MEETING # 2
7th c. 622Mohammads Hijra; Dar al-Islam (Abode of Islam)
8th c. 711 Muslim armies crossed Straits of Gilbratar into Spain
732 Arabs defeated at the Battle of Tours, France
Umayyad dynasty, after death Ali, ruled Islamic world from Damascus, until 750
750-1258 Abassid dynasty in Baghdad
Arab conquest of Spain in early 8th c.,
* 9th, 10th & 11th centuries are the golden age era
Sharia: Islamic system of law -Muslim scholars developed laws interpreting Koran
9th c., 800-909: Aghlabid
10th c., 909: a new dynasty, Fatimid expelled the Aghlabid and take Kairouan
century of independent caliphates in North Africa & Spain.
909-1159: Fatimid (in Cairo; in Ifriqiya, 909-969)& Zirides dynasties.
11th c. Dhimmi Law was finally codified by Al Mawardi
*10th & 11th c: Kairouan Jewish community major spiritual & intellectual center
Ishaq b. Suleyman Israeli ca. 855-955; physician, advisor to the Caliph
Abu Sahl Dunash ben Tamim (d. ca. 960), physician and philosopher
Rabbi Jacob ben Nissim ben Josias (d. 1006/7) founded a yeshiva
11th c. by Al Mawardi codified Dhimmi Law
1057: Beni Hilal conquered Kairouan. Anarchy
12th c., 1148: the Sicilian King Roger II arrived & crowned himself King of Africa.
1146 & 1150 the tide of terror rolled eastward as far as Tunisia
1159: Tunisia conquered by Almohad caliphs of Morocco
1159-1230: the Almohad; unify Maghreb & Moslem Andalusia; persecution of Jews
13th-16th c., 1230-1574: Hafsid dynasty; renamed country Tunisia after new capital Tunis
*1453 Fall of Constantinople to Ottoman Turks
*End of 15th c., 1492: expulsion of the Jews from Spain -170,000 families
1496 expulsion of Jews from Portugal
16th c. Ottoman Empire
1520 Suleyman the Magnificient begins rule of Ottoman Empire
1535: Tunisia conquered by Spaniards
1574: Spanish defeated; Hafsid kingdom became province of Ottoman Empire
17th c., in late 1600's,large number of Jews from Livorne, settled in Tunis: the "Grana
18th c., 1705-1957: Husayn b. Ali founded new dynasty, Hussein dynasty of beys
1741: Schism of the Grana -Jews of Tunis split into 2 separate communities
1789 French Revolution
1830 Tunisia in effect autonomous under beys of Husaynid dynasty
*1857 Batto Sfez, Tunisian Jew, executed for blasphemy against Islam
*1860 Alliance Israelite Universelle -AIU- founded in Paris
*1881-1956: French Protectorate (established 12 May 1881).
1899: French decree marking official unification of Touansa & Grana communities
MB: Dhimmis: Protected but Not Equal. This "protection" did little, however, to insure that Jews and Christians were treated well by the Muslims. On the contrary, an integral aspect of the dhimma was that, being infidels, they had to openly acknowledge the superiority of the true believer-the Muslim. On the other hand, this legally defined status meant they were treated better than most other minorities in Muslim countries, and the Jews fared better here than in many parts of Christendom.
AC:45: Law was finally codified in the 11th c. by Al Mawardi. Since the dhimmi was entitled to his life solely by virtue of this contract, any breach of it entailed the forfeiture of his life. (PS: In exchange for security & protection, Jews & Christians had not only to pay the head tax, but they had also not to violate a number of decrees. According to Mawerdi, the pact of protection had at least 12 articles.
There were altogether 12 laws which limited the conditions under which limited the conditions under which the dhimmi was allowed to dwell within the community of the Believers). The 1st 6 very important. On pain of death, dhimmis were forbidden
to touch Koran, mock or criticize the Koran
to speak of the prophet Muhammad in false or contemptuous terms
to speak of faith of Islam with irreverence,
to touch a Muslim woman, marriage between dhimmi & Moslem forbidden (though a Muslim man could take a non-Muslim as a wife),
to do anything that would turn a Moslem against his faith -to proselytize among Muslims, & were ordered to respect life & property of Moslem,
to do anything that would aid the enemies of Islam or their spies.
AC46. The other 6 laws were considered by Al Mawardi to be of secondary importance.
They compelled the dhimmis were also forced to wear distinctive habit with a sash/special belt (zunnar) and put a piece of cloth/patch on their clothes (ghiyar) in yellow for the Jews and in blue for the Christians. (MB: In the ninth century, for example, Baghdad's Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.(5)
they were not allowed to build their houses, their synagogues or their churches higher than the Moslems tallest buildings;
they were not allowed to perform their religious ritual in public, or to let their bells, trumpets, prayers or chants be heard in the Moslem city;
they were not to drink wine in public, or, for the Christians, to display their crucifixes or their pigs;
they had to bury their dead discreetly without letting their prayers or their lamentations be heard abroad -not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices-as that might offend the Muslims.
they were forbidden to own horses -considered noble animals, or camels; satisfy themselves with donkeys or mules;
The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court (testimony of a Jew or Christian condemning a Moslem was never accepted). To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when Dhimmis, harmed by a Muslim.(4)
Generally speaking, in comparison with the Muslims, the dhimmis were at a disadvantage legally and judicially. For instance,
- The Muslim who killed a dhimmi did not suffer the death penalty. The penalty for murder was execution, except in those cases where a Moslem murdered a non-Moslem.
The dhimmi had to show public deference toward Muslims-always yielding them the center of the road.
NS26: Many of these restrictions & their ramified refinements probably inspired by discriminatory legislation against Jews already in force in the Byzantine lands conquered by the Arabs.
*ACp.46: In return for being spared his life & property, & the right to freely practice their religion, the dhimmi was obliged to recognize the supremacy of Islam by the payment to Moslem state, of a special annual head tax -djezya (symbolized the subordination of the dhimmi) and a land/property tax, kharaj. The basis for this was the Koran, IX.29): Fight all those who believe not in Allah or in the last day, who do not regard as forbidden that which Allah and His prophet have forbidden, and those among the People of the Book who do not profess the True Religion. Make war against them until they pay tribute with their own hands and till they are humiliated.
(#So long as religious Islamic law was the only code enforced in the Moslem countries, Jews and Christians suffered discrimination. #Thus, despite the religious freedom they were granted, the Christians & the Jews were never considered equal citizens but were viewed as strangers who had the right to live in a Moslem country only if they recognize the supremacy of Islam by paying the extra yearly tax and agreed to live under somewhat humiliating restrictions#)
*Theses rules were applied until 19th c., but their harshness differed in different times.
*ACp.46-7: Severity of laws against dhimmis depended on degree of enforcement by liberal-minded or tyrannical Moslem ruler. When Moslem ruler was liberal-minded & understanding, laws were bearable; when ruler was tyrannical & cruel, condition of the dhimmi was that of a virtual slave. In addition to the head & property taxes, ruler could always add supplementary taxes, for support of his army; good will gifts that the weaker paid to those in power.
AC p. 47: Charter of Omar aimed to convince every Moslem that the Jew was part of some unimportant sub-species that it was necessary to accept and respect to a certain degree in order to remain faithful to the teachings of the Prophet. Its principles, which inspired all Moslem legislation in the Maghreb down to modern times, caused the departure of virtually all Christian communities from North Africa, and subjected the Jews to the harshest conditions of inferiority even under the most benevolent rulers. ... The nature of Islamic law concerning the dhimmi explains the place that the Jews occupied in Islamic society during the past 12 centuries, and, further, explains to some degree the urgency of their flight from the countries where Islamic law held sway as soon as the establishment of the State of Israel made this possible.
ACp.48: From 10th c. on, restrictions against dhimmi applied more rigorously against Jews of NA. ... Almost from beginning Arab conquest, Jews compelled to live in special quarters in every town. ... By end of the 12 centuries of Moslem rule, the mellah of Morocco, the haras of Tunisia & Jewish quarters in Algeria -ghettos of NA- had reached a state of indescribable misery & squalor.
PS50: discriminations in costume. In the 10th c., under the Aghlabids, Jews & Christians had to wear on the shoulder a white piece of cloth with an image of a monkey or a pig.
