What a send-off! Just before the Codex Sassoon - the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible – arrives at its permanent home in Israel, the ANU Museum of the Jewish People held a special event at Sotheby's in New York City on Tuesday night in honor of the manuscript. Along with the excited museum staff, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan and a guest from the United Arab Emirates also came to see the ancient Bible.
Irina Nevzlin, the chairman of the museum's board of directors, shared with those present her personal story, and how for her it was a coming full circle.
"I grew up in a house where I wasn't allowed to know I was Jewish. I did not see any of the Torah or any of the books of the Bible ever in my life until the age of 13. When I saw a Bible for the first time it was at the age of 13, in a Jewish school, and I could not read Hebrew. And now, when I come here, in front of Codex Sassoon, I can actually read 'Shema Israel.' So for me this is a very personal journey," Nevzlin said.
"I have always been very proud of the Jewish people. This book proves something, that it is not only survival, it's also thousands and hundreds of years of success of the book and of the people. We couldn't be more proud that we have a unique opportunity to be part of the history for bringing it home," Nevzlin also said.
The Codex Sassoon is the most complete ancient Bible that exists today in the world. With the exception of 12 pages from Genesis, it contains all the books of the Bible as we know them today. According to estimates, it was written at the beginning of the tenth century in southern Syria, and over the years it went through several incarnations until it was purchased in May at an auction at Sotheby's in New York for a whopping $38.1 million, making it the most expensive Jewish manuscript ever sold. The buyer, American diplomat Alfred Moses, purchased the manuscript for Anu.
The Codex is named after its previous owner David Solomon Sassoon, who had the most outstanding private collection of ancient Jewish texts in the world. It was up for auction for the first time in over three decades.
"This Bible represents the development of the Hebrew language - it is the first book that we know of that contains a punctuation, it contains different layers of different classes of Judaism from different decades - everything is inside," said Orit Shechem Gober, the museum's chief curator. "So for us, as a museum of the Jewish people, this is one item that represents such a large chapter of the Jewish story."
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan told those at the event about the importance of the Bible in the war for the heritage of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in the world.
"This is a very exciting event for me," he said. "The Bible, with its commandments and traditions, preserved the existence of the Jewish people for thousands of years while many great empires collapsed. And today, bringing this ancient Bible to Israel has a special international importance."
"Today, our enemies attempt to use the United Nations to erase and distort history and the truth, to claim that the Jewish people have no connection to the Land of Israel or to Jerusalem. This ancient Bible, the Codex Sassoon, is the best proof against their lies. All the truth about our history and our connection to Israel and Jerusalem is contained in it and there is nothing more important than bringing it to Israel. The Jewish people returned to their homeland and now this book of truth is returning to its country," Erdan concluded.
Among those present was Ahmed Obaid Almansoori, who founded a museum for the history of Zionism and the memory of the Holocaust in Dubai. "For us, in the Middle East, I think religion brings us together and we have many things in common," he told those present.
The complete journey of the ancient Bible from southern Syria to Israel will be published in the coming days on Ynet.