JERUSALEM (AP) — Two decades after Israeli spies helped Syrian Jews whisk ancient Hebrew bibles from Damascus to Jerusalem, Israel’s national library asked an Israeli court on Monday to grant it custodianship over the manuscripts — a move that could spark an ownership battle over some of the Syrian Jewish community’s most important treasures.

Known as the Crowns of Damascus, the nine leather-bound parchment books — some featuring microscopic calligraphy and gold-leaf illumination — were written mostly in Spain and Italy between 700 and 1,000 years ago. For hundreds of years, they were guarded inside synagogues in the Syrian capital, presented only on special occasions.

In the early 1990s, Syria lifted travel restrictions on Jews and many emigrated, but they were not permitted to take their sacred manuscripts.

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