In July 2017, Israeli historian Yoram Meital stumbled upon a handwritten 1028 CE biblical codex that was lying abandoned on a dusty shelf in a Cairo synagogue. Professor Meital has been helping the Drop of Milk association in Egypt catalogue synagogue archives in Egypt. The Times of Israel reports:
Detail from the Biblical codex discovered by Professor Meital (Photo: courtesy)
Wrapped in simple white paper of the sort one finds on tables in cheap eateries, at 616 pages, the Zechariah Ben ‘Anan Manuscript is one of the era’s most complete and preserved examples of the “Writings,” the third and concluding section of the Hebrew Bible.
It had been lost to scholars for almost 40 years.
Discovered by Meital in the Karaite Moussa Der’i Synagogue, the Zechariah Ben ‘Anan Manuscript (ZBAM) was previously documented in various publications by modern biblical scholars, from a 1905 Jewish Quarterly Reviewarticle by leading expert Richard Gottheil through to microfilms of the manuscript done by a team of Israelis from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in June 1981.
The scholars left notes within the texts, and even published their findings. Then, as the Jewish community increasingly lost its members, the priceless manuscript, too, disappeared.
After decades of trips to Egypt for his academic publications as a professor at Ben-Gurion University, in July 2017 Meital was in Cairo as a private scholar taking part in a Jewish community project headed by the
Drop of Milk organization to document the city’s many synagogues — and seeking fodder for an upcoming book.