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>JN March 24, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 56

Hi-Tech Comes to the West Bank

By Susan Sappir (VOA-Ramallah, West Bank)

Some hi-tech companies are working with economically depressed communities in Israel and the West Bank to share their computer and Internet knowledge with young people to try to better their lives. Cisco Systems - a leading Internet networking provider - is reaching two very different groups of young people.

Information technology has revolutionized modern economies and business. But along with the rapid spread of personal computers there is a growing problem of those left behind without access to computers or the Internet. The gap between the computer-age `haves' and its `have-nots' has been dubbed the `digital divide,' and has been addressed by national and international leaders.

In an effort to bridge this gulf, some of the world's leading hi-tech companies are devoting a portion of their resources to education. One such firm is Cisco Systems, the company that provides 85 percent of the world's Internet infrastructure.

The Cisco Networking Academy already operates in 60 countries, including many developing nations. The program trains students to become IT professionals to fill an estimated 800,000 unfilled jobs. Cisco says there will be three million more high tech job openings in the next five years, and that within a decade, one billion jobs will require Internet skills.

The Networking Academy operates through secondary schools or colleges, which then become learning centers for other schools or colleges in their areas. Once an academy is established, Cisco provides it with a computer laboratory, and a curriculum delivered over the Internet.

The Palestinian Bir Zeit University is located in the West Bank town of Ramallah. After many years of Israeli occupation, Bir Zeit is now part of the Palestinian Authority. The rapidly expanding university plays an important role in training a skilled work force for the Palestinian economy.

The "across borders" is a project designed to link Palestinian refugee camps in the region together, starting from refugee camps in Palestine and refugee camps outside. The idea is to put a computer facility in each refugee camp and link those camps together. The computer facility will be used for training, ranging from literacy programs to professional programs similar to this Cisco training program. And the facility will also be used to give the refugees an opportunity to communicate, to build a refugee website to record their history, their stories, and will allow them to recreate the life or the places they came from, virtually.


Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibited in Chicago

By Michael Leland (VOA-Chicago)

Some of the world's most-studied written words are on display in Chicago. Fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen through June 11th at the city's Field Museum of Natural History. The scrolls were discovered a little more than 50 years ago, and have been called one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The Chicago exhibit contains portions of 15 of the scrolls, including five that have never before been displayed outside Israel. Ariel Orlov is a Field Museum exhibit coordinator.

"The biblical texts represent the oldest surviving copies of the books of the Old Testament, of most books of the Old Testament. This is a chance to see, for instance, Deuteronomy or Leviticus in their oldest surviving copies that have yet to be discovered."

She says the scrolls were discovered in 1947 near Qumran, along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. "A young shepherd, a Bedouin shepherd, was grazing his flock in the cliffs and mountains above the Qumran ruins and happened to throw a stone into a cave. He heard it shatter a pot -- he heard the sound of breaking pottery -- so he went inside to investigate. He found some of the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Between 1947 and 1956, eight nearly-complete scrolls were discovered in about a dozen caves in the region. More than 100,000 fragments, believed to come from 800 different scrolls, were also found. Some fragments were a meter long, others only a few centimeters.

Anthropology professor James Phillips, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, says the fragments on display contain other well-known biblical passages. "The Deuteronomy scroll we have here happens to have the section with the Ten Commandments. Also, the psalm scroll we have here has psalms that are not found in the Hebrew Bible, but are found in the Christian Bible. Some of these documents become canonical [officially approved] and others do not."

Some of the sectarian writings describe community laws that pertain to the people believed to have written the scrolls. Many scholars believe the authors were a group called the Essenes, who lived in Qumran and who distanced themselves from their fellow Jews. Other scholars believe the scrolls were written in Jerusalem and hidden in the caves above Qumran to protect them from invading Romans in the year 70 CE. The scrolls are believed to have been written over a 350-year period, from roughly 250 BCE. to 70 CE.


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