Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Taliban Geniza?

Everyone is familiar with the concept of the "lost tribes" of Israel that were scattered to the ends of the globe. This has led many over the past few hundred years in a quest to find them; India, China, Japan...(even organizations like Shavei Yisrael that are dedicated to finding these tribes and bringing them home to Israel).

This past Friday, Israel Channel 2 news reported a startling discovery; a cave in Afghanistan, with buried scrolls, manuscripts and fragments -- of Jewish origin.

The importance of this find could even rival that of the Cairo Geniza. (The earliest example of Yiddish writing was found in the Cairo Geniza).

The JPost has the scoop:
The scholarly world is abuzz over the discovery of ancient Jewish scrolls in a cave in Afghanistan’s Samangan province.

If the scrolls are authenticated, they may be the most significant historical finding in the Jewish world since that of the Cairo Geniza in the 19th century, Channel 2 Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya’ari reported Friday.

“We know today about a couple of findings,” Haggai Ben- Shammai, professor emeritus of Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was quoted as saying.

“In all, in my opinion, there are about 150 fragments. It may be the tip of the iceberg.”

The scrolls, which were part of a geniza – a burial site for sacred Jewish texts – date from around 1,000 years ago and are in Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and ancient Persian.

One scroll, a replica of which was shown to the cameras, was apparently a dirge written for an important person whose identity has not been determined.

“Where has he gone?” reads the text. “His family members are now alone.”

Other texts said to have been found include an unknown history of the Kingdom of Judea, passages from the Book of Isaiah and some of the works of 10th-century sage Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon.

In addition, rings with names such as Shmuel Bar-Yosef inscribed in Hebrew on them have surfaced.

The area in which the scrolls were discovered is on the Silk Road, a trade route that connected eastern Asia with the Middle East and Europe, and that Jewish merchants often traveled.

Ya’ari quoted sources as saying the scrolls had first been moved to Pakistan’s Peshawar province, and from there been sold to antiquities dealers in Geneva, London, Dubai and Jerusalem. (JPost)
The analysis of the scrolls and remnants will help determine in what time frame they were buried -- is this the work of lost tribes? Travelers along the silk route to the Orient? Where did the Jewish community that buried those fragments end up?

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Great way to start the week - Shavua tov!

Indiana Jones Hat-tip to AS, who pointed me to this

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Anonymous said...

Great news!
This, combined with this other blog post I read here about the Samaritans:

This all leads me to think, that we might have to start treating the Arabs nicer/with more nuance, if we want our 10 tribes back.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has a good article on the history of the Jews in Afghanistan. Apparently there were large communities there until the Mongol invasions (13th cent.), which reduced their size and scattered them.

Jews MAY have lived there since Persian times, when the area was controlled by Persia.

NormanF said...

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. There were historical Jewish communities along the Silk Road. Jews traveled as far as China.

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