Israeli Library’s Manuscripts Provide First Physical Proof of Ancient Afghani Jewry
The National Library of Israel of Jan. 3 introduced the “Afghan Genizah,” a group of ancient manuscripts which were rescued from Taliban caves, the Associated Press reported. The library’s recently acquired collection represents the first physical proof of a thriving Jewish community in Afghanistan.
“We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area,” Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director, said. “This is the first time that we have a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this.”
The Hebrew term “genizah” refers to the storage of writings containing the formal names of God, which under Jewish law must be properly buried rather than thrown away.
These manuscripts—written in languages including Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Persian—reveal the existence of an Afghani Jewish community 1,000 years ago. Judeo-Persian, in particular, was considered to be “the Yiddish of Persian Jews,” Ben-Shammai said. The collection contains biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records, including the writings of 10th century Jewish philosopher Rabbi Saadia Gaon.