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The Israeli-Talibani Torah-Trade

Taliban and Israel deal directly

 

 

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In the first days of 2013, an exceptional package arrived at the National Library of Israel from Afghanistan; it contained 29 old Torah scrolls allegedly purchased from the Taliban. Israeli Channel 7 reported that hundreds of additional scrolls were left behind due to the exorbitant prices asked for them. The manuscripts date back to the 10th and 11th centuries and are already considered by experts the most prominent such find since the finding of the Cairo Geniza in the 19th century, apparently surpassing the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls (this claim is doubtful). Hiding behind the news is the odd fact that the Taliban has commercial relations with Israel; despite the fact that Israel and Afghanistan do not have diplomatic relations.

To say the least, Hebrew media should not be trusted blindly; I have reported many times in the past about blunt lies that made headlines in Israel. Yet, in the days when Afghanistan had become nothing but a USA mining subcontractor, this news may be true, especially when Afghanistan and Israel have a long history of odd relations. Moreover, Channel 7's reputation is at play here; eventually, the National Library will need to expose the goods.

Genizah Scroll - Cairo

Genizah Scroll - Cairo
Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban

Jewish Cemetery - Herat

Jewish Cemetery - Herat
Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan

Why?

Why bother to travel to a dangerous spot in order to buy old Torah scrolls? After all, don't they all look the same and contain the same text? Actually, they don't. Before the days of print, Bibles were copied in handwriting by scribes. They were organized in a guild that in the centuries before Jesus became part of a well known political party: the Pharisees. Eventually, they became the Talmudic rabbis we see today. This method was not only cumbersome and expensive, but it also created room for errors; actually all modern Hebrew Bibles carry with them unfixed errors. Typographical errors that couldn't be validated with an older version were left as they were. This method also allowed the creation of intentional manipulations of the text for political reasons. The old copies deteriorated beyond recognition, and the new ones carried the desired changes into posterity. It could be an almost perfect system for the Pharisees, however, at a certain point they committed an error and today we can see clear signs of their alterations. I analyzed a few of these in Bible Manipulations. The Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible that is used today was consolidated in Tiberias in the 10th century and codified by Aaron Ben Asher. How loyal is the Masoretic text to the oldest known version of the Bible?

The scrolls acquired by the National Library are contemporaneous to the Masoretic text; thus they may be used to validate it. Since they were written in a different area they are extremely important; they may provide additional proofs that certain prophetic texts related to Christianity were purposely changed by the rabbis. This also explains the disdainful attitude of Channel 7 with regard to the Dead Sea Scrolls; the most famous historic Hebrew text contains all the books of the Old Testament, except the odd Book of Esther, which seems to be a late rabbinical addition (it is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God!). They may also provide hints regarding the discrepancies between the Samaritan and the Jewish Bibles. Samaritans consider the Jewish Bible a forgery created by Ezra Hasofer in the fifth century. Thus, these scrolls may be the find of the century.

They were purchased after the option of their being a modern forgery was dismissed. A trained scribe spends around 18 months on a single scroll; the idea that a forgery of the parchments and the 304,805 letters on each one would pass a thorough check is inadmissible. Thus, an Israeli with double citizenship, or an American Jew, was sent to Afghanistan, and some of the parchments were bought after a lengthy negotiation at the local souk. Nothing changed there since the Silk Road was the world's main highway.

Taliban and Israel

Wherever Jewish communities lived, such events can be expected. Records of Jews in Afghanistan go back to the 7th century; in the 12th century there were reports of 80,000 Jews living there. However, Genghis Khan's invasion in 1222AD decimated them. Nowadays, it is thought that less than 1,000 still live secretly there, the rest emigrated mainly to Israel, the USA, and the UK. Traditionally, they had occupations related to the trade along the Silk Road, and lived mainly in Herat (see picture). This may explain the existence—according to Channel 7—of hundreds of scrolls. The local community was never large enough to justify such an amount.

Yet, there is more than a local Jewish community behind this event. About ten years ago, Yedioth Aharonot—the Hebrew largest newspaper—came out with a story that took up most of its Friday supplement claiming that the Pashtun people belonged to one of the lost tribes. This report fits oral traditions of the Pashtun. Moreover, this was mentioned in Nimat Allah al-Harawi's "The History of the Afghans" written in 1612. If this were true, they would enjoy automatic Israeli citizenship upon landing in Israel according to the Law of Return. Since there are 50 million Pashtun people worldwide, this could be a friendly way of putting an end to the State of Israel. The option was considered by the abovementioned newspaper. Questionable genetic tests conducted afterwards claimed that Afghanis are related to Indian people and cannot be of Hebrew ancestry; supporting this is the fact that their language is Indo-European and not Semitic. Apparently, the legend was created after the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan. Yet, such legends can play significant cultural roles; the Jewish reporter was well received by the Pashtun people. The Taliban, who established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996, are ethnic Pashtun. About five years afterwards, they received an Israeli reporter. Ten years after that, they sold Torah Scrolls for a fortune.

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