AC48: ... In 12th c., the Almohad Sultan Yakub el Mansur ordered the Jews to wear distinctive clothes -black cloaks with wide sleeves and black caps that covered the ears. Later his successor permitted yellow robes & turbans to be worn.
MB: Dhimmis were excluded from public office (could hold no position of authority in the Moslem community) and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms.
AC48. Conditions under which a dhimmi allowed to hold public office ... could carry out orders but could hold no position of responsibility. ...
AC49: Certain Jews managed to surmount obstacles & to amass fortunes -not always with favorable results. ... Some gained favor of princes, sultans ... who accorded special protection to those who were in position to advise them.
PSp. 51: Despite their dhimmi status, some Jews reached high positions. Many Ifriqiya rulers had Jewish doctors. ... There was tolerance towards Jews & Christians. +even in Middle Ages, many Jews & Christians held distinguished positions as ministers, bankers, physicians, and advisers in the courts of the rulers of Baghdad, Cairo, and Granada.
NS43. The Fatimids, in 11th c., didnt impose the discriminatory tariffs for dhimmis; they employed non-believers in the civil service. Jewish merchants prospered in the generally liberal economic atmosphere. NA businessmen dominated trade of the Islamic Mediterranean area, and assumed leading role in the trade with India as well. They settled in Egypt, while having offices in Ifriqiya.
MB: When Jews were perceived as having achieved too comfortable a position in Islamic society, anti-Semitism would surface, often with devastating results: On December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.
MB: Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by Muslim ruler Idris I.
NS27: Jews were psychologically better able to adapt themselves to the new facts of life created by Arab conquest than Christians. They had already been a subject people for over 5 centuries. The rabbis had given them a concept of Jewishness that was independent of physical territory or political sovereignty. They were in galut (exile). The tax burden not much different from discriminatory taxed to former overlords.
Daily Relationships. +In daily life, the relationship of the Jews with the Moslems was unpredictable, though largely bearable and sometimes quite acceptable. Much depended on the whims of the caliphs. There were some rulers whose religious fanaticism caused hardships and degradation for the non-Moslem community. ... the fact that such orders were frequently reissued, usually with a fanatical ruler, indicates that these restrictions were never observed for more than short periods of time. +
*AC49-50: Rights of dhimmis under Charter of Omar were often curtailed at whim & caprice of rulers. (Mitchel Bard (MB): At various times, Jews in Muslim lands were able to live in relative peace and thrive culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence & death. Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews.) The Jew was usually regarded as a protege who could compensate for the contempt which was his due by fulfilling certain indispensable functions in the Moslem social structure, notably as trader or petty artisan. As traders & merchants at all levels, the Jews formed a necessary link between Europe & the Maghreb. They kept the towns provisioned. ... From his peddlers bundle the Jew drew forth both the necessities of life and fascinating novelties.
AC50. The humiliations because of status of dhimmi accepted by Jews as inescapable realities of life -slap in face as reward when he paid his djezya to caid, the customary degradations, the blows administered in passing, the deliberate jostling, the swallowed insult. Important thing was to work obstinately to try and surmount the misfortunes of life in order to survive.
Outbreaks/violence against the Jews
AC p.50-: Virtual outcast of inferior status, Jews became the victims of every crisis. As Omayyads, Idrisids, Almoravids, Almohads, Marinids, Saadi & Alaouites succeeded each other, the Jews were easy prey for population constantly embroiled in inter-tribal & inter-dynastic warfare. ... famine epidemic likely to led to uprisings against Jews. Such tragedies were so frequent, that it is impossible to list them, but the details varied little. The chronicles of the Jewish communities in NA repeat the same phrases again and again: They plundered all the Jews. ... They slaughtered so many women ... children ... They burned synagogues ... Who can know our unhappiness ... We fasted to implore the help of the Lord ...
The Best Years - Tunisian Jewry in the Islamic High Middle Ages
RA: During the rule of the Aghlabid, Fatimid & Zirid (10-12th c) dynasties, between the 8th & 12th centuries, the condition of the Jews improved. Those who had lived in Tunisia for centuries were joined by others from different parts of the Moslem empire. There were Jews in the capital, Kairouan, and in Sousse, Mahdia & Gabes (in writings of that time, hara al-yahud, the Jewish quarter- and the souk al-yahud -the Jewish market- are mentioned).
The Jews played an important role in the economy, and especially in the commercial relations between Ifriqiya and Spain, Sicily, Egypt and India.
NSp.40: Medieval Islamic civilization flowered and matured between the years 900 & 1200. This was the Renaissance of Islam. ... Arts, letters & Hellenic sciences flourished ... Muslim and non-Muslims had a share in the general prosperity. Often, the extreme implications of the dhimmis status could be conveniently ignored.
The Islamic High Middle Ages witnessed the rise of vibrant & increasingly independent centers of Jewish life outside Iraq ... Three principal Jewish communities came into prominence at this time -Egypt, Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia), and Spain. ... One of the factor that contributed to the development of other Mediterranean Jewish communities was the rise in the 10th century of independent caliphates in North Africa & Spain.
The Jews of Ifriqiya (Tunisia), 10th-11th century
PS44-5: Ifriqiya was administered by governors appointed by the Omayyads in Damascus, and afterwards by the caliphs Abassids in Baghdad. ... Arab conquest of Spain in early 8th c., allowed Jews of NA to have contact again with Europe by way of Jews of Toledo & Andalusia. 9th, 10th & 11th centuries are the golden age era.
Under the rule of the Aghlabids, 800-909, and their successors, Jews enjoyed prosperity and significant intellectual activity until the invasions by the Almohads in the mid-11th century. 909-1159: Fatimid (in Cairo)& Zirides dynasties.
*Center of Learning - Golden Age of Kairouan community, 10-12th c*
*In 9th c. Aghlabid dynasty rules till Algeria & Libya. Then, Jewish Babylonian sources mention the importance of the flourishing Tunisian Jewish community/center: Kairouan. In 10th c., a new dynasty, Fatimid expelled the Aghlabid and take Kairouan in 909; Mahdia, its capital abt 015.
NS44: The combined factors of general prosperity & official tolerance toward non-Muslims in Fatimid Ifriqiya, 909-969) provided a salubrious climate for the growth & development of a strong & vital Jewish community. The largest concentration of Jews was in Qayawan/Kairouan.
ACp.79-84: It was only natural that the centers of rabbinic learning were established close to the great Moslem universities at Kairouan, Fez & Tlemcem.
Kairouan, the 1st Arab capital of Tunisia, at the edge of the desert, drew many Jewish settlers. From the 8th c. onward, this city, an oasis of palms & shade, sheltered a large community devoted to cultivation of Jewish studies.
NS44: Throughout the greater part of the 10th & 11th centuries, the Jewish community of K was the outstanding major spiritual & intellectual center of Jewry outside Iraq. The sages of K were noted in Hebrew literature for both their religious & secular learning.
NS45: The Jewish community of K. took the greatest pride in the religious scholarship. The city boasted 2 yeshivot.
(Alexander Rosenzweig (AR): The city of Kairouan saw the establishment of the finest academies of learning, on a par with those of Babylon=Kairouan was famous for excellence of its talmudical schools). The city played role of intermediary between the flourishing centers of Jewish learning in the East -Babylon, Palestine & Egypt- and the Jews of the Maghreb. During the Middle Ages, its rabbinical academies were of vital importance for the transfer of Hebrew culture from East to West.
At the end of the 9th c., the rabbis/rabbinical schools of Kairouan were in contact with the geonim of the Talmudic academies in Soura & Poumbedita in Babylon, where the Talmud was developed. The great teachers of the Babylonian universities regarded the Jews of Kairouan with respect because of their combination of sacred & secular knowledge. (PSp.51: We know the names of famous Jewish scholars who lived in the 10th & 11th century, in Kairouan, Ifriqiya).
The Jewish community of Kairouan was no less distinguished for its secular learning.
AR: Jews were at the forefront in secular studies, producing famous scholars. Among the renowned scholars in the 9th & 10th centuries was the physician and neoplatonic Ishaq/Isaac b. Suleyman Israeli, ca. 855-955; he was physician and advisor to the Caliph Ziyadat Allah lAgh (903-909). His Arabic works -treatises on fevers and diets- were translated into Hebrew & Latin in the 16th century; they were studied for centuries in medieval & renaissance Europe, where he was dubbed the eximius monarcha medicinae; they were taught in the universities of Europe under the title of Opera Omnia Isaci Judaei.
