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Torah scroll on display at same Saudi book fair that featured antisemitic literature in the past

16th century Torah scroll on display at the the Saudi International Book Fair in Riyadh (Photo: Saudiah Reeepat/X)

This year’s annual Riyadh International Book Fair in Saudi Arabia had a highly unusual display of a 16th century Torah scroll, according to the Saudi Sabq news site.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the scroll was displayed in a pavilion with other ancient and rare texts, but that the description omitted mentioning anything about its origin or its central place in Judaism.

The text written on the scroll exhibition, simply read: “A scroll of leather, containing explanations and texts of the Torah in Hebrew. Length: (40 meters x 90 cm). It dates back to the 16th century AD, according to estimates.”

The presence of a Torah Scroll at the the Saudi International Book Fair in Riyadh is extraordinary and perhaps, unprecedented.

In the past, the book fair was associated with selling “egregiously antisemitic” books, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in October 2021:

“On October 1st, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture kicked off the Riyadh International Book Fair under the official patronage of the country’s ruler, King Salman. Billed this year as ‘the largest book fair in the history of the kingdom’ and even ‘the region’s largest book fair,’ the ten-day convention is one of the Arabian Peninsula’s most important large-scale intellectual events,” the ADL wrote.

“However, ADL has determined that the 2021 Riyadh International Book Fair is enabling participating booksellers to exhibit over two dozen egregiously antisemitic books for sale. Infamous titles include numerous editions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Other antisemitic books permitted at this year’s fair feature a broad array of anti-Jewish tropes, including the blood libel, Holocaust denial, Jewish-Masonic conspiracy theories, and portrayals of Jews as evil puppet masters and the killers of divine prophets.”

The display of the ancient Jewish Torah scroll comes as both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) have both spoken optimistically about normalizing ties with one another in recent weeks. The two countries do not currently have official diplomatic ties.

“Every day we get closer,” the crown prince MBS told Fox News last month in reference to a Saudi peace deal with Israel. “It seems it's for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes.”

Similarly, Netanyahu told U.S. President Biden: “I think that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia."

"I think such a peace would go a long way for us to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Last week, during a historic first, Israel’s Tourism Minister Haim Katz attended a global UN World Tourism conference in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia's Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb implicitly recognized the historic presence of his Israeli counterpart, saying, “There is a delegation here in the country for the first time. I hope they were received well. Welcome. Everyone in this room understands that tourism is the bridge between people and between cultures.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi flew to the Saudi capital on Monday to attend a Universal Postal Union conference in Riyadh, where he is set to address the UPU, which is currently focused on sustainable postal services.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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