Canada refuses to seize Dead Sea scrolls

The Canadian government says it won't enter into a dispute between the Jordanian and Israeli governments over the Dead Sea scrolls, a portion of which are on display at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.

The Canadian government says it will not act upon a request by the Jordanian government that it seize the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls, now on their last day of display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Discovered in 1947 by Bedouin tribesmen in caves bordering Israel and Jordan, the 100,000 fragments of ancient religious parchment and papyrus manuscripts have been a source of conflict between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians — who all claim ownership.

Jordan formally asked Canada to seize the 16 scrolls, which have been on display at the ROM since last June. Jan. 3 is the last day the scrolls will be exhibited.

According to The Globe and Mail, the Canadian government issued a statement at the end of the year in reaction to Jordan's request saying that "differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It would not be appropriate for Canada to intervene as a third party."

On Sunday, Israeli officials released a statement saying the Jordanian claims are "completely ridiculous" and that the scrolls have little or no connection to Jordan's history.

Both Jordanian and Palestinian authorities have said they do not want Canada to determine ownership, but to place them under Canada's custody until the scrolls' ownership is determined.

Jordan contends Israel acted illegally in 1967 when it took the scrolls from a museum in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

Palestinians have argued the scrolls, dating as far back as 250 BC, are an integral part of their heritage also.

The Dead Sea scrolls consist of documents and biblical texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. They were uncovered over a seven-year period on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.