Isaacs pupil Abu Sahl Dunash ben Tamim (d. ca. 960), also a physician (to Mansur) and philosopher of note, earned himself a reputation in the field of Hebrew grammar and philosophy (Kabbala); mathematician & astronomer. He published a number of works on astronomy which refuted the assumptions of astrology; he was the author of a commentary on the popular mystical treatise, Sefer Yetsirah (the book of creation), and a treatise on Hebrew grammar (NS; 44; AC:p.81).
*Most outstanding medieval scholars of Kairouan from the Ibn Shahin: Rabbi Jacob ben Nissim ben Josias (d. 1006/7) founded a yeshiva/rabbinical academy,, headed by his son Rabbi Nissim b. Jacob (d. 1062). Both father & son were correspondents of the Babylonian geonim. Rabbi Nissim was probably the greatest of the sages of K. Among his many works are a very important commentary on the Talmud and a book of didactic and entertaining tales entitled The Book of Comfort. (NS:45)
NS45: The Jews of K. organized in community -kahal or jamaa; possessed a strong, hierarchal communal organization that they patterned after that of Baghdad. The recognized head of the Jewish community before the Muslim authorities was usually some distinguished citizen who also served at the court in some capacity. Until the 11th c. this function was probably filled by the official known as the rosh ha-qehillot, or head of the congregations (that is of Fatimid NA). In 1015, leader of Tunisian Jewry, Ibrahim b. Ata, who was court physician to the Zirid governors Badis & al-Muizz, had the illustrious title of Negid ha-Gola (Prince of the Diaspora or nagid) conferred upon him by Hay Gaon in recognition of his outstanding services both to his community & to the Pumbeditha Academy. Title of nagid was borne by the successive heads of Tunisian Jewry thru most 11th c. Bet-din, tribunal; synagogue center of Jewish life.
By the 11th c., Kairouan reached its peak of its glory.
PS46: There were many Jews in Kairouan. They were tailors, artisans, merchants/traders importing silk from Spain, spices from the Orient, and exporting clothes. There was suq al-Yahud -market of the Jews; Jews lived in their own quarter, Hara al-Yehud -quarter of the Jews- or Hara al-Khayber. There were a synagogue, schools and tribunal; religious studies flourished. The same can be said about the many Jews in Mahdiya, which became the capital in 10th c, Sousse (Roman Hadrumete), Sfax, Gabes (in contact with Babylonian academies), Gafsa, al-Hamma, island of Djerba, Tunis -from the 10th c.
PS57: 1057: Beni Hilal conquered Kairouan. Anarchy during more than a century. Kairouan was declared a holy site of Islam and Jews were denied residence there. The exiles moved to the Jewish communities in the coastal cities of Gabes, Djerba, Sousse, Sfax, Mahdia and Tunis. According to oral tradition, Jews couldnt live in Tunis, but in Mellasine, a little village next to the city. Sidi Mahrez: Hara.
AC84-5: From the 8th to the 12th centuries, Babylonian & Palestinian scholarship made possible the renewal of Jewish learning in NA. From the 12th c. till the 14th c. the Jews of the Maghreb withdrew into partial isolation. During this period, they increasingly devoted themselves to a study of the magic practices which had always been part of the Judeo-Berber world. ... The first refugees who arrived from Spain in the 14th century gave a new vitality to Jewish intellectual and spiritual life in the Maghreb. Fall of Byzantium in 1453.
The Best Years in Retrospect
Norman Stillman pp. 61-3: It is no coincidence that the flowering of Jewish culture in the Arab world should occur at the very time that Islamic civilization was at its apogee. Islamic civilization was an amalgam of cultural elements that included Islamic religion, Arabic culture with its strong pre-Islamic roots, Greek humanism, and subtle remnants of the ancient heritage of the Near East. For a few brief centuries, Greek humanism and Islams own universal tendencies combined with a dynamic mercantile economy to produce a relatively open society in which more often than not Muslim and non-Muslims could participate, if not on an entirely equal footing, at least with near equality in spheres not specifically religious, particularly in the market place, in certain scientific & intellectual circles and, to an extent, in the civil service.
The Muslim majority was not overly concerned with enforcing the humility of the dhimmi neighbors. Muslims & non-Muslims lived in close propinquity, thou there were no ghettos at this time. Most Jews & Christians lived in their own quarters near their houses of worship, but those neighborhoods were rarely exclusively Jewish or Christian.
Day-to-day contacts between Muslims & non-Muslims were on the whole amicable. Many examples of Muslims, Christians, & Jews in joint business ventures. Intimate social relationships, however, were rare. Ones religious community was the principle arena for social life & activity. furthermore, there was a tenuousness in the cordiality of interfaith relationships. ... The non-Muslim & his dhimmi status ...The Muslim community sense of propriety could be deeply offended when dhimmi rose too high in government service.
The position of a Jewish community could also become precarious in times of civil strife, or other catastrophes. Times of crises brought popular religious frenzy to its height. The Jews were a small defenseless minority whose status as infidels and humble tribute bearers was defined by Islamic law.
NSp63: Antisemitism, that is, the hatred of Jews qua Jews, did exist in the medieval Arab world even in the period of greatest tolerance. The Jews had a code word for this Judeophobia in their Arabic. It was sinuth, a Hebrew word meaning hatred, but understood as referring to Jew-hatred. ... the problem was more serious in some places than in others. ... at the whim of the ruler, the harshest interpretations of the laws could be strictly enforced. ...
Even in the best of times, dhimmis in all walks of life and at every level of society could suddenly and rudely be reminded of their true status. XEROS p. 63
It would be unfair to overemphasize the insecurity of the Jews of Arab lands during this period, but it would be equally unfair to ignore it. Islamic tolerance was a two-sided coin. For the most part, it was the brighter, more human side that prevailed throughout the Islamic High Middle Ages.
Antisemitism - What's in a Hyphen? by Shmuel Almog
... If you use the hyphenated form, you consider the words 'Semitism', 'Semite', 'Semitic' as
meaningful. They supposedly convey an image of a real substance, of a real group of people--the Semites, who are said to be a race. This is a misnomer: firstly, because 'semitic' or 'aryan' were originally language groups, not people; but mainly because in antisemitic parlance, 'Semites' really stands for Jews, just that. ...
If you do assume for a moment that Semites are a special race, consider also the implication that this so-called race comprises both Jews and Arabs. One often talks of the kinship between these two, who are now at loggerheads with each other. Be that as it may, antisemites talking against 'Semites' do not generally refer to Arabs; they mean Jews. So did the Nazis who killed the Jews and invited cooperation from the Arabs.
It is obvious then that 'anti-Semitism' is a non-term, because it is not directed against so-called 'Semitism'. If there is any substance to the term, it is only to denote a specifically anti-Jewish movement. Antisemitism is a generic term which signifies a singular attitude to a particular group of people. As the late philosopher Zvi Diesendruck pointed out, "There has never been coined a standing term for the merely negative attitude" to any other people in history. Only antisemitism; only against Jews. ... (This article appeared in the SICSA Report: Newsletter of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism)
The Treatment of Jews in Arab/Islamic Countries, By Mitchell Bard
Arabs sometimes claim that, as "Semites," they cannot possibly be anti-Semitic. This, however, is a semantic distortion that ignores the reality of Arab discrimination and hostility toward Jews. Arabs, like any other people, can indeed be anti-Semitic.
The term "anti-Semite" was coined in Germany in 1879 by Wilhelm Marrih to refer to the anti-Jewish manifestations of the period and to give Jew-hatred a more scientific sounding name.(1) "Anti-Semitism" has been accepted and understood to mean hatred of the Jewish people.
While Jewish communities in Arab and Islamic countries fared better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs and Muslim. As Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis has written:
"The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam."(2) ...
Violence Against Jews
At various times, Jews in Muslim lands were able to live in relative peace and thrive culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence and death. Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews.
