Rare Manuscripts Document Ancient Jewish Community

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's National Library unveiled a cache of rare ancient Hebrew manuscripts discovered in caves in northern Afghanistan. The area is a Taliban stronghold.

The collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews living in ancient Persia. It includes biblical interpretations, financial records, and personal transactions from that time.

"This is the first time that we have actual physical evidence of Jewish life and Jewish culture in the area of Iranian culture in the 11th century," Haggai Ben-Shammai, academic director of Israel's National Library, said.

The library purchased 29 out of hundreds of documents. They are believed to have been found in caves used as hideouts recently by Taliban insurgents.

Aviad Stollman, curator of the library's Judaica collection, said that though more would be learned later with further research, the find already revealed much about the mysterious community.

"They were Jews living a thousand years ago in this place. I think that is the most exciting part," he said.

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