Before dawn on March 21, 1995, someone broke into a synagogue in the Palestinian city of Nablus.
The thief — maybe it was a band of thieves — crossed the carpeted sanctuary, pulled back a heavy velvet curtain, and opened a carved wooden ark. Inside were two handwritten copies of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. One was a sheepskin scroll written around 1360 and kept in a slender copper case. The other was a codex, a thick book, probably from the 15th century and bound in a maroon leather cover. The thief or thieves snatched the manuscripts, escaped through the synagogue’s arched doorway, discarded the copper case in a stairwell, and vanished.
Twenty-three years after a brazen theft, the mystery still divides a tiny sect known as the Samaritans.