The recent unveiling of 1,000-year-old manuscripts, found in caves in Afghanistan but written in Hebrew and penned by the Jewish community inhabiting the area a millennium ago, is unprecedented in its importance, says Jere Van Dyk, a journalist and author. He should know: He spent decades reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is an expert on the region and the people that inhabit it, and even spent 45 days in captivity as a prisoner of the Taliban.
In speaking with The Algemeiner, Van Dyk expressed cautious optimism that the documents could provide greater insight into the relationship—and possible relations—between Jews and other ethnic groups in the region.
“If you talk to three quarters of the [Pashtuns] in Afghanistan and Pakistan they will say they are descended from –in some way, they can’t clarify it—the lost tribes of Israel, or are in some way Jewish. They don’t understand things, but this is there. As an extension of this are The Taliban, who are Pashtuns, and who are a deeply politicized people with no understanding -and Karzai, a Pashtun, will tell you this – with no understanding of their 5,000 year old Pashtun traditions or culture.”
Just this past Friday Van Dyk spoke to a Pashtun who told him that they “like Jews in ancient times, still sacrifice sheep and goats, for good fortune.” He mentioned that “we put blood over a door for good fortune, as Jews do during Passover.”
These papers, according to Van Dyk, are a giant leap toward confirming these suspicions.
Van Dyk says that if it could ever be proven that the papers date back to before the founding of the Muslim religion, or if it became evident that there was a Jewish community there at that time, then it could change the region.
“The Taliban, who are deracinated – cut off from their culture – are deeply politicized and have been for decades by Pakistan, which has its own agenda in Afghanistan. They are deeply religious – ‘We are Muslim; We want to rid our land of the infidels; We want a pure Islamic government,’ not unlike the one Mohamed is said to have created in Medina – now if it becomes clear, if there’s an increasing amount of information, and the Taliban begin to hear that, wait a minute, ‘We are descended from those who are at war with the Arabs, and our allies here Al-Qaeda’ – then it could possibly change how they look at everything.”
Van Dyk, though excited by the discovery, is practical when it comes to the possible impact of the documents. “Will it ultimately make a difference? I don’t know. But go back to the 1980s when they supplied money to the Palestinian cause. How could they in good conscience do that now if they realize that their helping people who are in effect at war with their cousins?”