Spies Smuggle Jewish Bibles Out of Syria

This week a court ruled that the Damascus Bibles must stay in the Israel’s National Library.

By Ezra Stone, United with Israel

In a daring mission 27 years ago, Israeli spies, a Canadian activist, and a rabbi spirited nine rare Jewish texts called the “Damascus Crowns” out of the Syrian capital and into the Land of Israel.

The death-defying mission spared the manuscripts destruction or desecration at the hands of the Assad regime and any of the Islamic terror groups, from Hezbollah to ISIS, that have operated in Syria during the past quarter century.

This week an Israeli rule that the medieval books must stay under the control of Israel’s National Library.

The Damascus Crowns consist of the Tanach, or the Jewish Bible, which encompasses Judaism’s 24 canonical books. This edition was written on parchment in the 13th century CE and was the property of Damascus’ Jewish community, which fled Syria during the decades following the establishment of the State of Israel due to brutal pogroms, discriminatory anti-Semitic laws, wide-scale property theft, and other forms of persecution.

As of 2019, there were no known Jews living in Syria, despite the fact that it had been home to a thriving community for centuries.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Chief Rabbi of the Syrian community Avraham Hamra oversaw the clandestine removal of a trove of Jewish holy objects to Israel, including nine bible manuscripts, 40 Torah scrolls, and 32 ornamental boxes that housed the Torahs. The holy items are housed in the National Library and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Library.

On Monday the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Damascus Crowns, are “treasures of the Jewish people” that have”historic, religious and national importance” and must be protected, The Associated Press reported.

“The trust and its conditions are aimed at ensuring first and foremost the preservation of the Damascus Crowns and their care for the public, the Jewish people and future generations,” the court added.

The mission that delivered these treasures included the Mossad spy agency, which worked with Canadian Judy Feld Carr and Rabbi Hamra.

“Feld Carr said that in 1993 she coordinated with Hamra to give one of the manuscripts to a Canadian diplomat, who slipped it out of Syria in a black plastic shopping bag,” AP reported.

While Syria has not attempted to get the Crowns back, Rabbi Hamra sought custody of them. He claims Israeli officials promised he could keep the books and place them in a Syrian Jewry cultural center outside of a Tel Aviv.

The court ruled that the Crowns must stay in Jerusalem. Trustees of the items will include Rabbi Hamra, other members of the Syrian Jewish community in Israel, National Library representatives, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, and Hebrew University’s president.

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