WEST BANK-A number of Dead Sea Squirrels, found in one of the Qumran Caves in a large plateau near the West Bank, have stunned archeologists at the nearby Qumran National Park who are investigating them.
The Dead Sea Squirrels, six of them standing in a row as if singing a cappella, are believed to have been pets of a high priest of the Essenes, a Hebrew sect which was dominant in the area from about 200 BCE to 100 CE. What really puzzles scholars studying the Dead Sea Squirrels is that squirrels are not native to the desert area of the West Bank. Although many of the Essenes took a vow of poverty and lived an ascetic life, a goodly number of them, as a guilty pleasure, took in Himalayan Marmots, AKA Tibetan Snow Pigs, as exotic pets, if they were wealthy enough to afford them. Many of these Tibetan Snow Pigs were imported, via the Silk Road Trade Route, into ancient Israel and the Mideast.
But the Dead Sea Squirrels found in Qumran National Park are clearly not marmots; they are instead directly descended from the common gray squirrel found in large parts of North America. Of course, this would have been centuries before any recorded cultural exchanges between Asia and North America.
Could the squirrels have swum the Atlantic Ocean and entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar before arriving, at the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, at the West Bank? Said one zoologist who specializes in the order Rodentia, which includes squirrels as well as marmots, "I suppose that's possible, but it would take a lot of nuts to get six squirrels that far."
The Catholic Church, meanwhile, is looking into the Dead Sea Squirrels as still one more miracle in the beatification of Mother Teresa toward her eventual sainthood.