An ancient manuscript discovered inside caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan provide the first physical evidence of a vibrant Jewish community that thrived in that region a thousand years ago.
Jerusalema 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
On Thursday, Israel’s National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records, CBS News reported
According to researchers, the “Afghan Genizah” marks the greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found
Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as “storage,” refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away
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
Holding the documents, protected by a laminated sheath, Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director, said they included mentions of distinctly Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the “Silk road” connecting Europe and the East.
The obscure Judeo-Persian language, along with carbon dating technology, helped verify the authenticity of the collection, he said
It is expected that the manuscripts will show, if the dates are true, that Jews and Muslims once lived together in harmony in Afghanistan, as they did at one point in the modern era.
If the manuscripts can be shown to be older than 1,000 years or make references to previous centuries, then this will change many perspectives; Islam has only existed for 1,500 years
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
It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by various antiquities dealers who got their hands on them.