As distinguished Orientalist G.E. von Grunebaum has written:
It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizeable number of Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic area who have attained to high rank, to power, to great financial influence, to significant and recognized intellectual attainment; and the same could be done for Christians. But it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms.(9)
IV. The Long Twilight
The Jews in the Later Middle Ages
PS63: After the 11th c. invasion, Ifriqiya/Tunisia divided into independent small states/cities.
NS64-5: The spiritual, social, and economic climate of the Muslim world underwent transformation during the course o the 13th century. Crusaders 1098-1291. Most Spain lost to armies of Reconquista. By 1294, only Granada remained under Muslism rule. In the 11th c. tribes from Egypt devastated the country. All of Sicily had submitted to the Normans by close of 11th c. In the 12th c., in 1148, the Sicilian King Roger II arrived & crowned himself King of Africa. Economic decline. Jewish economic decline & social isolation. In 1159, Tunisia conquered by the Almohad caliphs of Morocco. Almohads unify Maghreb and Moslem Andalusia.
A. *The Almohad 1159-1230, Outbreaks against Jews*
MB:Mass murders of Jews in North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities:
AC51: struggles between the Almoravid dynasty and the supplanting Almohads between 1132 and 1145. ... Between 1146 & 1150 the tide of terror rolled eastward as far as Tunisia & Tripolitania. ...
ac52. The Almohad outbreaks & the atrocities committed by the soldiers of Abd al-Mumin left bitter memories. *When the Almohads conquered Tunis, they gave the Jews and the Christians who escaped massacres, the choice of death or conversion. Many Jews converted or fled. Many who stayed behind accepted Islam outwardly, but secretly remained true to Judaism. Difficult trials undergone by Jewish communities of Tunis, Sousse, Mahdia, Sfax, and Djerba.
PS67: in 12th c., Jews who became Muslim had to wear yellow cloth (identifying sign -shila) and turban, to force them to practice Islam).
NS76: Most of the urban Jewish population from Tunisia to Morocco had outwardly professed Islam during the height of Almohad terror. Those communities that resisted were put to the sword. Their memory was immortalized by the Andalusian Jewish poet Abraham ibn. Ezra (1092-1167), in a celebrated lament, summing up the suffering of the Jews of NA - events referred to took place during struggles between Almoravid dynasty and the supplanting Almohads. xeros AC p. AC: 51
... Occasionally, the Jews defended themselves, but the inescapable realities of life in exile ac52. had taught them that it was not always advisable or possible to defend themselves against the pogroms, and that it was often better to bend with the storm and hope that the worst would blow over quickly.
ACp.53: The underlying causes for situation of Jews not only in theological attitudes toward the dhimmi & the political realities of rival rulers & dynasties, but also in the abject misery in which feudalism had plunged the entire population of the region. ... In normal times, the life of the Jews was closely interwoven with that of their Moslem neighbors. The Jews purchased their protection: all, except the rabbis, paid the djezya tax to the sultan; they were subjected to compulsory labor duties; they paid duties & taxes on all their commercial transactions. In addition, they gave generous gifts to the sultans, pashas, caids & lesser notables to assure themselves of their good graces. In wartime, they paid special tribute to support their overlords armies & paid for the guards who protected the mellah.
Under such conditions, pogroms were the means by which a miserable and unhappy populace manifested its ascendancy over the even more unfortunate Jews. ... Lust and envy, rather outbursts of hate, were at the bottom of the most popular outbreaks.
ac54. To paint an idyllic picture of the relations between Jews & Arabs would be false.
B. The Hafsid, 13th -16th century
NSp.67: The Arab world west of Iraq was divided into several feudal military states from the middle of the 13th c. until the Ottoman takeover of the Middle East and much of NA in the 16th c. The Maghreb was divided into 3 principal rival Berber kingdoms. These states corresponded roughly to the modern national divisions of NA, with the Hafsids in Tunisia, the Zayyanids in Algeria, and the Merinids in Morocco.
NS75-6: Mamluks came to power in 1250. The parallels with medieval Christian Europe were even stronger in the Maghreb during this period. NA Jewry was just emerging from a traumatic century of Almohad rule when Mamluk were coming to power in Egypt. ...
77. Maghrebi Jewry emerged from Almohad period spiritually & numerically impoverished. The Jews became the dhimmi par excellence in NA society, for no native Christian population seems to have survived the Almohad persecution.
*The Almohads were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids, 1230-1574, who break away from Almohads, establish new dynasty based in Tunis. In 1230, the governor of Ifriqiya (Tunisia) proclaimed himself amir, founded the Hafsid dynasty and renamed the country Tunisia after the new capital Tunis; the Jews who had been forced to convert were permitted to return to Judaism and live under relatively normal conditions. No explosion of hatred*
Tunisia Under the Deys & the Beys
In 16th c., Turks fought Spaniards for control of North Africa. Jews suffered from battles. When Tunisia conquered by Spaniards in 1535, many Jews sold into slavery throughout the Christian world. During the 40 yrs of Spanish rule Jews were not systematically persecuted.
PS79. In the summer 1574, Spanish army defeated and the ancient Hafsid kingdom became a province of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted until 1922. Under its Turkish governors, the beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. wali, governor, title of pacha, ruled for sultan. Tunisia became more autonome; a dey ruled; then, a bey, chief of army became powerful; revolution done by Murad Bey. In the beginning of the 18th c., Husayn b. Ali founded a new dynasty. The Hussein dynasty of beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957.
Judaism in the Maghreb - The Oriental Component
A. The nature of Maghrebien Judaism
ACp.56-7: That the Jewish communities of NA were able to survive & retain their identity throughout the centuries of degradation to which they were subjected, says much for the power of Maghregbien Judaism to which they clung so tenaciously. ...
Essence of Maghregbien Judaism lay in its diversity ...composed of heterogeneous elements ... the natural products of the historical events which took place in NA. The basic biblical-Phoenician ingredient was interwoven with Berber tradition, this synthesis later modified by Arab culture into predominantly Oriental characteristics. This was overlaid with the powerful influence of the Spanish & Italian refugees who reached the shores of NA during the 14th & 15th centuries, and finally there were the effects of the modern Western civilization introduced by the French.
This sedimentation of history & cultures, which occurred nowhere but in NA, went beyond national borders ... Jewish communities were alike in showing the predominant cultural influences of the biblical & Oriental past ... Tunis, Sfax & Kairouan in Tunisia all also showed strong Spanish or Italian influences. ... mystical & cabalistic practices deeply affected many aspects of Jewish life.
AC57: The isolated communities in small towns ... in southern Tunisia & in particular on the island of Djerba provide us with the best source of information regarding Jewish life in NA before arrival of Spanish refugees. ... Towns breathed atmosphere of the Orient, with their narrow alley, low houses & crude bazaars that had changed little since biblical times. ... one can trace the Hebrew, Berber, Oriental and Arab influences which shaped the character of Maghregbien Judaism.
The Life in the Jewish Communities
Religious Communal Identity. Jews were allowed to practice their faith, with rabbis as leaders of their autonomous communal institutions; they enjoyed extensive communal autonomy, because the state did not care what they did so long as they paid their taxes, kept the peace, and remain in their place (NS39).
PS90: Following the Ottoman conquest, Tunisian Jews went on being subject to the status of dhimmi -obligations until 19th c. They had to pay the jezya, customs taxes. Great punishment if no respect to Islam.
+In most periods, Jews were allowed to observe their religious duties & educate their children in their own religious schools. ...+
PS71-73. We know more about the life of Jewish communities from the 15th century.
Jews have the right to freely practice their religion. But, in exchange for protection, the people called al-dhimma had to pay a special tax, and be subjected to a number of discriminations to humiliate them. ... Like they did it in the past, and like they will do it until the 19th c., Jews had to pay the headpoll tax -jezya.
B. The Synagogue
ACp.58: Synagogue was pivot of Jewish community. ... rich & poor ... this was not only a religious, but also a sociological manifestation of a group that existed by virtue of its religious traditions. At dawn men congregated for the hour-long morning prayers; smaller number attend afternoon service ... in shop for Minchah ... At sunset the whole community would gather at synagogue for the Arbvit lasted half and hour.
On Sabbath & festival services were longer; Yom Kippur: the entire congregation spent whole day praying, fasting & repenting.
