Torah scroll thief arrested in Baghdad

Iraq is fuming with indignation at the ‘theft’ of Torah scrolls which it assumes are part of its national heritage. In fact Torah scrolls always belong to the Jewish community. They are either in use for prayer, buried if they fall into disuse, and  as far as possible travel with the community they belong to. Trafficking Torah scrolls is an aberration. Elaph reports: 

The rare Torah scroll found in Iraq and rededicated at the Israel Foreign Ministry

The Arabic online news medium Elaph reports that the thief of a 700-year-old Torah scroll was arrested yesterday when he tried to sell it. He admitted that the scroll had been stolen from the home of a former regime official.

The defendant admitted that he is a broker, working for a dealer, who stole the Torah in the chaos prevailing during the American invasion of Baghdad in 2003.

Iraq protested  earlier this year that a rare Torah scroll had been spirited away to Tel Aviv. It asked  Interpol to assist in its return. Israel has confirmed that the Torah, found by US troops in Baghdad in 2003, had been repaired and a special re-dedication ceremony for it was held in Israel.

According to the US study entitled “Targeting manuscripts in Iraq during the war, 1991 – 2003,” US Pentagon official Ismail Stone,was sent to supervise the body of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq after the occupation of Iraq, and it was he who was behind the transfer of manuscripts to America. 

Presumably, the newspaper is referring to the hoard of Jewish documents found in the flooded basement of the secret police headquarters in 2003 and shipped to the US for restoration. 

 The defendant is presumably the same broker who appropriated a rare copy of the Book of Job, published in 1487, and given to an Iraqi official as a gift.  Elaph quotes the veteran Mossad official Mordechai Ben Porat telling Haaretz  that  a rare copy of the Book of Job and a section of the Book of Prophets published in Venice in 1617, had been transferred to Israel from the secret police headquarters in Baghdad.

Read article in full(Arabic)


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