The Cairo Geniza is an accumulation of almost 200,000 Jewish manuscripts that were found in the genizah of the Ben Ezra synagogue (built 882) of Fustat, Egypt (now Old Cairo), the Basatin cemetery east of Old Cairo, and a number of old documents that were bought in Cairo in the later 19th century.

The significance of the Cairo genizah was first recognized by the Jewish traveler and researcher Jacob Saphir in the mid 1800s, but it was chiefly through the work of Solomon Schechter at the end of the 19th century that the contents of the genizah were brought to scholarly and popular attention.

Cairo Genizah Solomon Schechter

These documents have now been archived in various American and European libraries. The Taylor-Schechter collection in the University of Cambridge runs to 140,000 manuscripts; there are a further 40,000 manuscripts at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Also, the John Rylands University Library in Manchester holds a collection of over 11,000 fragments, which are currently being digitized and uploaded to an online archive.

Two documents from the Cairo genizah cast light on the Temple Mount during the early Moslem period (638 C.E.-1099 C.E. [4398-4859]). Seen are the only remaining two pages of a guidebook to the Land of Israel. This document guides the reader to sites along the Southern and Eastern Walls of the Temple Mount, and the Kidron Valley.

The second document from this genizah (not seen here) is the “Prayers at the Gates [of the Mount].” It describes the Jewish pilgrimage tradition of circling the Temple Mount and saying a special prayer at each of the gates.

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