship sat down in the truest and most powerful sense of a nonviolent, humanitarian protest. The activists refused to obey the orders of the Israeli military in a nonviolent fashion. They welcomed their arrest and deportation, and their actions – their journey, defiance of the blockade, arrest, and deportation – become a symbol of Israeli insensitivity policies towards Gazan civilians. Meanwhile, the Israelis diverted the ship to the Israeli town of Ashdod, just north of the border with Gaza. They will inspect the goods, release the passengers, and deliver the ship’s aid to humanitarian non-profit organizations that will deliver the aid to Gaza. Because of this process, the world’s attention is drawn to the humanitarian suffering of the Gazan victims of the Hamas government and Israeli policies. This is how to do a humanitarian, nonviolent protest properly:

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the MV Mavi Marmara, whose crew lay in wait and attacked the Israeli soldiers as they boarded the ship. The harrowing ordeal is described by The Times Online reporters Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Gareth Jenkins in Istanbul. Watch as the so-called “peace activists” attack the Israel soldiers as they boarded:

The video below shows some of the weapons discovered aboard the MV Mavi Marmara:

Ultimately, this recent conflict will lead to a reexamination of Israeli policies in Gaza. I doubt Israel will lift its blockade; doing so will just open the doors for Hamas to rearm. However, if the coming June 2010 Palestinian elections (which Hamas has vowed to boycott) lead to a victory for Fatah, then Israel and Fatah-led Palestine may find themselves at such mutually weakened positions that they may finally agree to sit down and negotiate a peace settlement. Neither Fatah nor Israel want to see Hamas elements in Gaza rearmed, and both Fatah and Israel know that the continued suffering of the Gazan people and the blockade of humanitarian aid helps nether of them.

Of course, Islamic groups and anti-Israel factions will tout images of the funeral of the flotilla “martyrs” and condemn Israel. Likewise, pro-Israeli groups will highlight the connections between the IHH and Hamas, and will remind the world of the “true feelings” and lack of objectivity of many international journalists (like the recent comments made by Helen Thomas) condemning Israel.

Rachel Corrie (ship)

A of the MV Rachel Corrie, taken during its October 29, 2009 inauguration. AFP Photo/freegaza.org.

And while this can serve as a lesson for Israel and Palestine and encourage the two parties to return to the negotiating table and make peace once and for all, it should also serve as a lesson for those of us who use non-violent means to protest injustice around us. When protesting a perceived injustice, let’s say, by attempting to break through an Israeli naval blockade, do not become “Flotilla the Hun” like the Islamic protesters aboard the MV Mavi Marmara did. Attacking the police only leads to violence, retaliation, and a justification for return fire from the authorities. Rather, do as the passengers aboard the other five boats in the Gaza Flotilla did, and as the 19 passengers and crew aboard the Rachel Corrie did: sit in silent, nonviolent protest. As Mairead McGuire, an Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate on board the Rachel Corrie told the Associated Press, “We will sit down.” “They will probably arrest us… but there will be no resistance” if Israeli forces come aboard.

And that is how nonviolent resistance is done. Repeated, peaceful, thoughtful, protests shame those targeted by the protest into changing their ways. A “Floatilla the Hun” strategy only perpetuates the violence and empowers one’s perceived enemy. Only a nonviolent, peaceful resistance can bring about the long-term change to the way things are. Think like MLK and Gandhi, and not like Islamic militants, and Israel will be forced to do the same.


For more, view a picture essay of the conflict.

For my thoughts on the incident, watch the YouTube video below.

journey to discover who really wrote the dead sea scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

who really wrote the dead sea scrolls? that is the subject of a forthcoming documentary produced by ctvc in london for the national geographic channel. i was asked to be among the interviewees which include (in alphapetical order):

  • robert cargill
  • rachel elior
  • shimon gibson
  • jan gunneweg
  • gideon hadas
  • jean-baptiste humbert
  • jodi magness
  • yuval peleg
  • stephen pfann
  • ronny reich
  • adolfo roitman
  • lawrence schiffman
  • orit shamir
  • pnina shor

the documentary is designed to take all evidence into account, including the site of qumran, the known sects of the second temple period, the caves in which the dss were found, and the contents, shape, size, date, paleography, orthography, language, and ideology of the scrolls themselves.

we discussed several aspects of the scrolls including what it meant to be understood as ‘jewish’ in the second temple period. would orthodox zadokites have understood pharisees to be ‘real’ jews? how about essenes? can one be perceived as jewish if one celebrates yom kippur and passover on a date different from other ‘orthodox’ jews? what does it mean that some jews followed different calendars? what if they believed in various versions of an afterlife if they even believed in an afterlife at all? what happens if different groups claim different biblical canons or have a different understanding of what is ‘scriptural?’ what happens if they expected different messiahs or even multiple messiahs? that is to ask, how far can one stray from orthodox temple judaism before one is no longer considered ‘jewish’ and is considered something else?

on my trip, i visited the kidron and og wadis. i walked through ronny reich’s excavation in the drainage tunnels leading from the temple mount to the kidron valley. i dug the destruction layers at en gedi with gideon hadas and climbed atop masada to ask what copies of genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, psalms, ezekiel, and most importantly, songs of sabbath sacrifice (fragments of which were also found in qumran caves 4 and 11) would be doing on top of the mountain fortress. i walked around qumran with yuval peleg and had him interpret the site for me based upon his ten seasons of excavations there. we later had a drink at the american colony and discussed the various interpretations of qumran and a couple of recent scandals surrounding the study of the scrolls. i read from the actual isaiah scroll in the basement vault of the shrine of the book with curator adolfo roitman. i held actual scroll jars and viewed roland de vaux’s actual field notes at the école biblique with jean-baptiste humbert. i walked around the walls of jerusalem to what shimon gibson believes to be the gate of the essenes. i visited cave 11 with stephen pfann and listened while he explained his multiple cave theory. i visited the israel antiquities authority’s organic materials lab and had orit shamir show me the scroll linens, the tefillin (phylacteries), wooden bowls, and other domestic items from the caves like combs and sandals. i visited the iaa’s restoration lab with pnina shor and watched as her crew restored fragments of the dss and prepared others for travel abroad for exhibition in the united states.

the production crew was wonderful. led by ctvc executive producer ray bruce, the field team consisted of director/producer john fothergill, associate producer paula nightingale, director of photography lawrence gardner, sound engineer david keene, israeli producer nava mizrahi, and antonia packard.

when it was all said and done, i felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow the path of the dead sea scrolls from their creation to their hiding, their discovery, restoration, and exhibition. i have a much better picture of who really wrote the dead sea scrolls. did the essenes really write them? some of them? were the scrolls written at qumran or elsewhere? should we even consider the dead sea scrolls a single corpus? or, should see it as a bunch of different collections of writings from various different jewish groups throughout the land? want to know what i think? it might surprise you. keep your eyes peeled in april for the national geographic channel’s presentation of the answer to the now 60 year old question: who really wrote the dead sea scrolls?

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert with the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert reviewing photographs and Roland de Vaux's actual field notes at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Adolfo Roitman, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, reads from a portion of the Isaiah-a Scroll discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran. The Isaiah-a scroll is presently housed in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman viewing a portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir at the organic materials lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Yuval Peleg shows Robert Cargill parts of his excavation at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran.

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