Ancient Manuscripts Show Jews Prospered in Taliban-rich Afghanistan

Friday, 04 Jan 2013 09:09 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Evidence that a Jewish community prospered in a Taliban-dominated section of northern Afghanistan has emerged with the discovery of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters, CBS News reports.

The manuscripts, discovered in caves, document daily life in the 11th century and include commentaries on the Bible, personal letters and financial notes.

"We've had many historical sources on Jewish settlements in that area," Haggai Ben-Shammai, academic director of Israel’s National Library where the manuscripts were unveiled, told CBS News.

"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."

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The papers include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and a unique Judeo-Persian language from the era which has been called” the Yiddish of Persian Jews."

Aviad Stollman, curator of the library's Judaica collection, told CBS News:
"They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part."

It is unclear how the ancient manuscripts surfaced. The library said contacted by a number of antiquities dealers who obtained them.

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