The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
According to Dr. Adolfo Roitman, the head curator of the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem, where the Codex now resides, all current versions of the Old Testament stem, “in one way or another, from this ancient manuscript.”
It was written in the town of Tiberias, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in or around 930 CE, and then moved to Jerusalem, from where it was stolen when the Crusaders sacked the city in 1099.
It was later ransomed by the Jews of Cairo, and brought to that city.
But the Codex is significant not only for what it contains, but also for what it doesn’t. Some 190 pages of priceless text – around 40% of the total - are missing. These include four out of five books of the Pentateuch - the first section of books in the Bible also called the Five Books of Moses - as well as five books from the last section - Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel and Ezra.
In the 14th
The Codex remained at the institute until it was moved to the Israel Museum in the mid-1980's, where parts are presented to the public in the Shrine of the Book, alongside
The missing pages were initially thought to have been destroyed when the Aleppo synagogue was set alight, or perhaps looted by Syrians.
But journalist Matti Friedman, author of a book on the subject, has a different explanation. "Judging from the evidence that I uncovered, the pages were lost in Israel, that's the most likely scenario," he says.
Professor Eyal Ginio, director of the Ben Zvi Institute, disagrees. He thinks the pages were lost during the rioting in Syria.
"If parts of the Codex were lost after 1947 and were sold or taken
Instead, only two segments from the missing pages have so far surfaced, and in both cases those who had them “claimed they were found by their ancestors on the floor of the Synagogue."
The question of the Codex ownership is also a subject of dispute.
Filmmaker Avi Dabach, who hopes to make a documentary about the Codex, believes the manuscript belongs to the Jewish community which was forced out of Syria.
"In the 1960s the Aleppo-Jewish community sued the people who brought the Codex to Israel… The Israeli Authorities decided to confiscate this item and then, from a position of strength, force on the community an arrangement," he states.
For many years members of the Aleppo Jewish community came to the Shrine of the Book