The Latest Finds from a Medieval Afghan Jewish Archive

Six months ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority authorized the purchase of 100 documents from what was originally, and misleadingly, termed the “Afghan Genizah.” Twenty-nine manuscripts from the same collection, obtained three years ago, are currently in the custody of Israel’s national library. Nir Hasson writes (free registration required):

Scholars now know that the source of the manuscripts is not a genizah—[a place for storing discarded manuscripts] like the one found in Cairo—but rather the archive of a Jewish family of traders who lived on the Silk Road in Afghanistan in the 11th century. The head of the family is named in the manuscripts as Abu Nassar ben Daniel, and the family apparently lived in the central-Afghan city of Bamyan. (The city made headlines eleven years ago when the Taliban blew up two huge statues of Buddha there.) The collection of manuscripts came to light a few years later, after the fall of the Taliban. Rumor has it that the collection was found in a cave or deep rock crevice somewhere in Afghanistan, where it had been secreted by its owners about 1,000 ago.

The manuscripts were written in a wide variety of languages—Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Persian; the last two languages are, respectively, Arabic and Persian written in Hebrew letters. Legal and commercial manuscripts can be found in the collection along with sacred writings and personal letters.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Afghanistan, Cairo Geniza, History & Ideas, Middle Ages, Persian Jewry


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy