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Especially in the Sixteenth and 
Seventeenth Centuries 



F.Z.S., F.R.C.I., ETC. 

Author of 

Mendelssohn's South African Bibliography, The Jews of Asia, 

Jewish Pioneers of South Africa, etc. 

With a Portrait of the Author ^ 





SIDNEY MENDELSSOHN died in London after 
an illness of some months' duration on Septem- 
ber 26th, 19 17. He had retired from business, 
that of a diamond merchant in South Africa, 
about twelve years earlier, and had come to England, 
there to devote his leisure to reading, to pubHc work, 
and above all to the collection of his magnificent library 
of works on South Africa and the compilation of his 
priceless bibliography based on that collection. 

Sidney Mendelssohn was born at Bristol, the son 
of the minister of the not very numerous Jewish 
community there. The community being small the 
means of the minister were not large. However, the 
care of Jewish parents for the education of their 
children is proverbial, and this devotion to education 
which is so general among Jews is, not surprisingly, 
even more strongly developed among the class to which 
the parents of the subject of this memoir belonged. 
Young Mendelssohn therefore had the best education 
that it was within the means of his parents to give him, 
and in this connection it must be remembered that his 
father was a scholar and was therefore able to supple- 
ment the instruction which the boy received at school. 
However, in view of his financial resources he was 
unable to keep the boy at school as long as he would 
have wished or to send him to a university, and in 
those days scholarships tenable at a university for 
which boys such as Mendelssohn were eligible were very 

Memoir of Author 

few and far between, and consequently the boy, like 
so many of his class and of his day, had to go out early 
into the world, there to make a way for himself. 

When he was still little more than a boy his father 
went to South Africa, leaving his wife, two daughters, 
and two younger sons to the care of the subject of this 
memoir. Sidney Mendelssohn thereupon undertook as 
much of the work of his father as he could perform. 
He used to spend hours when other boys of his age were 
asleep or engaged in recreation in preparing the 
subjects he had to teach to his pupils on the following 
day. In due course the boy and the other members of 
the family followed the father to South Africa. Kim- 
berley was then the El Dorado of British Jewry and it 
was to Kimberley that young Mendelssohn betook 
himself. In South Africa, as has already been in- 
dicated, he secured for himself a successful career 
which enabled him to return to England in early 
middle age with a moderate fortune. In illustration 
of his life in South Africa we may mention that 
Sidney-on-Vaal was so named in his honour, and that 
the public library of the town is a standing monument 
of his munificence and interest in literature. 

Careers such as those of Sidney Mendelssohn are on 
the whole uneventful so far as the interest of the 
general public is concerned, and the present case is not 
exceptional. His literary activities after his return to 
England are practically the only ones that are of general 
interest. Mention ought, however, also to be made of 
the zealous work he performed on behalf of the Liberal 
Jewish movement and of Anglo- Jewish historical 
research. An ardent Jew, Mendelssohn, immediately 
upon taking up his residence in London, became a 
warm supporter of the former movement, then in its 
first stages in England, and was for some years prior 
to his death treasurer of the Liberal Synagogue. He 
was also during the last years of his life an active 


Memoir of Author 

member of the Council of the Jewish Historical Society 
of England, to whose Transactions he contributed a 
valuable sketch of the history of the Jews in South 
Africa. Before he left that part of the world he was 
prominent in masonic circles. Easily first among his 
literary works is his monumental Bibliography of 
South .African, a work which is as complete 
as any human work can be. Mr. Ian D. Colvin, who 
wrote an introduction to this work, which, without any 
fear of exaggeration, may be termed great, said of it 
after its author's death, " The Mendelssohn Biblio- 
graphy describes in detail practically every book, 
pamphlet, and paper that in any way concerns South 
Africa from the time of Vasco da Gama downwards. 
And it is so arranged, classified, and indexed as to 
enable the student to find what has been written upon 
any South African place or problem. It is a guide to 
the student of South Africa ; it is the foundation of a 
South African culture ". This praise is high but not 
higher than the work deserves. 

The Bibliography was based on a collection of 
books, which is itself the largest collection of South 
Africana in existence and is now, in accordance with the 
terms of the collector's will, the property of the Union 
of South Africa. Mr. Colvin, writing on the same 
occasion, said, " As a collector he was omnivorous. He 
was in touch with every old bookshop of note in 
Europe ; and went through their catalogues with the 
eye of a hawk. No doubt his collection contains much 
that is worthless upon any computation but that of the 
student who says he wants to read everything on the 
subject — and there are such students. South Africa 
will one day have a literature of its own, and a body of 
scholarship concentrated upon its history, its problems, 
its humanity, its interests and what we might call its 
spirit or soul. That body of investigation and ex- 
pression, that South African scholarship will find the 


Memoir of Author 

past of the country, as far as it is known, all charted 
and mapped out in Mendelssohn's Bibliography ". 

Sidney Mendelssohn's other writings include Judaic 
or Semitic Legends and Customs amongst the South 
African Natives, which appeared originally in the 
Journal of the African Society and Jewish Pioneers of 
South Africa in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical 
Society of England. When the subject of this memoir 
died the manuscript on which the present work and its 
companion volume^ are based was far advanced towards 
completion. His widow, aware of the interest her 
husband had shown in the work, of the devotion with 
which he had engaged in it, and how great was his 
natural desire that the results of his years of research 
should be made public, determined that the work 
should be completed and published. This task was 
entrusted to the present writer, who in fulfilling it has 
considered it his duty to preserve intact the scheme 
that the author had adopted and to publish with as 
few changes as possible those portions of the work 
which the author had apparently considered ready for 
the press. In these chapters obvious slips and errors 
only have been corrected. Otherwise the work is 
untouched. But in a few instances the Editor has 
added footnotes of his own. These are indicated by 
square brackets. Two fragments, apparently intended 
to form part of the Preface, were found among the 
Author's papers, and it has been thought well to quote 
them in full as indicating the scope and intention of 
the work. 

" It is not my intention to attempt an account of 
the Jews in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
What I propose to lay before my readers is an 
account of the Jewish people at this period, as 
mirrored in the works of English writers who describe 

1 The Jews of Asia {Kegan Paul , 


Memoir of Author 

the life of Jews not only in England but in other 
parts of the world in which they have travelled ". 

" My work must be considered more a mosaic than 
an individual Hterary effort. I have tried to select 
from the works of many historians such pieces of 
information as taken together form a connected, 
coherent, and — to a certain extent — correct record of 
what has really occurred ". 

