Judeo-Persian’s Rich Literary History

Aug. 21 2015

To this day, many Iranian Jews speak a centuries-old, uniquely Jewish dialect in which an extensive and varied literature exists, usually written in Hebrew characters. Adam McCollum provides an introduction:

There exist both translated literature and original compositions in Judeo-Persian. In the former group are [translations of] parts of the Hebrew Bible and other Hebrew or Aramaic texts studied in Jewish communities, such as Pirkei Avot [“Ethics of the Fathers”]. In the latter group are inscriptions, commentaries, poems on biblical, [pedagogical], and historical subjects, and occasional compositions such as letters, colophons [containing publication data], and legal documents.

These texts were translated or composed in and around what is now Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia. Much further east, the Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng came from Persia and its books contain some passages and colophons in Judeo-Persian. There are [also] Judeo-Persian documents from the Cairo Geniza and the recently discovered Afghan genizah; Judeo-Persian [was also used by] Jewish communities in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in earlier and more recent periods.

The earliest Judeo-Persian texts—actually the earliest witness to New (i.e. not Old or Middle) Persian of any kind—are three short inscriptions on rock at Tang-e Azao (Afghanistan, Herat province) dated 752/3 CE and a contemporaneous or slightly later letter (on paper) found by Aurel Stein near the Buddhist Temple of Dandān Öiliq in Khotan (in Chinese Turkestan).

Read more at Ancient Jew Review

More about: Afghanistan, Archaeology, Bukharan Jews, History & Ideas, Kaifeng, Language, Persian Jewry

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy