Seizure of 1,000-year-old gold-embroidered Hebrew books in Turkey

Gold-embroidered parchment manuscripts written in Hebrew believed to be about 1,000 years old were seized by police in the city of Mardin in southeastern Turkey last week after they were smuggled into the country.

The video and images of the books shared by the Mardin Provincial Police Department showed pictures of animals such as an owl, deer, scorpion and bull surrounded by Hebrew writing, although it is unclear whether the books were written in Hebrew or in another language or dialect that used the Hebrew script, such as Judeo-Arabic.

The police announcement identified the four books and one scroll as Torah (the Hebrew Bible).

The books and the case in which the scroll was kept were all adorned with the Star of David and one of the books also had a menorah on the cover.

A suspect has been arrested in the case.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday that sources had informed it that the manuscripts seized by the Turkish authorities had been stolen by the Legion al-Rahman, a Syrian rebel group, from the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus and smuggled. to Turkey.

Locals in the Jobar neighborhood had reportedly demanded that the al-Rahman Legion return the manuscripts, as well as other manuscripts that the militia had allegedly stolen from the neighborhood. According to the report, the militia denies possession of any of the manuscripts and says it left them in the eastern Ghouta area when it withdrew from the area.

The Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue was bombed and looted during the Syrian Civil War, according to Diarna, a digital database on Jewish heritage in North Africa and the Middle East. The site is traditionally believed to be where the prophet Elijah hid from the Israelite king Ahab after declaring a drought. The site is also believed to be where Elijah’s successor Elisha was anointed.

Earlier this year, Turkish security forces confiscated a 2,000 to 2,500-year-old Torah with a golden inscription in the northern province of Samsun on Friday (March 26).

Acting on a track, police squads stopped two suspicious cars and found the manuscript, said the sources who asked not to be identified due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Police can be seen going through the backpacks in the trunk of the suspects’ car in a video of the incident. The ancient artifact was simply wrapped in a plastic bag tucked into the pockets of a nearly empty cloth bag.

The police can then be seen pulling the golden Torah out of the plastic bag with gloved hands, before removing it from the old protective casing. Pages are shown on which ancient inscriptions are written.

Five people were arrested, the source added.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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