Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls and Mexican Food

Lisa, Debbie and I hopped in the CRV and headed down to Balboa Park today to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

We left home at 10:15 and managed to take almost three hours to get there. It was bumper to bumper traffic all the way down. Not fun.

But, the great thing about driving down to San Diego is that the freeway parallels the ocean. The vistas are stunning. It was threatening to rain so the sky was full of beautiful clouds and was a brilliant shade of blue. Not exceeding 30 mph we had lots of time to look at the sky. We saw the collision of two storms noticed water spouts over the ocean. In my mind I call them ocean tornados. You could actually see the funnel clouds suck the water up out of the ocean into the sky. It was phenomenal.

When we got to Leucadia we had to pull over and get a photo. Of course my rechargeable batteries chose that moment to die, so luckily Debbie had her camera. It was stunningly beautiful. About 50 other people had the same idea, our little vista was jam packed.

But alas it was back to the traffic. We had visions of the Old Town Mexican Cafe in our heads and now only about two hours before our 3:15 p.m. entry time to the Dead Sea Scrolls. So our tortilla dreams had to be fulfilled pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, we picked the art festival weekend to visit Old Town and parking was out of the question. So we wandered over to Balboa Park and found St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro in Hillcrest. It is a beautiful cafe promising equally delicious crepes, panini's, and tasty baked treats. The food was ok, nothing spectacular. It sounds a lot better on the menu than it actually tastes. I don't think I'd go back.

Now its off to the Scrolls. The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first level is an introduction to the region where the Scrolls were found. You see beautiful photographs of the Dead Sea and surrounding areas. It's amazing how similar the biodiversity is to Southern California. Not exactly the images you have in mind of the middle East. I was picturing desert, war-ravaged areas and camels. So not true. We saw lush, rolling hills. Beautiful olive and date trees. And learned how the Dead Sea is receding because people keep drawing from it.

The introduction transitions to the archeological dig. You learn how the Bedouins discovered the scrolls in a a cave, untouched for thousands of years, through many different ruling parties from the Hittites to the Romans to the Mongols to 1948. The Scrolls were preserved by the dark, cry climate of the cave and many disintegrated simply by being removed. Unsure of their authenticity the scrolls were advertised for sale. Once scholars verified them they began the long process of preservation. Early techiniques had only proven to weaken them future.

In the second part of the exhibit you move down stars, grab your audio tour device and decend into a simulated cave. The lights are dimmed and the temperature is dropped to protect the documents. First we learned about Qumran the community near the caves where the Scrolls were found.

After 14 stops on the audio tour, through hair nets, shoes, coins and desks we finally we got to see the Scrolls. They are so small, frail, and fragmented. There are large reproductions above them so you can view them more clearly. It's amazing to see the different penmanships between the different documents. Each one bearing traces of its human connection. Some are clear and precise. Others are blurred, thick and hard to read. We saw scrolls of the biblical books of Leviticus, Job, Psalms and Deuteronomy.

It's hard to image a society where only a select few know how to read and write. Yet they were passing on sacred texts because they believed the veracity of it. The exhibits dismisses the Scrolls as little more than ideas. Ideas that have certainly shaped thousands of years of thoughts, philosophies and religion, but is still just one idea of many.

It was interesting to listen to the different theologies of those viewing the documents. There were many Christians there who were studying the timelines, tracing prophecies and discussing bible stories. Others saw them as just an interesting historical discovery having little importance to their life today.

One thing struck me is how the Bible did not change for thousands of years. It was passed from scroll to scroll by diligent scribes and nothing changed. The message, meaning and importance remain the same.

The museum was packed. It is shoulder-to-shoulder view of the photographs, exhibits, and films in the collection. It was frustrating to try and read while being bumped and pushing while listening to screaming babies. It was not a leisurely visit to one of the most important archaological discoveries of the 20th centuries. By the end I was exhausted.

We went back to Old Town for dinner and headed home. Overall a fantastic day with two of my favorite people.

No comments: