Thursday 17 May 2012

Aleppo Codex Decidedly More Imperiled in Israel?

Readers might remember the discussion of The Aleppo Codex over on Peter Tompa's propaganda blogette. Tompa writes:
The Codex left Syria well before academic archaeologists began to press for repatriation even where such returns raise serious questions about preservation of the objects in question. The Codex is clearly better off in Israel than in Syria.
Apart from some oddly sniping comments by one otherwise-anonymous "Alexander" to Tompa's post which is all we can expect from collectors it seems, this theme was not developed (for my own comments see here). Now it seems a new book is coming out which seems from the blurb to be likely to challenge that statement that it is better off in Israel.  Jerusalem-based reporter Matti Friedman has been researching the codex’s mysterious history:
how it changed hands from the Jews of Aleppo, Syria, where it had been safeguarded for centuries, to tightly held institutional control in the state of Israel—where it became decidedly more imperiled, and where large portions of the codex went missing. Friedman explores this journey in The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible. He joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss the codex’s clandestine journey to Israel in the late 1950s, what might have happened to sections of the codex that have gone missing, and the struggle of the Jews of Aleppo to regain control of their community’s most prized religious artifact.  [my hyperlink]
Vox Tablet podcast

I look forward to hearing of Peter Tompa's further comments once he has had a chance to read the book.

Vignette: Better off in Israel? Bit of the Aleppo Codex as displayed in the Yad Ben-Zvi institute Dec. 2, 2007 (Ammar Awad/Reuters).




Cultural Property Observer said...

I doubt I will have a chance to read the book, but even if it is true the Codex has suffered somewhat since coming to Israel, that does not establish that it would have been better off in the clutches of the anti-Semitic Baathist regime in Syria, which in case you have not been reading the news, is now involved in a civil war against its own people. (And if memory serves which has specifically targeted Aleppo for retribution).

But this begs the question whether you too believe the test should be "where the artifact is better off." Please elaborate.

Paul Barford said...

What a shame that you will not find time to read the book.

Do I think artefacts should be housed not where they were discovered, but (somebody thinks) they will be "better off"? Not if getting them there involves illegal activity. Especially not if (it seems in this case) it also involves damaging the object itself.

Do you as a lawyer advocate indulging in illegal activity in such circumstances?

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