Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jewish Aleppo, Lost Forever

The Syrian diaspora in Israel watches its once-vibrant ancestral home fall to ruin in the country’s civil war
Jewish family in Aleppo (left) and the Aleppo Citadel seen from the southwest, c. 1910.
The original stereographic images have been altered into an anaglyph. When viewed through red-cyan glasses,
the above image will produce a stereoscopic 3D effect.
(Anaglyphs Tablet Magazine; original photos Library of Congress)
The northern Syrian city of Aleppo, once a pillar of Jewish existence worldwide, is slowly being destroyed by the fighting that has engulfed Syria for the past 17 months. Last week, a Free Syrian Army rebel warned that soon “there will be nothing left to destroy in Aleppo.” Imagine Rome or Paris destroyed by civil war in the social media age.

Coincidentally, Aleppo had already been in the news thanks to a new book and a lengthy New York Times Magazine article about one of the city’s most famous claims to recognition: the Aleppo Codex of the Hebrew Bible, said to have been complied in Tiberias in the 10th century and ransomed by the Jews of Cairo from the Crusaders after their conquest. After a short but monumental stay in the hands of Maimonides, it wound up in Aleppo, where it was kept hidden in a crypt lining the walls of the city’s great synagogue for the next 600 years. The codex, believed to be the oldest manuscript containing the entire Hebrew Bible, was smuggled out of Syria in the 1950s thanks to the courageous efforts of a handful of Aleppine Jews. Like a segment of Aleppo’s Jewish community, the codex found a home in Jerusalem, where it sits under lock and key at the Israel Museum. Joseph Dana, Tablet

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