Sidney Mendelssohn was not a scholar in the tech- 
nical sense, but he had in him an admiration, a passion, 
for scholarship. The present work, therefore, is neither 
learned nor scholarly. It contains little that is 
original. But it furnishes a record of the Author's very 
wide reading and of the interest and care that he 
devoted to that reading. The learned critic may find 
many opportunities in the following pages for airing 
his superior knowledge, but no one can deny that the 
compiler of the present work has collected between 
two covers very much interesting and useful matter 
relating to the history of the Jews in Africa 
which would otherwise have remained hidden. If 
Mendelssohn has not written a history of the Jewish 
people in this continent, he has provided in an easily 
accessible form much material that will prove in- 
valuable to the historian who will one day or other take 
up the task. 

A. M. H. 



IN spite of the fact that even since the final destruc- 
tion of the Jewish kingdom by the Romans the 
aims, ideas and, in some instances, even the 
ideals of the Jews in the various countries in which 
they have settled have been often divergent and at times 
bitterly opposed, the many histories of them which 
have appeared since the time of Josephus have almost 
invariably represented them as one people as well as of 
one race and one religion. 

The present publication is the first, I believe, that has 
been attempted on the plan which I have adopted, that 
is, an endeavour to portray the separate and progressive 
history of the Jews in the different countries in which 
they have made their homes, since their expulsion from 
the land with which they had been identified for 
something like thirty centuries. In, at all events, the 
majority of historical works on the Jews the student 
has to follow the particular Jews he w.ishes to study 
through all the mazes of their international wanderings, 
and finally to dig them out from a lengthy publication, 
as a schoolboy extracts a German verb from a seem- 
ingly interminable sentence. In these pages I have 
endeavoured to compile a narrative of a great part of 
what has occurred to the Jews of Africa in the eighteen 
and a half centuries which have elapsed since Titus 
did his best to erase the Jews as a political race from 
the face of the earth. I do not claim to have given 
accounts of every country or former state in which Jews 
may have resided to a greater or less extent, within the 

Author's Introduction 

limits of the period and continent laid down, but I 
have, I believe, dealt with all centres of importance in 
which they have been domiciled in any appreciable 
numbers in the continent in question. Much of the 
information contained in this volume is probably 
unknown to the average educated Jew, to say nothing 
of the average Gentile. Probably not one Jew in fifty 
thousand ever heard of the Jewish kings of Abyssinia or 
the Yemen or of many of the other romantic and per- 
haps somewhat legendary heroes whom Israel has 
mustered since the beginning of the Christian era. The 
ghettoes, ancient and modern, know little of the 
Gideons of Semen, of Dhu Nuwas of the Yemen, or of 
Bar Cochba of Palestine. Few of them — at all events 
of late years — have heard of Sabbathai Zevi, of David 
Alroy, or of the other great Jews who did their best in 
the early centuries and in far distant climes to help 
their brethren. 

This work, as I present it, must be regarded as a 
basis for future augmentation and elaboration by other 
and abler hands. Scholars possessing deeper know- 
ledge, students trained to keener research, linguists 
with advantages that I do not possess, and historians 
with instinctive powers of selection, could produce on 
these lines a history of the Jews which might have 
weighty powers of benefit towards the solution of what 
is known as " the Jewish Question ". 

S. M. 




Memoir of Author ----- v 

Author's Introduction - - - - - xi 

Introductory Sketch ----- i 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia 
The Advent of the Jews — Maqueda, Queen of Sheba — The 
First MeneUk — The Gideons and Judiths of Samen — 
The Conquest of Abyssinia by Judith — The Fall of the 
Kingdom of Samen - - - - - 4 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia {continued) 
The Falashas on the Sea Coast — ^The Withdrawal to the 
Interior — The Pottery Industry — The Smiths and the 
Weavers — The Modern Falashas — Stern's Experiences - 21 



The Earliest Jewish Inhabitants — The Exodus — The 

Ptolemies — Jewish Government Officials — The Cairo 

Purim — Sabbathai Zevi — Raphael Joseph, the Tshlebi — 

A " Blood Accusation " - - - - - 33 


Egypt (continued) 
The Alexandrites and the Cairenes— The Arab Domination of 
Egypt — ^The Nagids of Egypt — The Zaraf Bashis — 
Thevenot, Ogilby and Vansleb — Le Bruyn and His 
Illustrations — Modern Jewry in Egypt - - - 42 


Tripoli •» 

The Antiquity of the Jewish Settlements — The Jews of 
Cyrenia — Djebel Nefoussi — The Jewish Troglodytes — 
The Spanish Occupations — The Jews of Tripoli — Rabbi 
Simeon Ben Labi — Later Events - - - 56 

Tripoli (continued) 
Djado and its Jewish Inhabitants — The Exodus to Tripoli — 
Jewish Customs of Djebel Nefoussi — Curious Tripolitan 
Jewish Superstitions — Jewish Executioners — The Travels 
of the Beecheys — Jewish Costumes in Tripoli — A Stern 
Mosaic Punishment - - - - - 64 




The Jews of Carthage — The Early Spanish Refugees — The 
Foundation of Kairwan — The Arab Domination — The 
Spanish Occupation — Joseph Ha-Cohen's Account — The 
Spaniards Expelled — The Deys and the Beys — French 
Influence and its Effects — The Jews under the French 
Regency - - - - - - So 


Tunisia (continued) 
The Jewish Necropolis at Carthage — ^The Ordinances of 
Omar — Jerba and Kairwan — Maimonides — A Jewish 
Corsair — The Jews under the Turks — Mordecai M. Noah 
— Benjamin II on Tunisian Attire — Wingfield's Remarks 
— Tunis in the Twentieth Century - - - 90 



The Earliest Arrivals — The Jews under the Arabs — Simon 

Ben Smia — The Arrival of the Spanish Jews — The Rise 

of Algiers — Misfortunes in Tlemcen — Oran — The " Gor- 

, neyim " — The French Occupation — Jewish Civil and 

Religious Liberty . _ _ _ . 105 


Algeria (continued) 
The Almohade Persecutions — The Miraculous Voyage of 
Simon Ben Smia — Isaac Ben Sheshet — Algerian Jews 
under the Turks — D'Aranda's Slavery — The Manumission 
of Bellinck — Jewish Funerals — Benjamin II in Algeria 
— Morell and Wingfield — The Twentieth Century - ii8 

The Jews and the Berbers — The Jewish-Berber Queen — The 
Foundation of Fez — Spanish and Portuguese Refugees — 
Samuel Palachwe — Jewish Diplomatists — Muley Arxid's 
Treachery — The Toledanos — Memaran and Ben Hattar 
— Ben Hattar and the British Treaty — The Infamous 
Muley Yazed — The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 142 
Morocco (continued) 
An Early Moroccan Synagogue — Leo Africanus — Jewish 
Soldiers in Morocco — The Spanish and Portuguese Re- 
fugees — Jewish Artizans and Craftsmen — The Palachwes 
— Frejus and Pariente — Mouette's Account — Addison 
and Ockley — Moses Edrehi and the Jews of the Atlas 
Range — Davidson's Fatal Journey — Walter B. Harris 
and Modern Morocco - - - - -161 

List of Works Consulted - - - - -191 

Index .--._, 




Especially in the Sixteenth and 
Seventeenth Centuries 



THE History of the Jews of Africa, more 
especially during the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries, is necessarily hmited to 
the northern portion of the continent. There may 
possibly have been, from time to time, small colonies 
or groups of traders on the eastern coast, and stray 
travellers, merchants, or miners in Monomotapa, and 
elsewhere before or after the destruction of the Jewish 
state, but at the period to which this account is mainly 
confined, no other important settlements existed than 
those recorded, with the one exception of that of the 
Marranos in the Canary Islands,^ which, dating from 
the first quarter of the seventeenth century, appears 
to have dwindled and disappeared about the time of 
the readmission of the Jews to England, by which 

1 See Crypto Jews in the Canaries, by Lucien Wolf. London. 
Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society, 19 15. 

The Jews of Africa 

event its fortunes were closely affected. The countries 
dealt with in this work are, — in geographical progression 
from East to West, — Abyssinia (including Ethiopia), 
Egypt, Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco. 

Egypt may be regarded as the cradle of the Jewish 
race, and in all probability it has never been without 
a Hebrew or Jewish population since the days when 
Joseph and his brethren laid the foundations of the 
nation. In all the other countries of Northern Africa, 
the Jewish population has resulted from a later im- 
migration, and in some cases, from successive waves of 
immigration. Much of the history of this colonisation 
has been lost in the lapse of time, and even in periods 
more nearly approximating to the Middle Ages, the 
records must be considered obscure, legendary, or 
doubtful when examined from the more rigid his- 
torical standpoint. In the course of the following 
narrative it has often been necessary to thread together 
data supplied by travellers, historians, and writers, 
whose own works have been merely compilations from 
the works of others, and the results achieved may be 
reasonably questioned by critics to whom documentary 
evidence in matters of history is almost a sine qua non. 

The story of the Jews of Samen as related in the 
Abyssinian section of this book is based on a number of 
sources, each of which has been regarded as fairly 
authoritative (although not necessarily exact), taken by 


Introductory Sketch 

itself. Nevertheless, the record in its cumulative 
character, presenting a narrative which is not generally 
known, will no doubt be questioned with regard to 
historical accuracy. 

The miraculous account of Ben Smia's voyage to 
Algiers is a remarkable example of the intertwining of 
the legendary with the historical, part of the narrative 
being founded on documentary evidence beUeved to 
be still in existence. 

Many of the countries of Northern Africa proved a 
haven of refuge to the harassed Jews of the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries. The barbarities of Torque- 
mada, the bitter results of the hatred of Luther, 
together with the savage greed of less distinguished 
oppressors who had not even the religious excuses of 
their bigoted coevals, drove the wandering Israelites 
nearer and nearer to the land of their origin. The 
Crescent granted them a qualified protection, a shelter 
denied them by the adherents of the Cross, — Catholics 
and Protestants alike. That this protection was 
granted them when they most needed it should never 
be forgotten by their modern co-religionists ; Jews 
had few friends in those days ; it would be ill for them 
to forget those who did them service in the day of their 
bitter need. 



The Advent of the Jews — Maqueda, Queen of Sheba — The 
j^First MeneUk — The Gideons and Judiths of Samen — The 
Conquest of Abyssinia by Judith — The Fall of the Kingdom 
of Samen. 

NO part of the long and chequered career of 
the Jewish nation is more shrouded in 
mystery, and more romantic in legend, 
than the story of the advent and establishment of the 
Israelites in the mystic land known in mediaeval times 
as the territory of Prester John. It is a difficult task 
to compile from legend, tradition, and such scanty 
documents as exist the conjectured history of the 
Falashas, those dark-visaged Hebrews, whose an- 
cestors were distributed throughout the great and 
distant regions which were nominally or actually under 
the authority of the rulers of Abyssinia and Ethiopia. 
As far, however, as can be surmised from such sources 
as are available, an independent Jewish Kingdom long 
existed within the confines of what was known as the 
Ethiopian Empire. Its territory — which varied in 
extent from time to time — was considerably greater 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

than that embraced by the ancient kingdoms of Judah 
and Israel, and its existence, in all probability, was of 
a longer duration. The great mystery, which shrouded 
the greater part of Africa down to times still but little 
distant, would account for the fact that so little was 
known of this Jewish Kingdom, if, indeed, a kingdom 
actually existed, and, as a matter of fact, very little 
that is absolutely authentic, is known about it to-day 
even by those few people who have made a very close 
study of the history of the ancient Empire of Ethiopia 
and of the Kingdom of Abyssinia. 

A well-known authority states,^ that " there were 
always Jews in Ethiopia from the beginning ", and 
this statement may be conjecturally justified by the 
proximity of Abyssinia and Ethiopia and their de- 
pendencies to the ancient homes of the Israehtes in 
Egypt and Palestine. There are, however, several 
theories respecting the origin of the Jews in Abyssinia 
and Ethiopia, and Falashas and Abyssinians alike 
have always beheved, and still beheve, in the Judaic 
origin of their individual races, while many authorities 
are of opinion that three separate migrations of Jews 
into Ethiopia actually took place. The three theories 
chronologically arranged are as follows : — 

(i) That Menelik, son of King Solomon and the 

Queen of Sheba, who had received his education in 
1 Tellez, The Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia. 


The Jews of Africa 

Palestine, went back to Abyssinia on the establish- 
ment of the Ethiopic Empire by his mother, bringing 
with him a large number of Jews, at a day somewhat 
anterior to that on which he ascended the Abyssinian 
throne (986 B.C.). 

(2) That Sargon, or Sennacherib, the successor of 
Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria, having continued 
the war commenced by his predecessor, conquered 
the Kingdom of Israel, and brought the captive Jews 
and their King Hosea to his coimtry (circa 722 B.C.), 
and from thence they eventually found their way 
into Abyssinia and Ethiopia.^ 

(3) That after the destruction of Jerusalem by 
Vespasian in 70 a.d., large numbers of Jews fled or 
drifted into Ethiopia, Abyssinia, and the neighbour- 
ing territories. 

