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).

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Read more at Ancient Jew Review

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

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war