On feast & holidays men enveloped in sumptuous white burnous. Hebrew prayers pronounced with strongly articulated gutturals but the chants closely resembled those of Gregorian form used in the 10th c. Setting plain resembling a mosque; air of devoted prayer combined with a surprisingly relaxed attitude of familiarity in presence of Divine.
NS92. Prohibition against synagogue construction & repair strictly enforced.
Restriction on synagogue circumvented by establishing conventicles in private homes. This is the reason for so many of the small synagogues in the Arab world to this day being named after individual families (Karila). If denounced these makeshift meeting rooms could be closed, confiscated unless sufficient bribes were paid. This state of affairs continued well into the 19th c. most typical & consistent forms of harassment endured by Jews in Ottoman Empire and, in fact, in all Muslim lands.
Follow Judaism & Mosaic law. Shabbat. Holy days. pleureuses profession. veilleuses.
Strong ties to Holy Land. pilgrims. Visits of rabbis to Tunisia to collect funds.
C. The Bible & the Talmud
ACp.59-60: For the Jews of NA, down to practically modern times, the sources of their religion, their literature & their culture were ever close. Palestine had always remained a tangible neighbor known to all through the account of scholars, pilgrims & travelers who, en route to and from Babylon & Spain, passed through the Maghreb. The Talmud had penetrated to NA at a very early date. It had been accepted and studied as a living reality under conditions close to those of the times & regions in which it had originated. ... no attitude of stiffness & reverence in relation to Talmud that was found elsewhere ... A child in NA could picture Abraham riding to Mt Moriah on donkey-back; Hillel & Rabbi Gamliel teaching their disciples were compared with the rabbi of the village; the oppression by the Egyptians was compared with the exactions of the Moslem overlords ... For North African Jewry, there was no sharp break between the ancient Jewish heritage & the Jewish tradition of the time.
... deep love of Talmud ... rabbis & scholars familiar with it. .. some renowned
Talmudic study not an academic pastime but a vital function, part of traditional Jewish society. ... The Word of God determined down to the smallest detail every part of the daily life. ... But ... there was never in NA a type of Judaism which might be singled out as orthodox. ... The Judaism of the most conservative of the Maghrebs Jews was marked by flexibility, hospitality, tolerance ... no sectarian disputes & regimentation
D. The Rabbi & the Rabbinical Court
The Jewish communal organizational apparatus underwent profound changes in the period following Muslim rule in North Africa. The Jews were granted administrative autonomy over institutions, including the rabbinic tribunals that deliberated over crucial judicial matters, with the exception of cases involving legal disputes between Jews and Muslims, in which case the Sharis courts took charge.
ACp.61-4: Each Jewish community headed by a chief rabbi who served as spiritual guide and presided over the synagogues and rabbinic court; spiritual authority exercised in form of preaching, teaching Judaism, Talmud, theology in the yeshiva or rabbinical school where he trained his disciples. In some case, the rabbinate was hereditary. Rabbi distinguished by his learning & his saintliness. took part in major ceremonies of religious life, shared sorrow & joys of his congregageants at births, marriages, at sickness & death. rabbis were teachers rather than priests. rabbi meaning master was more an honoric title. The prominent lay notables, whose power was partly determined by the degree of their wealth were assembled in councils composed of 7 to 11 members elected by the communities.1
Around rabbi other functionaries: the cantor, known as shaliach tsibur (delegate of the public) who lead congregation in prayer; the shammash (sexton) charged with minor duties in administration of ritual; teachers of Hebrew who instructed children; the shohatim (ritual slaughterers) in accordance with traditional Jewish precepts; bodkim (examiners) health of the cattle after slaughter; the mohalim who circumcised male infants on 8th day.
Anyone who fulfilled any of these duties might call himself a rabbi; in many cases, the rabbi was teacher, preacher, cantor, scribe & slaughterer at same time. instruction in yeshiva prepared him for all these functions. versatile rabbi ... knew by heart Bible, study & taught Talmud, Cabala. Faith rather than intellect was the fashioner of their thought.
Each Jewish community had a rabbinical court. internal autonomy of Jews had been a feature of the 1st Jewish communities ever established in NA & advent of Islam did not change the rights or autonomy of the Jewish courts, which regulated all matters of personal status, marriage, divorce, inheritance, civil disputes, business transactions, debts ...
The Jews of Ifriqiya (Tunisia), 10th-11th century
PSp.51: The Jewish community was administered by a council of notables under the authority of a chief with the title of rays al-Yahud, in Arabic (head of the Jews), or of nagid, in Hebrew. Each community had a dayyan, rabbi-judge.
*Oriental Jews. Quite embedded in Arab culture, Tunisian Jews spoke Judeo-Arabic (a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic & Aramaic written in Hebrew letters). Most of them were poor, and lived in ghettos/hara. They were artisans, i.e., tailors and peddlers. In 1878, the Alliance Israelite Universelle founded its first school offering a combined French and Jewish education. French influence expanded during the French Protectorate from 1881.
PSp.45: Following the Arab conquest, cultural mutation of the Jews who adopted the Arabic language instead of Berber, Phoenician or Latin; arabization was accelerated with the arrival of Jews from the Orient. ...
ACp.64: Aramaic that Jews of 20 centuries earlier had spoken was largely replaced in the Maghreb by a language equally semitic in form, the Judeo-Arabi vernacular. ... centuries of living & daily contact with an Arabic-speaking population had caused the Jews to adopt & adapt the prevailing language ... The language spoken by Jews evolved from Arabic with many borrowing from biblical Hebrew, especially for terms connected with religion or with intellectual life.
PSp121: Jews wrote the language they spoke, not in Arabic letters, because Arabic study was forbidden to them, using the Hebrew alphabet.
According to survey by late Chief Rabbi Maurice Eisenbeth in 1936, almost half the surnames of Jews in Maghreb were of Arabic or Berber origin. First names too were most often in Arabic, despite rapid inroads of French. There were Yahya, Makluf, Khalifa, Khalfon, Mesod, Sadun, Saadia, Mimun, Huitu for men, & for women Kemmra, Aziza, Messuda, Aysha. Some of these names endowed with magical significance supposed to extend protection to their bearers: thus, Khmiss meaning five which stood for the protecting hand; Huitu meaning fish ...
AC65: The manner of dress retained down to modern times by Jews of south Morocco & southern Tunisia who had remained largely free of Spanish & French influences, is indicative of their Oriental heritage. (Men wore a jellaba, similar to that worn by Moslem town dwellers, in black for older persons, in white for others.) ...
ps90. Like Moslems, Jewish men wore sarwal, jubba, burnus. But the Moslem had a red cheshia wrapped with white turban; Jews must wear black hat/bonnet with dark color turban -purple, dark blue or black. The Jews from Livorno wore European outfit, wig & round hat.
PS122: Men wore the pants bouffant, sarawal, a large belt, shamla, a shirt with long sleeves, suriya, sweater that close, sedriya, vest without sleev, farmla, or a vest with sleeves, mantan, and above it a lont tunique, jubba or a kind of coat with hood, burnus. They wore the slippers/babouches, the belgha, and a red hat, sheshia covered with a black or dark blue turban, kahta. ... children dressed in a blusa.
ac66. Clothes of women colorful; they wore pan talon ample ou collant, sarwal, a chemise with long sleeves, suriya, bolero, farmla, shot tunique, jubba, and when they went out, they wrapped themselves with a big piece of cotton of silk, sefsari; they covered their head with a cotton handkerchief, taqrita or hat, qufiyya ... futa ... kab-kab ... They wore close shoes, bashmaq or mules, tmaq. Like the Moslem women, they made their eyes bigger with kohol, colored their hair with henne; necklace, rihana, bracelets, mqays, bracelets on foot, khalkhal. Unlike the Moslem, no veil, just hide face a little bit. tended to be plumped
Jews must distinguish themselves from the Moslems by their costume. The caliph al-Mustansir, in 1250, demanded that Jews wear a distinctif sign called shikla. At the end of the 15th c., Jews had to wear a different costume than the Moslems; among other things, they had to wear, on their head or around their neck -turban or scarf- a piece of yellow cloth.
NS92-: Law of differentiation reinstated to mark the dhimmis essential otherness. Murad III, 1574-95, 1st sultan to reintroduce sumptuary restrictions long ignored. He forbade the wearing of silk by dhimmis, & ordered them to wear a special high, conical hat, or boneta, rather than the turban.
