World’s Oldest Jewish Prayerbook on Display in Jerusalem

September 18, 2014  

The world’s oldest known siddur (Jewish prayer book), an exquisite relic of Jewish history from 1,200 years ago, will be on display to the general public for the first time ever on Thursday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

The 50-page siddur, which hails from the Middle East, is still in its original binding and was placed by carbon dating to be from the first half of the ninth century CE, the period of the Babylonian Geonim or religious leaders.

A full investigation of the text will only be completed in 2015, but cursory explorations have revealed the book contains three main sections: the morning prayer service, liturgical poems and the Haggadah read at the Passover (Pesach) seder meal.

Steve Green, Chairman of the Museum of the Bible that is currently under construction in Washington DC and owner of the Green Collection which includes numerous rare biblical artifacts, will present the unique siddur he acquired last year at the ceremony on Thursday to Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud).

The siddur will be put on display at the Bible Lands Museum’s renowned Book of Books exhibit of biblical texts, which includes numerous rare texts such as original fragments of the Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Torah) and relics from the Cairo Geniza. The exhibit will close next month after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ends on October 15.

“We are extremely excited about the arrival of the ancient prayer book at the Bible Lands Museum,” said Amanda Weiss, executive director of the Bible Lands Museum.

Weiss added “this is a real treasure of the Jewish people, evidence of a thriving and creative community and cultural life 1,200 years ago and we are honored to have it in our ‘Book of Books’ exhibition. We are happy for the opportunity to provide our visitors the privilege to see in person the ancient prayer book during the final month of the exhibition.”

Also attending the ceremony on Thursday will be Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, a leader of the Aramaean Christian minority in Israel who has advocated a strong connection to Israel and IDF service for Christian citizens – despite stiff opposition from the official Greek Orthodox church and Arab MKs.

“The Book of Books exhibition has provided the public with an excellent example of a shared history and value system amongst Jews and Christians,” Weiss said. “Father Nadaf is the living embodiment of tracing these roots and working towards repairing these historic ties for the good of the State of Israel and both peoples around the world, and it is significant that he is honored here in a museum dedicated to our shared texts.”

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