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Touching history: it's impossible not to shudder in front of the oldest surviving Bible - Voila! Culture


Keter Sasson, which includes all 24 books of the Bible, was written around the 10th century AD and has since traveled from hand to hand. Now it is coming to Israel and is on display for one week only at the "Ano" museum in Tel Aviv

Sasson Crown, the oldest surviving Bible (courtesy of the "Ano" Museum)

Life is short.

Humans are born, grow up, start a family and wither usually in less than a century.

In contrast, there are books that have seen everything: generations upon generations of history, wanderings, prosperity and suffering, loves and separations, birth and death.

And it is not necessarily referring to books with dozens of versions and late editions, but to the pages themselves.

Such are the pages of "Keter Sasson", the earliest almost complete copy of the Bible, which has been traveling between countries and communities for more than a thousand years. These days it is being shown for free to the Israeli public for one week only, with advance registration, in a place that is perhaps most natural to it: The "Ano" museum in Tel Aviv, the former home of the Diaspora, is the place dedicated more than any other site on the planet to the truly sacred task of preserving the story of the Jewish people.

The present repeatedly reminds history that it does not intend to give way to it without a struggle.

Following the demonstrations in the Moza area, traffic to the place was disrupted, and everything is delayed. This also permeates the press conference, on the roof of the museum. Timeless," says Irena Nebzlin, chairman of the board of the Eno Museum.

Her excitement, and that of all the speakers at the event, is evident.

"The State of Israel is only 75 years old and the codex tells a story of thousands of years, which is something that is very difficult to digest at once. I am very, very excited about the event," she adds.

Orit Shaham-Gover, the chief curator of the Mossad, also declares that she is "in the party of the excited", as it were.

"In my many years as a curator, I have never seen an exhibit that tells such a great story, of tradition and innovation, of preserving the Hebrew language, passing the stick from generation to generation, a story of people we don't know who they were in most cases, a story of wandering, of a community, of destruction , of mystery, of disappearance, of rebirth," she says.

Indeed, it is evident that what is at stake here is much more than a number.

"something eternal".

Sasson Crown (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)

There are almost no Bible books that have survived from the first millennium AD. Keter Sassoon is more or less the same age as the famous Keter Aram-Zoba written in the tenth century AD, and probably also a little older than it - dating using the carbon-14 method even suggests the end of the ninth century as the possible date of writing - except that today it is in a better and more complete condition than it and anything found from more ancient times. Keter Sasson includes all 24 books that make up the Bible, except for the first ten chapters at the beginning of Genesis and other pages that were lost along the way.

This happens even to the best books.

In the display, on the lower floor of the museum, the enormous Bible is placed behind transparent glass. In front of it are placed seven translated Bibles - and thus the original looks out to its descendants.

And inside: Hebrew letters that are woven into verses, three columns on each page, words that are amazingly familiar to the young and old of our time, Jews and non-Jews, even though they were written in ink somewhere in the Middle Ages from the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy, Chapters 5-6.

And so, in front of you: "And you remembered that you were a slave in the land of Egypt", or "You shall not murder", and immediately after: the Shema reading.

Thousand year old words.

This is a pan-Jewish matter but also a universal one: to stand and marvel at a point from which so many human paths begin, and some of which continue until now, is the humanist act itself.

There is something chilling about it, but in a way it is also reassuring: after hundreds of years that included historical shocks, shaking revolutions as well as violence that is never enough, books also deserve time to rest, and if possible - in an air-conditioned room in front of the smiling faces of children and the elderly.

In other words: even without being philologists, in front of the oldest Bible in existence - you can and should feel at least a little humility. You can already

today be impressed by a high-quality scan of Sassoon's crown on the National Library website, but as Irit Shapira Meir, a curator at the museum, says, it is not the same It's like standing next to this book, everything it tells and everything it's been through. "This book, it has a personality.

If he was in Harry Potter he would talk," she laughs.

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Words that are more than a thousand years old.

Sasson Crown (Photo: Ziv Reinstein)

The history of the "Sassoon Crown" is not completely known.

It was written in Israel or Syria on sheepskin cards for at least two years, and was sold several times.

At some point, probably around the 13th century, it evolved into the town of Maksin in the northeastern region of present-day Syria.

Today there is a city there called Markada, which in the last decade found itself in the midst of the horrors of the civil war in Syria, when, among others, forces such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS terrorized the city.

But then, 800 years ago, there was a Jewish community there, probably rich, that kept the book until it was destroyed, and almost nothing is known about it beyond that.

But just as the community disappeared from memory, so did the book, until it resurfaced in the 1920s, when an extraordinary man named David Suleiman Sassoon, perhaps the most important collector of Jewish books ever, purchased it for £350 - after negotiating a bargain for it And as a shrewd merchant he reduced his price by almost half.

Sassoon, after whom the document is named, was a member of a wealthy and privileged Iraqi Jewish family, who devoted his life to collecting and researching ancient Jewish manuscripts.

In his hometown of London, he established a library and collected more than a thousand manuscripts from all over the world - from Ashkenazi communities in the West through North Africa and Yemen to India - until he passed away in the 1940s.

Sasson's descendants held onto the manuscript until 1978. While several notable books from the collection ended up in the National Library of Israel, "Sasson's Crown" was sold to the Railway Workers' Pension Fund of Great Britain, which in turn sold it in the late 1980s to an unknown private buyer, and that within a short time He also sold the book to Jackie Safra, a Jewish businessman living in Switzerland.

Throughout all these years, the public eye hardly caught him.

In recent decades, it has been shown to the public only once, about 40 years ago, in the British Museum.

Now he is coming to Israel as part of a final tour, which also includes London, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York, just before going up for auction at Sotheby's auction house.

With the price range estimated between 30 and 50 million dollars.

If the sums reach the high end of these estimates, the "Sassoon Crown" will become the most expensive historical document of all time, leaving behind a copy of the US Constitution that sold for just over $43 million.

No wonder, then, that special security arrangements were made to keep him here in Israel.

Will he return here in the future?

There is no telling.

At Sotheby's, so the museum says, they try to interest the entire market, and there is hope that in any case the future private buyer will allow the expensive book to be shown to the general public and not keep it for himself.

And as the curator Sheham-Gover says: "Whoever doesn't buy, we will volunteer to keep it for him."

  • culture

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  • We are the Museum of the Jewish People

  • Bible

Source: walla

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