AFGHANISTAN CAVES HID ANCIENT HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS --EVIDENCE OF A JEWISH COMMUNITY THAT THRIVED THERE A THOUSAND YEARS AGO.
Israel's National Library has unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.
Researchers say the "Afghan Genizah" marks the greatest such archive found since the "Cairo Genizah" was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found.
Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as "storage," refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away.
The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which was written in Hebrew letters.
CBS News' Jere van Dyk reports it will most probably show, if the dates are true, that Jews and Muslims once lived together in harmony in Afghanistan, as they did at one point in the modern era. If the manuscripts can be shown to be older than 1,000 years or make references to previous centuries, then this will change many perspectives; Islam has only existed for 1,500 years.
This discovery will put pressure on the Taliban who, while not anti-Jewish, are political and thus, like their mothers and fathers in the Mujahideen, are pro-Palestinian. They have adopted some of the anti-Israeli sentiment that comes from the Arabs who have been there, and are now in Pakistan, since the 1980s.
The documents are believed to have come from caves in the northeast region of modern-day Afghanistan, once at the outer reaches of the Persian empire. In recent years, the same caves have served as hideouts for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
It remains unclear how the ancient manuscripts emerged. Ben-Shammai said the library was contacted by various antiquities dealers who got their hands on them