It is time to honor Jozef Milik.
A former Polish priest now living in Paris, Milik is an original member of the small Dead Sea Scroll publication team designated in the early 1950s. Called by Time magazine “the fastest man with a fragment,” Milik obtained from his colleagues by far the largest lot of texts to edit and publish. It was he who refused to write letters or answer mail, even from the Israel Department of Antiquities. It was he who only with the greatest reluctance and under pressure released some of his more than 50 unpublished manuscripts. Now he has none left, forced to relinquish them all, he says, by Emanuel Tov, the new editor-in-chief of the publication team.
Until recently Milik has been the villain of the piece. Now, however, it is time to recognize his enormous contribution to Dead Sea Scroll studies.
Seventy-two and white-haired, he is spare, neatly dressed and stands nearly straight as he opens the door of his Paris apartment only steps from the Tour de Montparnasse. He invites me into his study/bedroom, where we talk. He can barely bring himself to look at me; he casts his gaze down and to the right, toward the tall window behind his desk. I am, after all, one of his attackers. At first he answers my questions with only a word. He is working on nothing from Qumran. “Tov took everything from me,” he says bitterly. He has no Dead Sea Scrolls to publish.