Dead Sea Scrolls, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

dead sea scrolls israel museum jerusalem
The Shrine of the Book.

I first saw the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit when I was 13 years old, when they went on a very abbreviated tour of the United States in 1965. Despite being dragged over to Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha by my mom on what I thought of as a religion outing, I recall that I ended up thinking the scrolls were pretty cool, especially when my Dad told me he thought they were pretty cool. Dad was a lot less inclined to be impressed by religious stuff.

I remember him telling me that because of the discovery of earlier texts, they'd been able to clear up a couple of translation errors in the Bible, too. Since I'd been told that the Bible was the infallible word of God, the idea that what I'd been reading might have had some mistakes was even cooler.

Since then, as readers of this blog will attest, I'm constantly impressed with religious stuff. God knows I've posted enough pictures of churches. But honestly, I'm more of a fan of the expression of religious fervor than I am of religion itself. I figure if religion can give us Stonehenge, the Sistine ceiling, the Spanish synagogue in Prague, and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I'm willing to at least partially forgive all the sins committed in its name.

The reason I chose to publish this pic, though, was not because of the Scrolls, but because of the cool architecture of the exhibit hall at the Israel Museum, which is known as The Shrine of the Book. (In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, it contains parts of other old texts, such as the Aleppo Codex and other medieval manuscripts.) The center exhibit is in the shape of a scroll, complete with the dark wooden handle, and the interior ceiling was designed to resemble an unfurling scroll. The building and exhibits were designed by Armand Bartos and Frederick Kiesler. They did a great job.

This was what I call a “hip shot”–a technique I employ when photos are frowned upon in a venue, as they were here. I was carrying my small Fujifilm X-30, and I had my exposure setting set for outside. So the ISO was pretty low, which resulted in a long shutter speed in the dim room. (They keep it very dim in there so as not to degrade the scrolls.) So, to steady the camera, I push down on it a little to tighten the strap around my neck and make a more stable platform. Then I hold my breath and push the shutter. There's a bit of a blur, but that's mostly because the people looking at the scrolls were moving. I don't think it detracts at all. ISO 400, f/5.0 (for some depth of field) and 1.1 second exposure. Pretty sharp for that long of an exposure if you ask me.

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