Saturday, May 5, 2018

Who stole the Samaritan's Torahs? Writer explores the hunt to bring them back

By Daniel Estrin
A priest lifts a Samaritan Torah scroll during sunrise prayers on Mount Gerizim in the West Bank. One of the world's oldest and tiniest sects, the Samaritans trace their roots to the ancient Israelites. Tanya Habjouqa/Noor Images for NPR
Before dawn on March 21, 1995, someone broke into a synagogue in the Palestinian city of Nablus. The thief — maybe it was a band of thieves — crossed the carpeted sanctuary, pulled back a heavy velvet curtain, and opened a carved wooden ark. Inside were two handwritten copies of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. These manuscripts are the Samaritans' most jealously guarded possessions, and collectors across the globe have gone to great lengths to get their hands on them. So have thieves.Who stole the Torahs? Why? And what would it take to get them back? The mystery was irresistible — a tale of looted manuscripts and an ancient tribe's quest to retrieve them. [More]
Three rare Samaritan manuscripts are on display at the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., including a fragment of one of the world's oldest existing Samaritan Torah scrolls. Claire Harbage/NPR