G. The Hara
AC122. By virtue of their status as dhimmis, Jews of NA had been forced to live in special quarters outside the pale of Moslem society almost from the outset of the Arab conquest. In Tunisia, these quarters were known as the hara, Arab word for quarter which was used instead of the original Harat el Yhud, the Quarter of the Jews.Mellah in Morocco: buildings packed against each other; narrow alleys; misery; windowless houses; poor construction; rot & decay; but doors always open for traveler.
PS69: 15th c. We know much about the Jewish community of Tunis. The Jews lived inside the walls of the city, in the ancient hara - hara al-Yahud=shekhunat ha-Yehudim. It is probable that there were Jewish communities: in the north -in Bizerte, Beja, Le Kef; in the center -in Sousse, Mahdiya, Sfax; in the south, in Gafsa, Gabes, El-Hamma, and in the island of Djerba.
ac122. The hara in Tunisia was a city within a city; no 2 were alike; certain common traits allow to paint a general picture of the condition under which the majority of Jews in NA lived both prior to and to some extent following arrival of French.
AC125. In Tunis, the immense hara sprawled under the white domes of the Mosque of Sidi Mehrez; in Sousse, Sfax, Gabes, same warren streets, insanitary conditions, same decay. Few smaller details showed that Tunisia was in some ways more privileges: walls usually whitewashed, buildings better constructed, rooms larger; however, unpaved streets full of excrement. Streets of hara hummed with activity: traders, craftsmen ...
Their houses/buildings should not be higher than those of the Moslems; their synagogue should be humble and not high. Thats why the great synagogue of the hara in Tunis, built at the end of the Middle Ages, is below the level of the street. According to Adorne, Jews were hated & scorned. Jews enjoyed some kind of autonomy.
ps123. Family Jewish life in same site as Moslem family. Rich had big house with many rooms opening in a court; rich carpets. House of the poor is one room with men, women, children. All in the old quarter. The Livornese who came in the 19th c. lived in European quarters. Touansa rich also. lived like European.
ac125. In south T. civilization of troglodytes near Matmata. No hara; Jews like Berbers lived in caves.
Island of Djerba also special exception. Important Jewish community close to 5000 souls lived in 2 villages; preserved its old traditions almost untouched by either Moslem or European influences. The 2 villages, Hara Kbira & Hara Shgira, struck visitors by their freshness & cleanliness; less misery.
H. Popular Customs, Superstitions & Occult Practices
AC67: Jews of Maghreb, dwelling in close proximity to their Moslem neighbors and sharing same hardships, lived and traded in an intimacy that permitted a complete interchange of folkway, customs & manners. ... polygamy was practiced among the Jews as it was among the Moslems. Jewish woman suffered from severe discrimination near servitude. ...
Like their Moslem neighbors, Jews given to practice of witchcraft & superstition ... rabbis powerless to control these manifestations of ideas that had grown out of the centuries-long interaction of Berber, Jewish & Arab credulity & superstition. ... intermixed ... origin of practice could seldom be determined. ... all superstitions were shared equally. All believed alike in the evil eye (ayn hara in Hebrew) -responsible for sickness & unhappiness; against evil eye, one spread the hand forward, put it on walls of house, in a jewel form. They believed in the djnun (demons), in the ubeyta who died a violent death, in efficacy of talisman & in all the protective devices against the occult powers such as ritual phrases that included the mention of Gods name, of fishes, of the protective hand & the figure 5 and all its multiples that signified the same.
Special ornaments worn to repel djnun. necklace of cloves possess power of protection. color scarves, incense, flowers protect against djnun. Moslem witchdoctor called upon to dispense love portions & invocations, spells, to tell fortunes. All these magic symbols, rites, talismans, devout prayers, symbolized the magic & mysticism.
Superstition was not removed from magic and witchcraft.
Berber-Negroid magic rite practiced by Jews in Tunis. ... Rabaybiya ceremony of Stambali ... kanun (brazier) with aromatic herbs ...
Health, Sanitation & Popular Medical Practice
ac127. State of health & hygiene among Jews of NA the result of long history of poverty, inadequate means & belief in the occult powers -all of them conditions shared by the Jews with their Moslem neighbors. .. epidemics, tuberculosis, & infectious disease ravaged the Maghreb ... infant mortality... no personal hygiene ... wealthy visit the hammam (Turkish bath) ... absence of vegetables ... highly spiced meats washed down with bokha (brandy -distilled from dates+figs)
ac128. Medicine in NA more concerned with magic than with science. Jews & Moslems shared a common popular system of pseudo-medical beliefs & superstitions for the diagnosis & cure of disease. Books written in Judeo-Arabic dialect. Sickness was a sign of Gods displeasure; God allowed the djnun to inflict their punishments.
ac129. A whole arsenal of counter-spells & practices offered protection against the djnun & the evil eye. The figure 5 was considered a sovereign remedy & the number would be slipped incongruously into any conversation. Good-luck charms in form of a hand or a fish were painted in exteriors & interiors of houses. Preventive medicine in NA popular practice took the form of talismans from a marabout or a rabbi. Each talisman invested with special powers -one against the evil eye, against curses, djnun. Garlic considered to have special protective & curative powers.
ac130. When pious ritual magic formulae failed, recourse was to healers, sorcerers, fortune-tellers (deguezha); Moslem or Jewish; all that mattered was the ability of, & power attributed to, those healers who were believed to be endowed with divine inspiration. Those in search of cures flocked alike to marabout, dervish, muadeb, rabbis ... Muslims, Christians frequented the Jewish healers. this situation persisted right down in recent times, & miracle men consulted when doctors failed.
Popular medicine strange mixture of traditional folk remedies based on plants -olive oil widely used in cures- & magic cures.
I. Veneration of Saints
AC76: Ardor of faith expressed in veneration of saints, a peculiarly NA characteristic. ... important element of Judaism in NA. adoption of Moslem custom
Jews venerated tombs of illustrious rabbis of the city; in Testour, it was the tomb of Rabbi Fragi Shuar,; at El Hamma, Rabbi Joseph Alfasi. In Djerba the main synagogues, the Ghriba, was also venerated, its foundations, according to legend, dating back to the Exile of the Jews following destruction of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem.
Saints not buried in NA also greatly venerated. most important were the fathers of the Cabala, Rabbi Simon bar Yochai & Rabbi Meir, both Palestinians of the 2nd century.
When an infant fell, a wish formulated, a foot slipped, a minor accident survived, someone startled, an invocation was automatically made to the saint of ones choice. O! Rabbi Simon! or O! Rabbi Meir! person would call out in his fear or in his hope much as a Moslem might evoke name of Allah or a Catholic the name of Jesus or Mary.
Offerings to saints made in form of candles or oil lamps lit in front of tombs/in synagogue
Definite rites connected with pilgrimages to tomb of venerated saint. from long distance kiss tomb psalms recited ... Hilula ... on anniversary of death of saint. ... Rabbi Simon bar Yochai 33 day of Omer (May) ... ecstatic excitement ... miraculous cures
Judaism in the Maghreb: The Spanish Component
The expulsion from Spain
PS74: At the end of the 15th c., the expulsion of the Jews from Spain -170,000 families, in 1492, followed by expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1496, forced the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula to convert -or to pretend to convert- or to emigrate.
ML (Michael Laskier): The Jews were reinforced in 1492 by the megorashim (the ones expelled) from Spain and Portugal.
ACp.86-91: One of the greatest event in the history of the Jews of NA was the arrival & addition to Jewish communities of Maghreb, 10 of 1000s of Jews expelled from Spain -1492 & Portugal -1498, in 14th & 15th centuries. enriched NA Jewish life. Spanish influence predated expulsion. close ties in commerce & learning under unifying force of Islam. Ritual, chants, liturgy & traditions of Jews in various Moslem countries were very similar, especially in case of NA & Spain. Students from Maghreb attended great yeshivot of Spain, & great Spanish scholars, among them, Maimonides, visited NA & taught in its academies.
PS74. The Moslem countries welcomed many Jewish refugees who went to live among the Jewish communities in NA.
