This Jewish text from northern Afghanistan is part of an Israeli National Library collection shedding light on a little-known community of medieval Afghan Jews. AP PHOTO/THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL, HO
A recently discovered cache of medieval Jewish manuscripts from Afghanistan* went on display last week in Israel’s National Library. The 11th-century C.E. collection, dubbed the “Afghan Genizah” (a Genizah is a storeroom for old Hebrew manuscripts), includes Biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records written in Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and Judeo-Persian, a language written in Hebrew script. The National Library purchased 29 manuscripts out of a larger collection of documents discovered in northern Afghanistan and made available by various antiquities dealers. The documents’ authenticity and dating have been confirmed by carbon 14 tests and the unique language of some of the Afghan Jews, who appear to have lived peacefully as a “tolerated minority” in the Persianite Muslim region, according to Haggai Ben-Shammai, the National Library’s academic director. The manuscripts of the Afghan Jews include an ancient copy of the Book of Jeremiah, previously unknown works of the medieval Jewish scholar Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon and several personal writings and poems.
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