Three New Wilderness Volumes by Hanan Eshel

I saw these volumes in SBL this year.  Carta has done a wonderful job with these introductory volumes. The following is an excerpt from a review on Haaretz:

Call of the Desert by Aya Horesh

Qumran: Scrolls, Caves, History (Qumran: Megilot, Me’arot, Historia), by Hanan Eshel

Masada: An Epic Story (Metzada: Alilot Gvura ), by Hanan Eshel

Ein Gedi: Oasis and Refuge (Ein Gedi: Neveh Midbar U’mistor ), by Hanan Eshel

Each of the three volumes is available from Carta Publishing in both Hebrew and English editions. Each has 144 pages and costs NIS 84 or $25

Many travelers find it hard to deal with tour guides, who tend to think their sense of humor and cloying affability will encourage people to give bigger tips at the end of the trip. Tour guides’ explanations, too, frequently leave something to be desired. At the same time, it is fairly difficult to find travel literature of a high caliber, because why should prominent academics waste their time on writing that does not promote their scientific renown?

The three field guides that Hanan Eshel has written on Qumran, Masada and Ein Gedi are therefore a welcome contribution. Eshel, of Bar-Ilan University’s Land of Israel studies and archaeology department, is one of the most important archeologists and scholars of the Qumran scrolls. He has spent years conducting research along the west coast of the Dead Sea and has earned a worldwide reputation. His familiarity with the area, particularly with the Dead Sea Scrolls, has led to numerous books and articles that have earned him a prestigious place among scholars of ancient Israel.

Each of these three books, which Carta has published in both Hebrew and English editions, follows an identical two-part format: The introduction provides an overview of the site, describes the archaeological findings discovered there and explains their significance; that is then followed by a field guide that travelers are meant to take with them as they tour the site. This division is especially helpful for those who wish to forgo a hike in the blazing Dead Sea heat and prefer to learn about these sites in the cool confines of their air-conditioned homes. The introductions are succinct and precise, provide a good sense of each place and its importance, and are accompanied by spectacular photographs and maps.

The first volume deals with the northernmost site among the three, the Qumran ruins and the adjacent caves. That is where the remains of more than 900 scrolls dating from the Second Temple period (most of them from between 150 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. ) were found (only 20 of them were complete ), a treasure trove that the late archaeologist and politician Yigael Yadin described as “the most important discovery found in Israel in the field of the Bible and history of Judaism and Christianity.” It is an enormous collection that has aroused curiosity not only in scholarly circles but also in the general public. For more than 60 years, thousands of researchers from around the world have been trying to ascertain the nature of this library, which is made up entirely of sacred texts. Who wrote these scrolls, and when? How did they wind up in caves along the desert cliffs, and what exactly was in the ancient remains of the structures excavated at the Qumran ruins? Bible scholars, theologians, linguists and, of course, scholars of Jewish history and archaeologists continue to devote their time to attempting to answer the questions that arise from the findings.

Thanks to J. Lauer

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