Sunday, January 6, 2013

“Afghan Genizah” Documents Unveiled

by Michael Rubin

A fascinating story from Britain’s Daily Mail:
A collection of manuscripts from caves in Afghanistan has provided the first evidence of Jewish communities living in the devoutly Muslim country 1,000 years ago. The cache of Hebrew documents are thought to have originated from the country’s northeast region, a Taliban stronghold. The documents, which include biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records, were unveiled by Israel’s National Library after being purchased from private dealers… The collection of documents has provided scholars with fascinating details into the lives of early Jewish communities in ancient Persia….

The whole article—with photos of some of the manuscripts—is worth a read. The notion of Jews in Afghanistan in ancient times should not be new. Sir John Malcolm, Britain’s ambassador to Persia in 1801, cited oral tales linking the Afghans to the Babylonian exile of the Jews in 586 B.C. And folklore among some Pashtun traces their lineage back to Jewish roots. (I detail some of my conversations with Taliban about Judaism and Jews, here). Regardless, let us look forward to the scholarly study of these latest documents, and their translation and publication soon.

Michael Rubin


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