TORONTO (RNS/ENI) Jordan has complained to a United Nations agency after Canada refused to seize the Dead Sea Scrolls at a recent exhibit in Toronto.
Jordan says the ancient manuscripts, which had been on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, were stolen from a museum in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War of 1967.
Some of the earliest biblical and religious writings ever found, the 2,000-year-old scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in caves overlooking the Dead Sea.
Seventeen of the approximately 900 scrolls had been on display in Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum since June for the hugely popular “Words that Changed the World” exhibition that closed on Jan. 3.
On Monday (Jan. 11), after Canada declined to seize the scrolls, Jordan announced that it had complained to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
“The government has legal documents that prove Jordan owns the scrolls,” Rafea Harahsheh of Jordan’s antiquities department said in a statement.
Jordan made its most recent claim to the scrolls in mid-December, citing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper quoted a spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as saying that it would be inappropriate for Canada to intervene.
“Differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority,” the spokesperson stated.
Palestinians also claim the scrolls as part of their heritage; in
2009 they had asked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cancel the exhibition, stating that the documents had been stolen from Palestinian territory.
Both Jordanian and Palestinian officials said they did not expect Canada to determine who owned the scrolls but wanted them kept safe until their ownership was resolved.
The scrolls are scheduled to be part of an exhibition at the Milwaukee Public Museum, starting on Jan. 22.
— Leanne Larmondin
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