Precious Haggadot, from 12th-Century Cairo to Spain on the Eve of Expulsion

The National Library of Israel, not surprisingly, holds the world’s largest collections of rare Haggadot—as the texts of the Passover seder’s liturgy are known. Oldest among them is an incomplete, but entirely legible, 12th-century folio, which Maya Margit describes:

Handwritten on parchment, the precious fragments [of this Haggadah] were discovered among the 400,000 pages and fragments that make up the Cairo Genizah, an astounding collection of Jewish texts that were kept in the storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, Egypt.

“The liturgy for Passover is the single most commonly printed and published work in Jewish tradition, more than a prayer book, more than a Bible,” [said the curator, Yoel Finkelman].

Some of the most compelling historical Haggadot appear to be quite simple at first glance. This is undoubtedly the case with one of the most prized Haggadot in the National Library’s collection, an extremely rare book printed in 1480 in Guadalajara, Spain, only twelve years before the expulsion of the Jews from the country. The 1480 Haggadah is not only the oldest printed Passover text in the world but also a one-of-a-kind copy that was created only a few decades after the invention of the printing press.

“This is the beginning of the transition from the Haggadah as a luxury item that a family might barely be able to afford, if at all, . . . to something that could be mass-produced more cheaply,” Finkelman explained. “As you can see just by glancing at it, it’s a very simple layout. It’s the beginning of [printing] technology.”

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Cairo Geniza, Haggadah, Rare books

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem