The Afghan Genizah Sees the Light of Day

Beginning in 2013, the National Library of Israel succeeded in acquiring a trove of documents relating to the Jewish community of medieval Afghanistan, known informally as the Afghan Genizah. Some items are now being put on display for the first time. Yitzhak Tesler reports:

“What distinguishes the documents that have arrived from Afghanistan is the exposure to a Jewish community that we simply knew nothing about, except for the fact that it existed,” says Yoel Finkelman, curator of the Judaica collection at the National Library in Jerusalem.

In the year 586 BCE, the First Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and his army commander Nebuzaradan, who conquered Jerusalem and exiled the Jews to the east. During that time, Jewish exiles migrated from the Land of Israel to the area that is now Afghanistan, an important trading hub along the Silk Road, with some Jewish merchants amassing great wealth.

The Golden Age of the Jews in the region came to an end in the 13th century CE when Genghis Khan and the Mongols conquered the area and systematically [destroyed] everything in their wake, including communities, property, and even historical documentation. However, two archives were preserved for nearly a thousand years near the city of Mian in Afghanistan, one of which belonged to a successful Jewish merchant named Abu Nasr ben Daniel.

“He was probably some kind of family patriarch,” says Finkelman. “He documented who owed him money, and the rent he needed to receive for his properties, and also preserved Jewish texts. The collection includes many documents . . . written in ancient Persian and Arabic letters, but there are also documents in Hebrew and even in Judeo-Arabic.”

Read more at Ynet

More about: Afghanistan, Central Asian Jewry, Jewish archives, Jewish history, National Library of Israel

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security