Some writers state that the descendants of the earHer 
emigrants who were supposed to have accompanied 
MeneHk, treated the later arrivals as strangers, and 
that the latter practised rites and observed festivals 
unknown to the earHer colonists, who, for example, 
had never heard of the minor festivals of Hanucah or 
Purim, or of the Talmuds. If these statements are 
accepted they provide some justification for the 
acceptance of the first theory with reference to their 

1 See Sayce, The Ancient Empires of the East, p. 128. Shalmaneser 
III died during the siege of Samaria, 722 B.C. 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

origin. How far the account of the estabhshment of 
the Empire of Ethiopia by the Queen of Sheba may be 
considered as historical, it is probably useless to discuss 
to-day. The Bible chronicles her visit to King 
Solomon and all Abyssinian and Falashan traditions 
agree as to its authenticity and affirm that Menelik, 
her son (and son of King Solomon), succeeded her on 
the throne, while a list has been preserved of the 
Kings of " the Race of Solomon, descended from the 
Queen of Saba ".^ 

Indeed, it has been maintained that it is quite 
possible that the Queen of Sheba and her people 
professed the Jewish Religion even before the reign of 
King Solomon, although Abyssinian annals state that 
the Queen was formerly a pagan, but was converted to 
Judaism in Jerusalem. She appears to have been a 
woman of learning, resource, and energy, and after 
she had estabUshed the Empire of Ethiopia, she settled 
the succession " in the family of Solomon ", enacting 
that after her " no woman should be capable of wearing 
the crown or being queen, but that it should descend 
to the heir male, however distant ". In all pro- 
babihty, most of her own people, the Sabeans, as well 
as a large number of the inhabitants of Abyssinia 
adopted the tenets of Judaism, probably soon after her 
visit to King Solomon at Jerusalem, an event which 

1 See Note I, p. 30. 


The Jews of Africa 

must have taken place somewhere about one thousand 
years before the beginning of the Christian era.^ 

The Queen of Sheba ^ died, apparently, about the 
year 986 B.C., and Menelik, her son, succeeded her in 
due course. According to Abyssinian tradition, the 
Queen had sent her son to the Jewish King in order 
that his education should be completed, and " Solomon 
did not neglect his charge ". It was believed that 
Menelik was duly " anointed and crowned king of 
Ethiopia, in the temple of Jerusalem, and at his 
inauguration took the name of David ". He returned 
to Azab, or Sheba, bringing with him a colony of Jews, 
among whom were doctors of law or Judges, and 
priests. " All Abyssinia was thereupon converted, 
and the government of the church and state modelled 
according to what was then in use at Jerusalem ".^ 
Menelik, or David I, reigned four years, but although 
a list of his successors has been compiled, and the dates 
of their accessions computed, there are so many dis- 
crepancies in the Abyssinian annals that it is useless to 
place any rehance on their historical value. There 
appears, however, to be no absolute reason to doubt 
the tradition that the general religion of the coimtry 

1 Theodore Bent, in The Sacred City of the Ethiopians, expresses 
his disbelief in the existence of Judaism in Abyssinia, until centuries 
after the birth of Christ. * Sheba is also " written Saba, Azab, 
or Azaba, all signifying South." See Bruce's Travels, vol. ii, p. 395. 
» Ibid. 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

continued to be that of Judaism, till the joint reign of 
the Kings Abreha and Atzbeha, when a large proportion 
of the inhabitants were converted to Christianity under 
the missionary influence and efforts of Frumentius, 
first Bishop of Abyssinia (circa 330 a.d.). It is alleged, 
however, that a considerable portion of the population 
adhered to the older creed and resented the apostasy 
of those who had joined the ranks of the Christians. 
The Jewish minority is represented to have been 
determined, powerful and enthusiastic for their faith, 
and there can be Uttle doubt that the contest between 
the adherents of the two religions was long and bitter. 
The Jews eventually resolved to have a monarch of 
their own, choosing Phineas, " one of the Royal line 
of Solomon ... a prince of the House of Judah " ^ 
It has more than once been suggested, that the chosen 
leader was no other than Dhu Nuwas, the Jewish King 
of Yemen. 2 It must be remembered, however, that 
presumably nearly two hundred 3^ears had elapsed 
between the estabHshment of Christianity in Abyssinia, 
and the defeat of Dhu Nuwas by the armies of Caleb, 
the Abyssinian King. It is hardly probable that the 
Jews would have waited two centuries before choosing 
their king, and although the uncertainties respecting 
the dates of these events might make it possible that 

1 Bruce's Travels, vol. ii, p. 408. 2 jost. Geschichte der 


The Jews of Africa 

the two kings were identical, it seems more feasible to 
conjecture that there was an earlier Phineas, whom the 
Jews appointed in the days of Abreha and Atzbeha, 
while Dhu Nuwas, coming on the scene in the sixth 
century, was also known to the Abyssinians under the 
name of Phineas. In any case, it seems probable that 
Hal^vy's theory, ^ that some of the Falashas are 
descended from former subjects of Dhu Nuwas, is 
substantially correct, as whether the King escaped or 
not, there seems no reason to doubt that part of his 
army fled to the mountainous regions of Samen and 
Dembea after their defeat by the Abyssinian King 

If the legend of the Falashas that Phineas was their 
first King, be accepted, and it is further presumed that 
he took possession of his territories soon after the 
estabhshment of Christianity in Abyssinia, then the 
Kingdom which he is supposed to have founded may 
be computed to have had an existence of something 
like 1,300 years. His accession to power was probably 
characterized by the establishment of his state as a 
kind of Zion, which attracted his co-religionists 
from Abyssinia and other Ethiopic Dominions, from 
north and south Yemen, and even more distant 
countries, and possibly a large number of Jews dis- 
persed throughout the Ethiopian Empire secretly 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. v, p. 329. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

recognized the authority of the Jewish Kings who ruled 
over the three provinces of Samen, Dembea, and We- 
gara, while they ostensibly obeyed the ruler of the 
district in which they resided. Jost evidently con- 
jectures that for a considerable time,^ the Falashas 
were in occupation of the whole of the territory of the 
three provinces down to, and including, the coast, but 
that at a later period, they retired from the maritime 
districts towards Dembea and Samen. Very Httle, 
however, can be ascertained respecting the history or 
the condition of the Jewish Kingdom for many cen- 
turies, but it seems probable that as Christianity 
gathered strength in the Ethiopian Empire, the Jews 
concentrated more and more in the mountainous regions 
of Samen and the surrounding territories dominated 
by its rugged fortresses. It would appear that, 
generally speaking, the kings and queens of the country, 
on their accession to the throne, assumed the royal 
titles of Gideon, and Judith, respectively, in addition 
to their other names. From time to time, this Jewish 
kingdom was at war with Abyssinia, but, at all events 
after the seventh century, the struggles sprang from 
ambitions or political motives and do not seem to 
have been precipitated by religious animosities. 

