Samaritans view part of ancient Torah scroll stolen from them in 1995


(JTA) — More than 20 years after the theft of ancient Torah scrolls from a Samaritan synagogue in Nablus, the Israel Antiquities Authority retrieved one page from the missing objects and invited its owners to view it.

The piece of parchment was retrieved earlier this year during a customs inspection. It came from one of two missing 14th-century Torah scrolls that were stolen in 1995 from a house of worship belonging to the Samaritans – a community of several hundred people who follow an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism.

It was found during a routine customs check of a backpacker seeking to exit Israel to Jordan through the Allenby Crossing, the news site Kipa reported Wednesday.

Uri Mendes, the deputy head of the Civil Administration body that governs the West Bank, showed the retrieved parchment last week to leaders of the Samaritan community, whose Torah is said by adherents to reflect what the ancient Israelites practiced before the Babylonian exile.

“This is a day that combines happiness and sadness,” Yefet Cohen, a communal leader, told Kipa. “Sadness for what happened to the rest of the scroll, whose parts are now scattered across the globe, and happiness for being able to view at least a part of it.”

The scroll is believed to have been written in 1362 by the scholar Avishua ben Pinchas.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, called for the retrieved page to be given back to the Samaritan community for safekeeping.

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