Sultan viewed new arrivals with approval. polished, wealthier, better educated, newcomers welcomed by Moslems. Few moved to Tunisia; founded communities of their own in Tunis, Sfax, Sousse, Djerba; they assimilated with native Jews. The Sephardim, wearers of the berets took to wearing the turban.
PS74. In Tunis, Abraham Zacuto finished his Sefer Yuhasin, Book of Genealogy.
The Spanish Jews in North Africa
ac89. Sephardic (Spanish) Jews brought their language, customs, culture & memory of poets, philosophers - their rich spiritual heritage. had profound influence.
ac91. Many families bore surnames indicative of their Spanish or Portuguese ancestry. very common for Jews to have Spanish first names: Bella, Perla, Fortuna, Reina, Allegra were very common.
Immigration of Jews from Livorno
PS80-1. Few Jews from Spain went to Tunisia. But after the Ottoman conquest, 16th c., many Jews from the Iberia Peninsula, whose ancestors first moved to Livorno, Italy, moved to Tunisia . *In the 17th c., beginning in the late 1600's, a large number of Jews from Livorne, settled in Tunis where they were known as the "Grana" (Livorne, Livornais, Leghorn in Arabic: Gorni, pl., Grana) along with other foreign Jews.* These newcomers played an important role in Tunisia and in the history of Tunisian Judaism.
The Jews of Livorno had already had commercial ties with Algeria and Tunisia, where they created branches there. From commercial documents we have a list of family names such as: Attias, boccara, Campos, Castro, De Paz, Franco dAlmeida, Gabison, Gomez, Lopez, Lumbroso, Nahmias, Valensi -many former marranos. They spoke Italian & Arabic.
Friction between Toshabim & Megurashim
*The relationship between the Grana and the "Touansa" (Jewish natives of Tunisia) were quite hostile.* During Ottoman rule, the community also split due to strong cultural differences between the Touansa (native Tunisians) and the Grana (those adhering to Spanish or Italian customs).
AC92-5. Deep misunderstanding between the 2 groups in Tunisia led to dispute. Split known as the Schism of the Grana: The native Jews, Touansa, seated the exiled newcomers in special parts of the synagogue. The Livornese broke away to form an autonomous community, called Grana. Veritable war broke out between the 2 Jewish communities. Grana looked with derision upon the Touansa (Tunisians) who were referred to asthe Turks with the black cap and the violet turban. The Touansa pressured Bey to expel these false Jews. Grana, expelled outside the Holy City of the throne, founded a new town at what is now the village of Melassine. more active in commerce; set up market, the Souk el Grana, now the main artery of Old Tunis; set up 3 synagogues & 2 prayer houses in the middle of what was then the Christian Quarter.
Prosperity of Grana incited further rancor. On 7th of Av, 5501 (1741), the Jews of Tunis, the capital, split into 2 separate communities: the rabbis of the 2 communities signed agreement according to which the division between the 2 communities was clearly defined. All Jews whose ancestors had originated in Moslem countries were declared members of the Touansa community; all those whose ancestors had come from Christian lands were declared members of the Grana community; it also decided on which side of a separating wall in Jewish cemetery the dead would be buried (wall breached after end World War I when a joint war monument was erected on the border between the 2 sections).
RA. Origins of schism was in differences in customs -liturgy, different psalms, death & prayer ritual differed, culture and economic status. The Touansa were essentially of the poorer strata and the Grana were primarily of the educated families and prosperous merchants. The 2 communities decided to establish separated institutions -synagogues, schools, slaughterhouses, rabbinical courts, charities & cemeteries. The schism did not spread to the other Jewish communities.
Touansa, subject to status of dhimmis compelled to wear a black skullcap without tassel; only Grana permitted to wear hats. 1832, Bey Muhammad had administered the bastinado to some Jews who had not worn the black cap; but one was British. strong protest. British squadron; Bey back down. As a result, all Jews of foreign nationality allowed to dress as they pleased.
During the 18th & 19th c., Grana & Touansa lived side by side without merging. separated by their different modes of life & ways of thought and by their traditions absorbed from the Christian and the Moslem milieu respectively.
The 2 communities fuse in last years of 19th c. under French influence & intermingling of youth in schools of Alliance Israelite Universelle. 1899: French decree marking official unification of communities with a single Chief Rabbinate for whole country, single rabbinical court, slaughterhouse. A decree of 1944 completed the unification of the Grana and the Touansa.
The Jewish community
PS82-The most important was in Tunis, where the Jews, 15,000, lived in their own quarter, hara, inside the walls of the medina; there, also lived the Jews from Livorne. There were communities in Bizerte, Mateur, Beja, Testour, Le Kef, Nabeul, in the center -in Sousse, Mahdiya, Sfax, Monastir; in the south, in Gafsa, Gabes, El-Hamma, Nefta and in the island of Djerba.
ns90-1. 16th c.: Sulayman the Magnificent. The prosperity and relative security of the 16th c. was enjoyed by Jews in most of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In each province, Jews lived their own independent communal life.
The communities themselves were subdivided according to ethnic groups that included Mustarabim (or Moriscos), as the native Arabic-speaking Jews were called, Sefardim, Maghrebis, Italians, and, in some places, Ashkenazim. No conscious general policy toward Jews. ad hoc & liberal. With exception of enforcing the jizya, there was little that was traditionally Islamic in the early Ottoman treatment of dhimmis.
Every community was an autonomous entity, headed by a chief, called in Hebrew zaken ha-yehudim, and in Arabic, shaykh al-yahud, appointed by the Moslem ruler; represented the Jews to the state. He was helped by a council of notables, gedolei ha-qahal, who were from the educated and rich Jewish families. Taxes from the head of the Jewish families helped sustain the community: the synagogue -place to pray, meet & school, the rabbinical tribunal (for personal matter & issues between Jews), education at all levels, help for the poor and sick, and the dead.
RA. In 17 & 18th c., Jews were subjected to prohibitions and discriminations. They were required to wear a black fez to distinguish them from the Moslems, whose hats were red, and they were forced into humiliating public work. Nevertheless, as in the past, they were allowed to maintain their community organization and practice their faith.
PS95. Tunisian Jews enjoyed freedom of religion and communal autonomy. We know the most on the institutions of the capital. chief with responsibilities of caid of the Jews; responsible for the jezya; administered the community with help of notables. Tax on meat, donations helped the community & its bet din -rabbinical tribunal. great rabbi; synagogue, schools, cemetery. Council of notables; secular leader: nasi, prince, and religious leader -great rabbi, hakham, sage.
PS102. Despite the diversity of their origin, all the Jews in Tunisia, Livornais & Twansa were subjects of the Bey. We may guess that the Jews were aware of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 27, Sept. 1791, Napoleon Decree in 1808, and the emancipation of the Jews following the revolution, in France. We understand their sympathy toward France.
Contribution of Spanish Jews to Intellectual life in the Maghreb
AC102: infusion of Spanish refugees brought with it great outpourings of Jewish thought whose mainstream was in Europe. They introduced the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Shulchan Aruch of Joseph Caro, Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed, the Kuzari of Judah Halevi. Poetry of the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry another gift to Maghreb. this contribution of the Sephardim to NA Jewry enabled Jews of Maghreb to participate to the full in the cultural awakening of the 20th century.
PS98.From 11 & 16th c: Knowledge of Hebrew, Bible & Talmud. In 17th c. connections between Tunis Jewish scholars and those in Livorno, that spread its books in Tunis.
RA. In several communities, but especially in Tunis, Talmud study was encouraged and, in the 18th c., it gained great momentum. 18th & 19th c. Tunis, center of Talmudic studies. In 1772, the emissary of Eretz-Israel, Rabbi Hayyim Yoseph David Azulai (HIDA) of Livorno, visited Tunisia; in his diaries praised erudition of the rabbis of Tunis -reported that Tunis had over 300 rabbis & sages. Hundred rabbinical works were published in the 18th & 19th c.