In the last quarter of the tenth century, the whole of 

1 Geschichte der Israeliten, vol. viii, p. 167. 

The Jews of Africa 

the Ethiopian Empire was stirred by occurrences 
which left their impress on the kingdom of Abyssinia 
for a period of three or four hundred years. At this 
time, the reigning King Gideon of Samen, and his 
Queen Judith, had a daughter who also bore the name 
of Judith, and was married to the Governor of Bugna, 
a province in the neighbourhood of Lasta, both of 
which territories had a considerable Jewish population. 
Judith,^ the king's daughter, was a woman of great 
beauty, with an overpowering weakness for intrigue 
and an almost unrestricted ambition. She had im- 
mense influence in Samen and the adjoining territories, 
and her following was so considerable and so powerful, 
that she resolved to attempt the subversion of the 
Christian religion in Abyssinia, together with the line 
of King Solomon, whose kings were supporters of 
the new faith. Circumstances favoured her schemes ; 
the Christian King of Abyssinia, Aizor, died suddenly 
and unexpectedly, and his son was a mere infant. 
Hereupon, Judith determined to endeavour by a bold 
and rapid stroke to capture the Abyssinian throne, and 
estabhsh her reUgion throughout the territories of 
Abyssinia and Ethiopia. ^ By a regulation established 
by the Queen of Sheba, and thenceforth perpetually 

* Judith, whom Salt calls Gudit, was also known as Esther, 

Essat, Assaat, and Saat {i.e., fire) in the Amharic tongue, and, in 

addition, as " Tredda Gabez," or " Terdae-Gobaz." ^ Bruce's 
Travels, vol. ii, p. 452. 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

observed, the heirs to the Abyssinian throne and the 
Princes of the Ruling Dynasty were confined to, or 
housed on, Dano, an almost inaccessible mountain in 
the province of Tigre. Judith gathered together an 
adequate force, seized the Rock, and slew all the 
princes and nobility there to the number of about four 
hundred souls. The infant King, Del Naad, was 
rescued by some of the nobles and taken to the King- 
dom of Sceiva, or Shoa, which was apparently never 
conquered by Judith or her successors. The escape of 
the King, however, did not prove any obstacle to 
Judith's plans, and she took possession of Tigre and 
finally of the whole of the country with the exception 
of Shoa, and placed herself on the throne, in defiance of 
the Salic law instituted by Maqueda, the Queen of 
Sheba of Solomon's time. 

Like all historical traditions of the Abyssinians, the 
date of these occurrences— if some of them occurred at 
all — is the subject of much discrepancy. Jost says 
they took place in the seventh century ; Ludolf ^ dates 
them about 900 years after Christ ; Salt gives the date 
as 925 A.D. ; Bruce says it was in the year 960 ; while 
Halevy and other writers throw doubt on the authen- 
ticity of the entire story. ^ The royal line founded by 
Queen Judith reigned over Abyssinia for three hundred 

1 Nouvelle Historie d'Abissinie ou d'Ethiopie. ^ Jewish 

Encyclopedia, vol. v, p. 329. 


The Jews of Africa 

years, or according to Ludolf , for still another century. 
Being usurpers, their history was not preserved in the 
Abyssinian annals, but one of the Kings — Prince 
Lalibala — seems to have been a ruler of some im- 
portance. Bruce says that he " was a saint ", and 
Ludolf avers that he built twenty-four magnificent 
Temples. It is supposed, however, that the court and 
country had reverted to Christianity before LaHbala's 
accession to the throne, and Bruce states that these 
edifices were the work of Christian fugitives from 
Egypt and Arabia, many of the churches having been 
hewn out of the solid rock. According to Abyssinian 
authorities the whole period occupied by Judith's 
successors " was one scene of murder, violence, and 
oppression ", but so little information of historical 
value has been preserved, that it is useless to conjecture 
what really occurred within these three or four 

About the year 1255 a.d.. King Icon-Amlac of Shoa, 
a descendant of the line of King Solomon, recovered 
the Kingdom of Abyssinia, mainly through the assist- 
ance and influence of a monk named Abuna Tecla 
Haimanout, and under his successors, " the Jewish 
Kings of Samen were weakened by successive conquests 
and treachery. Their subjects were reduced to a 
handful by the zeal of the monks and the allurements 
of a superior protection. The remainder were forced 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

into the mountains . . . governed by tradition in 
matters of faith ; for all their written records have 
perished".^ Nevertheless, according to tradition, 
Samen and the adjoining provinces were still under the 
dommation of princes of Jewish Race, and despite 
occasional wars, insurrections, and revolts, no tribute 
appears to have been paid by them to the Kings of 
Abyssinia, and their independence was maintained for 
several centuries. Basnage relates that Oviedeo, whom 
Pope Julius III made Patriarch of Ethiopia, with 
hopes to re-unite this Kingdom to his See, wrote (a.d. 
^557) " that the Jews possess'd great inaccessible 
Mountains ; that they had dispossess'd the Christian of 
many lands which they were Masters of, and that the 
Kings of Ethiopia could not subdue them, because 
they have but small forces, and it is very difficult to 
penetrate into the Fastnesses of their Rocks ". Indeed, 
the old Chronicler was greatly concerned at the 
continued existence of the Jewish State. The prophecy 
of the Patriarch Jacob would seem to have troubled 
this somewhat biased historian. When he read in the 
Book of Genesis that " the sceptre shall not depart 
from Judah, or a lawgiver from between his feet until 
Shiloh come ", his mind appears to have dwelt on the 
^s yet unconquered Jewish Kings of Samen with 
considerable uneasiness. He evidently considered he 

1 Bruce's Travels, vol. ii, p. 492. 


The Jews of Africa 

ought to reassure his readers, and comments as 
follows : — 

" Such as fear lest this little Corner of a Kingdom or 
rather this retreat into Rocks or Mountains may 
weaken our interpretation of Jacob's prophecy, and 
furnish the Jewish Doctors with a Pretence, that the 
Sceptre of Judah is not broken, are too weak and 
timerous. . . . For this is not the Kingdom of Judah 
which Jacob promised to his Posterity, and it would be 
ridiculous to say, that some Jews conceal' d in in- 
accessible mountains keep up that Succession of 
Princes and Lawgivers that were to make the Nation 
flourish in the Holy Land ".^ 

But whatever Basnage may have thought or have 
written at the end of the seventeenth century, the 
position was differently regarded a century earlier. 
Sanuto, the famous geographer of that period, whose 
African Atlas and Geography was pubHshed in 1588, 
shows a Jewish State distinctly marked as " Judaeorum 
Terra ", in Tabula X of his African Maps, the country 
extending some distance south of the Equator, and 
surrounded by mountains, — a very considerable ter- 
ritory. John Pory, the English Translator of The 
History and Description of Africa, by Leo Africanus, 
writing at the commencement of the seventeenth 
century, contributed a chapter on " The Religions of 

