Raffael Sutton

He was assigned to set up a special team that, as soon as the war was over, would find a certain antiquities dealer who had possession of some of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls

Rafi Sutton was the commander of the surveillance unit of the IDF Intelligence Corps in Jerusalem in the period preceding the Six-Day War and knew every alley and stone in the city.  He was assigned to the Paratroopers Brigade to guide them through the city. However, while waiting for orders to enter the city, he was called to headquarters in the Schneller camp. There, a telegram from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and his advisor Yigal Yadin waited for him. He was assigned to set up a special team that, as soon as the war was over, would find a certain antiquities dealer who had possession of some of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls. Sutton assembled a team, but they were not allowed to enter the city by order of the military governor of Jerusalem.  Sutton enlisted the help of Central Commander, General Uzi Narkis to carry out his mission. He and his team searched the city, but no one knew a merchant by the name that was given to them.

The next day they returned to the city, and Sutton led his men to the place where thousands of prisoners were gathered near the Flower Gate. He spotted a policeman who was surprised that Sutton spoke perfect Palestinian Arabic and knew which merchant he was talking about. In exchange for a promise that he would not be taken prisoner but returned home, the policeman agreed to take Rafi Sutton and his men to the house of the merchant in Bethlehem. Kendo, the merchant, was not intimidated by the sight of the group of armed officers in uniform standing at his doorstep, and invited them inside. He pleasantly hosted them, but denied that he knew anything about the scrolls. Hours of persuasion and promises of payment by the State of Israel for the scrolls did not move him from his position, and finally Sutton took Kendo and his son for questioning in Tel Aviv.

For a number of days investigators tried unsuccessfully to convince the antiquities dealer and his son to admit that they were holding the scrolls, but they continued to claim that they knew nothing. Finally, the interrogators convinced the son that his father had told them the truth, and recorded the father and son’s confrontation over the scrolls. Now they had a confession from the father that he was indeed holding the scrolls, and he led them to three scrolls that were skillfully hidden in his house. Sutton paid him their value.

From Bethlehem, Sutton traveled to Jerusalem, to Professor Yigal Yadin, who shed tears of joy and excitement when he received the scrolls. When they were opened and studied, it became clear that the three scrolls are parts of one composition, the Scroll of the Tabernacle, which is now displayed in the Shrine of the Book.