Toronto’s Jews rally around Dead Sea Scrolls

TORONTO (JTA) — Toronto’s Jews have responded with their wallets to accusations that an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls is illegal.

More than 500 tickets were sold last weekend to the exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum following an e-mail blast from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to community members warning that pro-Palestinian groups want the exhibit closed.

Toronto’s Palestine House and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid say the "Words that Changed the World" presentation is illegal because Israel looted the "Palestinian artifacts" during the 1967 Six-Day War.

In a statement, Palestine House said it "boycotts the exhibition unless the ROM admits the factual history that these scrolls are Palestinian property."

On July 10, about 30 members from the groups held a protest outside the Israeli Consulate in Toronto with placards stating "Stolen Scrolls." A small counter-demonstration by members of the newly reconstituted Jewish Defense League took place outside the museum.

The pickets by the pro-Palestinian groups will continue and the campaign will "escalate," said spokesman Rafeef Ziadah.

Sally Szuster of UJA Federation said the e-mail blast encouraging Jews to buy tickets to the scrolls display was modeled after a successful campaign last spring in which anti-Israel groups called for a boycott of Israeli wines during Passover. Instead, virtually all Israeli wines sold out after community members were notified by mass e-mails.

This time, "we want as many people to see the exhibit as possible to understand why the [scrolls] are so important to the Jewish people," she said.

Szuster said she’s heard that the anti-scrolls demonstrations will take place every Friday.

In a statement, David Koschitzky, chair of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said of the scrolls exhibit, "We are informed that the government of Ontario and the ROM have ensured that Canadian laws regarding cultural property have been fully respected."
 

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