^ History of the Jews. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

Africa ", in which he remarks : "At this day also the 
Abassins affirme, that upon Nilus towards the West 
there inhabiteth a most populous nation of the Jewish 
stock under a mighte K(ing). And^some of our 
moderne Cosmographers set downe a province in those 
quarters which they call, the Land of the Hebrewes, 
placed as it were under the equinoctiall, in certaine 
unknowne mountaines, between the confines of Abassia, 
and Congo. And likewise on the north part of the 
Kingdom of Goiame, and the southerly quarter of the 
Kingdome of Gorhan there are certaine mountaines, 
peopled with Jewes, who there maintaine themselves 
free, and absolute, through the inaccessible situations 
of the same ".^ Pory would thus appear to have been 
of the opinion that there was a Jewish state in the 
region indicated by Sanuto, as well as other territories 
under Jewish rule in the vicinity of the Abyssinian 
Kingdom. Sanuto' s references to the " terra de' 
Giudei " are solely of a geographical character, and the 
position in which he locates the " Country of the 
Jews " on the " African Tabula X " is south-west, and 
near the Equator. He makes it adjoin the ancient 
Kingdom of Benin, which is placed to the west of the 
Jewish territory on his map.^ 

Some thirty years before Sanuto's map was pub- 

^ A Geographical History of Africa. Leo Africanus : Pory's 
Translation. ^ Geografia di M. Livio Sanuto. Venice, 1588. 


The Jews of Africa 

lished, Menas, King of Abyssinia, otherwise known as 
Adamis Sequed, attacked Radaet (or Rade'et), the 
Falasha King of Samen, but the Abyssinian Monarch 
was unsuccessful and had to retire. The war was 
continued by his successor Melee Segued, or Sartsa 
Denghel, who defeated the Moors and the Falashas, 
the latter surrendering their King Radaet, who was 
banished by the Abyssinian monarch. However, the 
Jewish Kingdom was still neither occupied nor con- 
quered, and another King, named Caliph, being 
appointed, the war continued, until finally Melee 
Segued succeeded in defeating the Falasha ruler. 
The Jews were, however, roused to further effort by 
the destruction of their cattle and crops, and they 
mustered in considerable numbers under a new king, 
named Geshen, but were again defeated on the Plain 
of Wegara, on the 19th of January, 1594, when four 
thousand Jewish warriors, including their brave 
general and leader, Geshen, were slain. After this. 
Melee Segued marched through the adjacent terri- 
tories where, although there were many Jewish strong- 
holds, no further resistance was encountered. Later, 
however, yet another Gideon, a brother of the dead 
warrior Geshen, was raised to the throne, as King of the 

In the year 1615, an adventurer named Amdo 
claimed the throne of Abyssinia, held at that time by 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia 

Susneus or Soscinios. Amdo resided in, or near, 
Samen, and was taken prisoner by Gideon, but later, 
this King helped him in his designs, and assisted him to 
raise an army. Susneus thereupon took the field against 
the Jewish chief, stormed his principal fortresses, and 
finally defeated Gideon's army, killing his principal 
general. In these circumstances, Gideon, fearing " the 
extirpation of his whole nation ", surrendered the 
rebel Amdo, and made peace with Susneus. In the 
year 1617, without assigning any reason for the 
treacherous act, Susneus sent armed forces to massacre 
all the Jews wherever they could be found, and in this 
general holocaust, Gideon the King perished, and with 
him the Jewish Kingdom of Samen, which is supposed 
to have existed for thirteen hundred years. This 
Gideon " was a man of great reputation, not only 
among his subjects, but throughout all Abyssinia, 
reputed also immensely rich ". His treasures, sup- 
posed to be concealed in the mountains, were the 
objects of search by the Abyssinians as late as the 
period at which Bruce wrote. ^ 

The Fall of the Jewish Kingdom was followed by the 
ostensible apostasy of the Falashas in Samen and 
Dembea, who had to choose between the renunciation 
of their religion, and death. Susneus "unwisely 
imagined that he had extinguished, by one blow, the 

1 See Bruce's Travels, vol. iii, p. 308. 

19 C 

The Jews of Africa 

religion which was that of his country long before 
Christianity, by the unwarrantable butchery of a 
number of people whom he had surprised Hving in 
security under the assurance of peace ", but he, 
nevertheless, failed in his attempt to destroy the Jewish 
People, as the survivors merely dispersed to adjoining 
territories, and in all probability, Hved as secret Jews 
after accepting the rite of baptism which they had been 
forced to endure. Nevertheless, with this treacherous 
massacre of the Falashas, the life of the Jewish King- 
dom terminated, and no adequate foundation can be 
found for the conjecture that the Falashas had a separate 
political existence until the end of the eighteenth 
century. Minor chiefs and leaders of the remnant of 
the Jewish race may have been permitted, and perhaps 
even encouraged, under the newly-appointed Governors 
of Samen, but the people were vassals, and paid tribute, 
and no Gideons or Judiths inspired the enthusiasm of 
the broken and shattered nation of Falashas. In 
modem times the race still exists, scattered over the 
provinces of Abyssinia, and much interest has been 
taken in its survival by modern travellers and writers. 



Abyssinia and Ethiopia {continued) 

The Falashas on the Sea Coast — The Withdrawal to the 
Interior — ^The Pottery Industry — ^The Smiths and the 
Weavers — The Modem Falashas — Stem's Experiences. 

IF Jost's theory is correct, and the Falashas, at 
one period, occupied some of the territory on the 
eastern coast of the Red Sea, it seems very 
extraordinary that more knowledge of them than 
exists did not come to light in the course of so many 
centuries, during which travellers were constantly 
sailing over that long, narrow, and almost land-locked 
piece of water. According to this author, the actual 
territory occupied is unknown, and of the language of 
the inhabitants we have also no knowledge. The 
exodus from the maritime districts must, moreover, 
have entirely changed the habits and industries of the 
race. While on the coast, they had doubtless engaged 
in over-sea commerce with neighbouring countries, a 
traffic which may have commenced in the days of 
Solomon, King of Israel, and Hiram, King of Tyre, 
but when they moved inland, one of their principal 
occupations was " the manufacture of Tiles, and other 


The Jews of Africa 

coverings for roofs, as well as earthen vessels, and 
pottery of all descriptions, in the making of which 
they had arrived at considerable excellence ".^ The 
existence of this employment in the country of the 
Falashas, lends colour to the theory that some of them 
were descended from Yemenite fugitives who had been 
similarly occupied in their own country. In support 
of this it may be mentioned that the clay in both Samen 
and Dembea is very suitable for this purpose. As a 
matter of fact, Jost does not seem to doubt that 
Phineas of Abyssinia, and Dhu Nuwas of Yemen, were 
one and the same person, and that when the latter was 
defeated, many of his subjects " chose the shorter route 
to Ethiopia, where they found brethren, who enjoyed 
a certain amount of power, whose language and 
customs assimilated with their own, and above all, 
with whom they had had commercial intercourse for 
many centuries past ".^ Nevertheless, this author 
expresses his amazement " that Jewish travellers from 
the maritime countries of the Mediterranean never 
thought of visiting their independent brothers in 
Africa ", and that " even after news of them had 
spread, still no Jew had the curiosity to see anything 
of them with his own eyes". Only the vaguest 
references are made to the Falashas by Jewish writers, 
and nothing of any special value can be obtained from 