AC104: Jews maintained closer links with outside world. Influence of arrivals from Spain & Italy and the bonds that these still maintained with their coreligionists in their former homes. From 16th to 19th centuries, there was the continuous connection with the talmudical schools of Palestine & Jewish communities thru the world maintained by the Haham kollel. Jews came increasingly to resent the restrictions and discriminations imposed upon them by feudal states & by a population that subjected them to indignity & suppression.
ac104. Spain center of Cabala from 13th c. Cabalistic tradition attributed by Spanish to Rabbi Simon bar Yochai, disciple of Rabbi Akiba & Rabbi Meir, both 2nd c. rabbis. Sefer ha Zohar
The Haham Kollel, rabbi & initiate of the cabala, from 15th c., made round of Jewish communities, collect donations for support of schools in Holy Land, & propagate the Cabala, teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, & through him the flame of messianic hope kept alive. In synagogues, the 3 daily services of prayer were still preceded, until modern times, by a reading of certain sections of the Zohar. Many fraternity of the Zohar, Chevra, paid by the community to read/chanted the Zohar -venerated as the scrolls of the Torah- 24 hrs a day.
Devotees use Zohar as remedy for ills; under pillow of sick patient, under bed barren woman. They also employed talismans & amulets inspired by Cabala. Certain symbolic designs reinforced the efficacy of the amulets: fish, symbol of fertility & honor among early Phoenicians, was one of them, and so was what is erroneously referred to as the Hand of Fatima, a protective symbol dating back to timeless antiquity (in certain civilizations, the hand is that of a goddess who is shown weeping at the suffering of the world. Her tears fall on her breasts where they become milk and whence they flow to the earth, making it fertile). Both symbols had been incorporated into cabalistic tradition. ... talisman for newborn ... walls of room where child born covered by formulae from the Zohar. No opposition to Cabala. Sight of chanters of Zohar sitting in dimness of their synagogues, was highly symbolic of the Jewry of the Maghreb.
The Jews of Ifriqiya (Tunisia), 10th-11th century. PSp.47: This renown study, the Genizah of Cairo, documents economic conditions of the Jews in Moslem countries. The study indicates that, at times, Egyptian/Tunisian Jews formed a merchant class that prospered. The Fatimids, in 11th c., showed relatively more tolerance toward their dhimmi subjects than had most Islamic rulers.
NS43. Fatimids didnt impose the discriminatory tariffs for dhimmis; employed non-believers in the civil service. Jewish merchants prospered in the generally liberal economic atmosphere. NA businessmen dominated trade of the Islamic Mediterranean area, and assumed leading role in the trade with India as well. They settled in Egypt, while having offices in Ifriqiya.
Trade with Marocco, Africa, Egypt, Spain, Sicily. They exported olive oil, almonds, safran henne, leather, wool, honey, mostly linen, cloth; they imported silk, indigo, black pepper, cinamon, perfumes, copper, gold, silver, pearls. There was a network of Jewish families merchants. cloth dyers.
NS43: The Jews of Ifriqiya had prospered during the 60 years of Fatimid occupation.
... for the most part, Jews in Moslem countries were poor. They worked as peddlers or artisans, i.e., cobblers, tailors, and dyers of cloth. Others served the religious community as rabbis or teachers in heder. ... Outside the cities, Jews were farmers -grapes.
The Hafsid, 13th -16th century. PS70. Some Jews were farmers. Most lived in the cities and were artisans and merchants/traders; some dealt with precious metal; others with jobs reflected by their last names: tailors (khayat), cloth coloring (sabbagh), furniture makers (najjar), forgeron (haddad), ciseleur (naqqash), savonnier (sabban). Commerce de detail; peddler; export/import; money lenders. Because they knew foreign languages, they were translators.
Under Ottoman rule, in 16th c., Jews played an important role in foreign, because of their commercial relations with Europe trade. Jews continued to work in various arts and crafts: goldsmiths, jewelers, tailors, launderers, shoemakers, carpenters. Since rulers trusted Jews, they frequently called on them to serve in various governmental functions; thus, for example, Jews were in charge of minting money.
17th c: Spanish & Portuguese Jews who lived in Livorno, Italy, maintained commercial relations with Tunisia and later even moved there and established roots.
PS84-7. In 17th & 18th c. Jews played an important role in economy. Jews of Livorno controlled trade with Livorno. bankers, artisans. goldsmiths. peddlers. tailors. moneylenders. samsar -courtiers. leather. shoemakers.
NS93. Dhimmi were still predominant in the reprehensible professions such as money lending, moneychanging, tax farming, and collecting customs duties. but, as in earlier periods, these people represented only a small fraction of the total dhimmi population, and were the dominant elite in their respective communities. At the end of 18th c., Hamuda Bey denied them the right to buy or own real estate.
ACp.131-33: In the 19th century, under Moslem domination, the Jew had not only to try to earn enough to keep alive, he had also to provide sufficient to purchase his right to live from the Moslem prince. economic role of Jew to do that which the Moslems would not, or could not, do. Jews not allowed to own land. choice of being either traders or craftsmen.
Social ladder short, inequalities: at one-end mass of miserable beings who toiled to keep starvation at bay, lived from charity; then a class of traders & of ingenious workmen - middle class of small merchants, artisans, tailors, dressmakers, shoemakers, clock makers .... farmers in Nabeul; ps115. many Jews worked in suq al-Grana & suq al-Bey.
. Army of Jewish peddlers acted as intermediaries between Jewish importers & wholesalers, & Moslem consumers ... peddlers trotted everywhere with his donkey bringing cottons, silks, needles, thread, hardware, glass, jewelry ... Jews practiced art of being indispensable ... Jewish spirit directed outside its misery into the future.
At top lived the class of wealthier dealers, bankers, only a few of whom rose to riches; most of them Italian Livornese; imported marble from Italy, silk from France, export of cereals ... when Jews amassed a fortune, act as bankers for Moslems ... charged usurious rates. At end of 19th c. perhaps 3 wealthy families.
ps.114. Jews played important role in urban activities. foreign commerce by foreign Jews.
NS2.5-6. a very small prosperous minority whose wealth & connection frequently protected it from the more inconvenient implications of its dhimmi-hood. ... they were goldsmith, silversmith, moneylenders, taxfarming & collecting customs duties. Some of dhimmi elite also acted as intermediaries between European commercial interests & the local population - samsar. ... court Jews were business agents ... dhimmi knew foreign languages. The Grana, Livornese Jews of Tunisia spoke Italian. Throughout the Maghreb, native consular agents, vice consuls, were invariably Jews. Thus, even as the century of European interest in the Islamic world was beginning, there were already significant ties with at least some elements of the native Christians & Jewish communities.
Education - basic Jewish education
AC132: Old type of Jewish school corresponding somewhat to the cheder of Eastern Europe indicates type of education available to Jewish youngsters before advent of French. In early 19th c., like in the past, there was 3 cycles of studies. The 1st cycle was in the frame of talmud-torah, where Jewish boy were taught to read Hebrew characters to be able to pray. Schools called Beit Midrash (House of Study) & Sla (House of Prayer) or by Arabic name for school, kutab. school in little room ... ragged children on stone benches that run around the walls ... listening attentively to voice & stick of their teachers, countless generations had carried out the biblical commandment: an thou shall teach them (these words) diligently unto thy children ... (Deut. I, 7). (In the area of education, in the smallest villages ... fathers taught their sons their prayers by heart ... In larger communities, there were Jewish schools (called the kuttab or ustad in Arabic-speaking countries and meldar in Ladino-speaking communities). ...
In the 2nd cycle, also in the frame of the talmud-torah, pupils learned the 5 books of the Bible -the weekly portion of the Torah, portion of the Prophets, explained tothem in Judeo-Arabic. Text recited in chorus to an Oriental chant to make memorization easier. teacher translated texts into Judeo-Arabic. At 13, boy ready for Bar Mitzvah when he put the phylacteries for 1st time. The 3rd cycle was in the yeshiva, where the ablest students studied the Mishnah and Gemarah, to reach a deeper understanding of the Talmud (minority of the boys continued their studies in yeshivot (rabbinical schools) and became rabbis or served their communities as ritual slaughterers and ministers in synagogues). Most Jewish women remained illiterate ...
The Jews as an Elite
ac136. Unlike that of their European coreligionists, the right of the Jews of NA to their lives & possessions was legally protected by the Charter of Omar, statute at times abused. Internal autonomy of the Jews was likewise legally recognized, thus enabling the communities to establish and maintain a solid communal structure. All men literate in Hebrew & some elements of Jewish culture; 98% of Moslems illiterate; Moslems regarded despised dhimmis as a cultural elite.
1 laskier, p. 12-13