The following is a guest post by Jewish Israel member Toby Klein Greenwald
WHO MOVED MY MANUSCRIPT?
By Toby Klein Greenwald
On June 26, 2011, an extremely erudite conference on "Intellectual Property in Jewish Law" was held in Jerusalem, under the auspices of JMB Fa©tor & Co. and Yad HaRav Herzog.
The conference was absorbing on many levels, not the least of which was that, in addition to inviting lecturers including rabbis, attorneys and academics from various institutions in Israel and abroad, the organizers chose to include, for comparison, two lecturers on Intellectual Property in Islamic and Christian Law.
The lecturer on IP in Islamic Law, Dr. Amir H. Khoury, a senior lecturer on the law faculty of Tel Aviv University, who described himself as a Catholic, said that according to Islamic law, everyone has the right to private property, even non-Muslims, which may come as a surprise to those Muslims who claim that the Jews can have no right to any land in Israel, and who murder "collaborators" who sell land to Jews.
But even more intriguing was a statement by Dr. Roman Cholij, a trademark attorney by profession, with academic credentials in theology and canon law. In the course of his presentation, Dr. Cholij claimed that one of the Christian law principles is "legitimacy of property ownership" and that Christian law "recognizes the right of private property ownership".
I asked Dr. Cholij why, if Christian law recognizes the property ownership of others, there are Hebrew manuscripts, and perhaps some other artifacts, in the Vatican which do not belong to her.
His reply was, "The fact that this is Christian law does not mean that everyone abides by it."
"But the Vatican?" I asked.
Dr. Cholij: "I don't have an answer."
More than 20 years ago I spoke to a very senior manuscript restorator, who told me that on a visit to the Vatican, the restorator was treated to a viewing of some Hebrew manuscripts, many floors beneath the earth, but the hosts pointed to another hallway and said, "That's where we can't take you."
Much has been written about the alleged theft of treasures from the Temple in Jerusalem, reportedly in the possession of the Church. I asked the opinion of Dr. Binyamin Richler, author of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library: Catalogue, published in 2008.
According to Dr. Richler, "A large part of the manuscripts in the Vatican were actually purchased by a Christian from a Jewish rabbi in Crete and as for the others -- I don't recall coming across any that were confiscated from the Jews." Dr. Richler said that during the Inquisition there were manuscripts that were burned, and there were others that were given to the church for censorship, which was usually carried out by Jews who had converted to Christianity. There were also Jews who converted who left manuscripts in the