1 Jost. Geschichte der Israeliten, ^ Ibid. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia (continued) 

these sources. That most extraordinary searcher 
after the ten tribes, Moses Edrehi, in his quaint and 
garbled Book of Miracles, quotes from another book 
which he calls Entry Bena, which speaks of the " Moun- 
tains of the Moon ; and upon these mountains there are 
multitudes of Jews even more than one milHon, and 
they pay taxes to the King of Ethiopia. And the 
country they inhabit is called Pretty Joaney " .^ 

As frequently occurs, we have to turn to the com- 
pilers of the records of the Jesuit Missions for informa- 
tion respecting the social conditions of the Falashas 
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
Balthazar Tellez, whose account of Ethiopia was 
brought down to the year 1654, maintains that after 
the Jews were dispersed by Susneus many of them re- 
settled in Dembea, where they occupied themselves in 
" weaving, or else by making of Darts, Plows, or other 
such like Necessaries, being great Smiths ". He also 
speaks of many Jews " free from any Subjection to the 
Empire " of Abyssinia, who lived in territories " be- 
twixt the Emperor's Dominions and the Cafres dwelling 
near the River Nile ". The Old Jesuit father saw 
some kind of religious justice in the constant dis- 
persions of the Israelites and remarked : " God so 
ordering, that they should have no settled Dwelling 
on the Earth, who would not receive the King of 

^ Historical Account of the Ten Tribes. 

The Jews of Africa 

Heaven ". He asserted that the Jews " have still 
Hebrew Bibles ", but maintained that they sang " the 
Psalms very scurvily in their Synagogues ".^ 

It is interesting to note that the English geographer 
Ogilby, who closely follows the Dutch author Dapper, 
remarks in his folio work on Africa, published in the 
year 1670, that the Abyssinians called the kingdom of 
Samen "Xionuche ", a name that seems curiously 
reminiscent of a Palestinian connexion. He maintains 
that it is " a country but little known and less conversed 
with ; and under the Dominion of the Abessines ". 

Ludolphus does not throw much fresh light on the 
state of Samen in the seventeenth century, and much 
of his information appears to have been derived from 
the work of Balthazar Tellez. He rather criticizes 
the Jesuit fathers Piaz, D'Almeyda, and Mendez, the 
pioneer Cathohc missionaries in Abyssinia, whose 
accounts of their travels and experiences were com- 
piled and edited by Tellez. He complains that they 
*' never took care to enquire when, or upon what 
occasion, the Jews came first into Ethiopia ? . . . 
What sacred books they use, whether with points, or 
without points ? Whether they have any Traditions 
concerning their own, or Nation of the Habessines ? 
Which to know, would certainly be most grateful to 
many Learned Men ; in regard it seems very probable, 

* The Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia (continued) 

that there may be some Ancient Books among them, 
since they have liv'd so long and so securely in such 
inaccessible holds ".^ 

Ludolphus further remarks that the Jews obtained 
their livelihood by carpentry and weaving. Basnage 
adds to these occupations those of the manufacture 
of woollen fabrics and iron work. Jost and others 
mention their pottery works ; and Bruce mentions the 
crops and cattle raised by the Jews at the end of the 
sixteenth century, and says that they were " a frugal 
and economical people ". But what is especially 
noteworthy and significant, is that one hears of neither 
traders nor usurers. Here in a country densely 
populated by Jews in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, and under their own government, they 
appear to have confined themselves, when at peace, to 
artizan occupations and farming and agricultural 
pursuits, thus showing that under their own rulers, and 
under suitable conditions, their occupations differed 
widely from those in which they engage in other parts 
of the world, under other conditions, — pursuits which 
have been a source of reproach to them, as undeserved 
as it has been unwarranted. 

Basnage states that after the defeats under Susneus, 
the Jews dispersed all over the Kingdom of Abyssinia, 
" in effect, some of 'em are Weavers, and others Smiths. 

* A New History of Ethiopia. 

The Jews of Africa 

As the Abyssines hate this trade, they leave it to the 
Jews who undertake to furnish them with all warlike 
Instruments. They have there their Synagogues, and 
Publick Worship, in which they use the Talmudic 
Hebrew, tho' they have not receiv'd that collection of 
Traditions. Lastly, great numbers follow the Court 
of the King of the Abessines. An Arabian who had 
travell'd in that country at the end of the last century 
(seventeenth) assured Mr Ludolf that sixty thousand 
of 'em were at Court. They correspond with the 
Christians, and Hve familiarly with 'em in that 
Country ".^ 

Notwithstanding the dispersion of the Falashas, 
many of them still Hve together in villages in various 
parts of Abyssinia, as well as in the larger towns. 
Writing early in the nineteenth century, Gobat, one of 
the emissaries of the Church Missionary Society, re- 
marks that " the Falashas hve so retired, and are so 
separated from the Christians, that the latter know 
scarcely anything either of their doctrines or of their 
manners. They live chiefly in the neighbourhood of 
Gondar and Shelga, and to the north-west of the lake 
Tsana. . . . They have, on the whole, the same 
superstitions as the Christians : they are only a little 
modified after a Jewish fashion. I have never observed 
that they took the least interest in the idea of the 

* History of the Jews. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia (continued) 

Messiah. . . . They have a dialect among themselves, 
which has no similarity either with the Hebrew or 
with the Ethiopic, but all of them, except some females, 
speak Amharic. I have seen but one book in the 
Falasha dialect written in the Ethiopic character : 
They told me that it was a book of prayers. . . . They 
are much more laborious than the other Abyssinia ns : 
the building of all the houses of Gondar is their work. 
... All of them are considered as boudas or sorcerers, 
as also are the artificers in iron and many others. The 
Falashas, after having spoken with Christians, never 
enter their own houses without first washing their 
bodies and changing their dress. . . . Their inter- 
course with the Mohammedans is a little more free 
than with the Christians. They never carry arms 
either for attack or defence. They maintain their own 
poor, and will not suffer them to beg ".^ 

A far more detailed and interesting account of the 
Falashas is afforded by Henry A. Stem, who was sent 
as a missionary to them some thirty years after Gobat 
visited the country A Jew by birth, Stern was in a 
better position to judge of many characteristics and 
customs of the Falashas than other travellers or 
missionaries, and despite his conversion to Christianity, 
he was more sympathetic towards their conditions, 
and more tolerant of their superstitions. He remarks 

* A Three Years' Residence in Abyssinia. 

