About the Afghan Genizah
A rare collection of hundreds of documents from the 11th to the 13th century was discovered in an area of present day Afghanistan. The collection is the largest of its kind, consisting of about 250 documents representing virtually the only evidence of a once-thriving community.
In 2013, the National Library of Israel procured a portion of this rare treasure, following great efforts to preserve the Afghan Genizah collection for future generations.
The collection, comprised of approximately 250 pages dating to the early 11th century, constitutes the largest body of original materials from the region prior to the modern era. It represents virtually the only primary source for information about this once-thriving Jewish community, as well as the region's Islamic and Persian cultures prior to the Mongol invasion.
This acquisition has been made possible through the generous support of the William Davidson Foundation and the Haim and Hanna Salomon Fund.
The 11th-13th century documents provide unprecedented access to the day-to-day life, society, and economy of Jews along the Silk Road, the ancient highway which once linked Europe and China.
These texts flesh out our understanding of the lives of the eleventh-century Abu Netzer family of Jewish traders living in and around the city of Bamiyan, a once-bustling commercial center located on the Silk Road. A fragment of Tractate Avoda Zara from the Mishnah represents the earliest evidence of a rabbinic text found in Persian-speaking lands to the East of the traditional rabbinic center in Babylonia. A full 27 pages of a bound merchant's account book offers a look into the economic realities of an ancient and sparsely studied community. The collection, written in Persian, Arabic, Aramaic, and Judeo-Persian also includes legal documents, liturgy, poetry, texts of Jewish law, a historical chronicle, and Biblical passages.
Another portion of the collection contains documents dating from the early 13th century, chronicling the broader Islamic culture on the eve of the devastating Mongol conquests of 1221. As a result of the destruction wrought by Genghis Khan and his army, we have had almost no documentation of the Persian and Arabic culture and language of the region – until now.
Many items in the collection had been part of a local administrator's archive, and contain administrative documents and fragments of religious and literary works, mainly in Persian. This material provides an unparalleled view onto the workings of local government administration, politics, and law in this far-flung region.
Scholars who have had a chance to examine the material have enthused about its importance. Though later Muslim scholars have written histories of the Islamic dynasties who reigned over the region, this singular collection of primary sources can shed light on uncharted areas of research including economics, geography, and social and political history.