Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Afghan "Genizah"

Israel's National Library has come into possession of a cache of thousand-year-old manuscripts from Afghanistan.  See info here.  Here are some snippets of the press report:
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.
These materials reportedly include biblical commentaries, financial records, and personal letters.
The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters.
 The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
One should note these documents were not found in situ, and it is believed that several more are probably circulating among antiquities dealers.  Once all of the information is collated, it should provide a window into a Jewish community on the outskirts of the Persian Empire and illuminate our understanding of the history of the spread of Judaism in the Middle Ages more generally.

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