Iraqi Torah scroll finds new home

A rare 200-year-old
Torah scroll handwritten with pomegranate juice concentrate on deerskin,
which sat for decades in the Iraqi intelligence’s cellars, has made its
way to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem after spending a few years in
the Israeli Embassy building in Jordan. Y-Net News reports:

Following a complicated restoration process by a Torah scribe in
Jerusalem, the scroll is being placed these days in the Foreign
Ministry’s synagogue.

The Torah scroll was kept for years in a storeroom in the Israeli
Embassy in Amman. It was likely smuggled there along with other ancient
Torah scrolls found by American soldiers in the Iraqi intelligence’s
warehouses, which were seized by US forces during the second Gulf war.

From the embassy in Jordan, the holy books were sent to Israel for
restoration, apart from one disqualified Torah scroll which remained in
the embassy for years.

Amnon Israel with the Torah scroll he insisted on restoring (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

Amnon Israel with the Torah scroll he insisted on restoring (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

In September 2011, after the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was evacuated,
the Foreign Ministry instructed its representatives in Jordan to
remove all items, including the unessential ones, from the embassy in
Amman for fear that rioters would attempt to raid the building.

In early 2012, the forgotten Torah scroll was transferred to the
Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where it was kept in a storeroom until a
new caretaker arrived about a year ago.

Torah scroll after restoration process (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

Torah scroll after restoration process (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

The new caretaker, Amnon Israel, approached a Torah scribe in
Jerusalem and asked if he would be able to restore the ancient scroll.
The scribe, Akiva Garber, who specializes in the restoration of holy
books, examined the Torah scroll and found and Iraqi intelligence stamp
in it.

A microscopic sample of the scroll’s ink revealed that it was made out of pomegranate juice concentrate.

The examination also revealed that the scroll was about 150-200
years old and was likely written in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

According to estimates, the scroll was confiscated by the Iraqi
intelligence service (the Mukhabarat) after the major immigration waves
to Israel.

The scroll was disqualified because the writing had cracks in it, the
pages were torn and it had old patches and mold, but Garber’s
recommendation was that it could be restored.

The Foreign Ministry decided to invest in the restoration, and now
that the process has been completed, the ancient Torah scroll has been
placed in the synagogue. An official induction ceremony is expected to
take place at the synagogue soon in the presence of Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman.

Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

The Foreign Ministry did not settle for that, and decided that such a
Torah scroll deserves a special case as well. With the help of Material
Resources Manager Tzvia Shimon, a 100-year-old case of a Torah scroll
smuggled to Israel from Aleppo, Syria, was brought in from the Prime
Minister’s Office. The rare case, which includes a dedication to a
deceased person, has also been restored.

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