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Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

A thousand years ago, the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible was written. It was kept safe through one upheaval after another in the Middle East, and by the 1940s it was housed in a dark grotto in Aleppo, Syria, and had become known around the world as the Aleppo Codex.

Journalist Matti Friedman’s true-life detective story traces how this precious manuscript was smuggled from its hiding place in Syria into the newly founded state of Israel and how and why many of its most sacred and valuable pages went missing. It’s a tale that involves grizzled secret agents, pious clergymen, shrewd antiquities collectors, and highly placed national figures who, as it turns out, would do anything to get their hands on an ancient, decaying book.

What it reveals are uncomfortable truths about greed, state cover-ups, and the fascinating role of historical treasures in creating a national identity.


Booklist’s Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books

“A superb work of investigative journalism that reads like a detective thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A thrilling, step-by-step quest to discover what really happened to Judaism’s most important book . . . Many of [The Aleppo Codex’s] most astute and well-earned revelations are also its biggest surprises.” —The Boston Globe

The Aleppo Codex builds to a moral crescendo more impressive than the climactic fight scene in any thriller.”—Salon

Meet the author

Matti Friedman has been reporting from Israel since 1997, and has written from Lebanon, Morocco, Cairo, Moscow, Washington, D.C., and the former Soviet republic of Georgia. He grew up in Toronto and lives in Jerusalem.

The Aleppo Codex, his first book, was published in 2012 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. It won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish literature, was selected as one of Booklist’s top ten religion books of the year, was awarded the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for history, and was a finalist in the Religion Newswriters Association’s award for best book of the year. Editions have been published or are pending in Israel, Australia, Holland, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, and South Korea.

Two essays he wrote for Tablet Magazine and The Atlantic about press coverage of Israel in 2014 sparked intense debate, were covered by NPR, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and dozens of other publications, and have been shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times.

Read an excerpt