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Discovery Ball brings Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition to life

Edward James Olmos, Amar'e Stoudemire among attendees at Discovery Ball

The event: If Los Angeles held a contest for the year’s most original fundraiser, the annual Discovery Ball to benefit the California Science Center Foundation would be a favored contender every time.  Organizers typically have the advantage of a spectacular new exhibit to preview and this year was no exception when “Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition” came alive at Saturday’s black tie gala at the museum in Exposition Park.

The scene: Stone-like structures stood beside the cocktail area, evoking the caves of Qumran, where a shepherd first stumbled upon the 2,000-year-old manuscripts in 1947. So what if a Northrop T-38 Talon and an F-20 Tigershark hung high over the museum’s lobby -- barefoot dancers waving palm fronds, a musical trio in turbans and djellabas and a Middle-Eastern menu conjured up the flavor of Jerusalem for a festive dinner.


For the Record

March 9, 11:41 a.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Northrop as Northrup.


Guests previewed the new museum show, later heading for after-dinner drinks and dancing beside a Bedouin-style tent.  All were invited to attend “Jerusalem 3D,” a film narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, in the adjacent IMAX theater.

The exhibition: In the largest selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls ever seen outside of Israel, the biblical texts were displayed alongside more than 600 other ancient artifacts. Where a 3-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall stood, partygoers slipped prayers into the cracks of the surrounding wall, just as people do in Israel.

Museum president Jeffrey Rudolph said that no one expected museum visitors to do so, but people began sliding their notes to God between the stones at the tour’s first U.S. stop. So rather than discourage visitors from the practice, there are now pens and paper beside the stone. Rudolph said all the notes will be sent to Israel.

Tickets for “Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibtion,” scheduled to run through Sept. 7, cost $19.75 for adults, $12.75 for children ages 4-12 and $16.75 for students age 13 and older. For further information, call (213) 744-2019 or go online to

The crowd: Edward James Olmos of “Battlestar Galactica,” basketball’s Amar’e Stoudemire and astronauts John Daniel Olivas and Garrett Reisman joined Phillip Palmer of ABC Eyewitness News, who served as auctioneer, and the night’s co-chairs: philanthropist Lynda Oschin and Wells Fargo’s Los Angeles regional president David DiCristofaro. Vice-chairs were Raul Anaya, Edna Anderson-Owens, Kent Caldwell-Meeks, Pat Dennis, Pierre Habis, Art Lofton, R. Doss Mabe, Paula Madison, Steve Matt, Kendall Pond, Raghu Nanjappa, Michael Rouse, Andrew Sale, David Siegel, Hal Snyder, Jonathan Weedman and Fabian Wesson.

Quote of note: Olmos called the California Science Center a treasure, emphasizing that the museum’s permanent galleries are free. He called the exhibition “explosive” and “monumental in scope,” saying, “(The scrolls) speak to us today very clearly. This is one of the most important discoveries of the last century.”

The numbers: Tables ranged from $10,000 to $50,000 with pairs of tickets available for $2,500. Counting 900 guests, auction sales and raffle tickets for a 2015 Lexus NX 300h hybrid, organizers reported a record-breaking $1.5 million in proceeds for the museum, which has tallied nearly 27 million visitors since opening in 1998.

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