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The Judeo-Persian Bibles of the British Library

Feb. 14 2017

Much as the Jews of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East used the Hebrew alphabet to write in French, German (or Yiddish), and Arabic, Iranian Jews for centuries have produced religious literature in their vernacular but using Hebrew script. The British library contains one of the world’s largest collections of books in this language, some of which are described here by Ilana Tahan. (Photographs included at the link.)

Judeo-Persian manuscripts and imprints are . . . composed in a Persian dialect that closely resembles “classical” or “literary” Persian, combined with Hebrew words. The practice of writing the Persian language in Hebrew letters has been in use by Jews in Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia for over a millennium. . . .

The 1319 handwritten copy of Torat Mosheh . . . had been unknown in scholarly circles until its acquisition [by the library] in 1898. It has since been acknowledged as the earliest dated Judeo-Persian text of the Pentateuch. The manuscript has been copied on paper and has 124 folios; it is imperfect at the beginning and has many lacunae. For example, the first two chapters of Genesis and the whole of Exodus are missing. So are chapters from Leviticus and Numbers. . . .

Jacob Tavusi’s rendition, [first published in Constantinople in 1546], was long regarded as the oldest surviving Judeo-Persian translation of the Bible. The same text transcribed into Arabic script by Thomas Hyde was reprinted in the famed Bishop Brian Walton’s Polyglot, issued in London 1655-1657. The realization that earlier Judeo-Persian translations of the Scriptures pre-dating Tavusi’s had existed already and may have been used by Tavusi as models came only in the 19th century after the discovery of early Judeo-Persian biblical manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah.

Read more at British Library

More about: Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Iran, Language, Persian Jewry, Translation

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy