Saturday, 14 January 2012
Scholarly world abuzz over Jewish scrolls find
The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2012
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. He said the Prime Minister’s Office and several Jewish businessmen had expressed interest in buying the scrolls from dealers and collectors, but the process was in its early stages. The Cairo Geniza has produced 280,000 texts, providing a wealth of information on almost every aspect of Jewish history.