The Jews of Africa 

that after the fall of their last kmg, '' the Falashas 
were driven from their rocky homes, and forced to seek 
a refuge in the midst of their enemies, the detested 
Amharas. The provinces where they at present reside 
are Dembea, Quara, Wogera, Tschelga, and Godjam, 
where their settlements are strikingly distinguished 
from the Christian villages by the red earthen pot on 
the apex of their mesquid, or place of worship, which 
towers from the centre of the thatched huts by which 
it is invariably environed ". The Falashas pride 
themselves on the purity of their race, and inter- 
marriages with other tribes are strictly forbidden 
Very early marriages are discouraged, and polygamy 
is not allowed, but their daughters and wives are not 
shut up in their houses, and enjoy immunity from all 
slavish restraint. The Falashas are faithful to the 
law of Moses " as far as their limited knowledge of the 
Scriptures extends ". They still offer sacrifices, but 
these observances are not carried out in the presence of 
strangers. The laws of purification are strictly adhered 
to, and " every Falasha settlement has a hut at its 
outskirts, and there the unclean and impure must take 
refuge during the prescribed number of days ". It is 
stated that the Jewish feasts are regularly observed, 
'* though with less rigour than by the Jews in other 
parts of the world. Passover ... is solemnized by 
offering the appointed sacrifice, and by the substitution 


Abyssinia and Ethiopia (continued) 

of unleavened bread. On the Feast ol Pentecost, the 
Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the 
Feast of Tabernacles, the people bring their offerings to 
the mesquids, and also join in appropriate commemora- 
tive prayers, but beyond this, and abstinence from 
agricultural pursuits, they neither blow the horn, erect 
booths, nor practise the other ancient ceremonies of the 
Synagogue". The Sabbath is kept quite strictly, the 
preparations for it commencing on Fridays at noon. 
Services are held on Friday evenings and Saturday 
mornings, and many of the prayers are not to be found 
in other Jewish rituals. Stern alludes to the freedom 
of the race " from many of the burdens, which Phari- 
saical pride and arrogance imposed on the super- 
stitious credulity of other Jews. Broad phylacteries 
and the garments of fringes are utterly unknown 
among them ", and they appear to have been unin- 
fluenced by Rabbinic teaching, having " removed from 
their native land long before the final dispersion of 
their race ". It is noteworthy that Stern found them 
" exemplary in their morals, cleanly in their habits, 
and devout in their belief". It is stated that they 
occupy themselves as smiths, potters, and weavers, 
and repudiate commerce as incompatible with the 
Mosaic Code. "It is quite a disappointment not to 
find a merchant among a quarter of a million of people, 
the lineal descendants of those who are supposed to 


The Jews of Africa 

have acquired a taste for traffic and riches, on the very 
eve of their emancipation from Egyptian servitude ". 
During the half a century which has elapsed since 
Stern visited the country, many travellers have written 
accounts of Abyssinia, and of the Falashas. The most 
recent work on the subject is by Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch, 
who went to Abyssinia, for the second time, solely to 
acquire information respecting his co-reUgionists in 
the dominions of the Negus Menelik II. ^ 


I. Writing at the close of the first half of the nineteenth 
century, Walter Chichele Plowden, the British Consul 
in Abyssinia, observes that certain Abyssinian " tra- 
ditions state that when Solomon commenced his reign 
in Judaea, Axum was the seat of a serpent-king, of 
whose dimensions and habits many uninteresting fables 
are related ; amongst the rest (as usual in similar 
stories that I need not recall to the educated reader), a 
virgin was daily provided for his expensive appetite. 
Saba, a virgin of high birth and pure spirit, by her 
prayers and tears, obtained the favour of heaven, and 
some celestial warrior in earthly form slew the dragon, 
and deUvered the damsel ; on her foot, however, the 
saUva of the serpent had fallen, and caused incurable 
ulcers and lameness. Having been by universal 

1 See his Quer durch Abessinien. 

Abyssinia and Ethiopia {continued) 

acclaim appointed queen of the nation (Queen of 
Sheba ?), she crossed the seas to seek for cure at the 
hands of the wise and far-famed Solomon, and after 
various adventures returned to Abyssinia pregnant 
with a son by that monarch. It is said that on her 
departure Solomon gave her a golden staff, as the proof 
his son was to bring to him if the child should be a 
male, and a diamond ring to be presented if a daughter. 
In due time she bore a son, who was named Menelek. 
At the age of sixteen, having previously informed his 
father of her intention by letter, she sent him to Jeru- 
salem with the golden staff. Aware of the searching 
mind of Solomon, and being herself quick-witted, she 
apprehended that the pledge might be mistrusted, and 
in her final instructions she bid her son beware of too 
hastily bestowing it on the person he might find seated 
on his father's throne, but first to examine his own 
countenance in a mirror, and search amid the throng 
of courtiers for a maturer resemblance of himself. 
Following this advice, he presented the staff to his 
father, whom he detected seated on the ground in 
humble attire, while another in gorgeous robes filled 
his usual seat. Thereupon Solomon acknowledged him 
as his son in wisdom as in blood ; and, after keeping 
him some years, sent him to govern Ethiopia, accom- 
panied by the eldest sons of many Jews of rank and 
consideration. From Menelek are said to descend the 


The Jews of Africa 

Kinga of Gondar to this day, and from the Jews the 
twelve judges, the keepers of the sacred books, and 
other officers that hold high rank in the empire. 

" Two things are certain — that at a far later period, 
six sovereigns of pure Jewish race and faith reigned at 
Gondar, and that to this day numerous Jews are 
found throughout Abyssinia. I think it also highly 
probable, that (at whatever epoch it may be placed), 
the whole of Abyssinia was of the Jewish persuasion 
previous to its conversion ; as even those who have 
adopted the Christian creed still retain, as will be seen, 
numerous Jewish forms and observances. Their con- 
version to Christianity occurred about three centuries 
after Christ ; it appears to have been the work of an 
Egyptian monk. . . ." ^ 

^ Travels in Abyssinia, 



The Earliest Jewish Inhabitants — The Exodus — The Ptolemies 
—Jewish Government Officials-The Cairo Purim-Sabbathai 
Zevi — Raphael Joseph the Tshlebi — A " Blood Accu- 

THE foundation of the Kingdom of Egypt is 
almost lost in antiquity. One of the first 
— if not indeed the first — of countries to 
emerge from barbarism to political civilization, it is 
said to have been ruled by Princes even before King 
Menes (sometimes considered the earliest historical 
king) directed its destinies at a period calculated to be 
something like 3,500 years before the beginning of the 
Christian Era. Some 1,600 years later, the Patriarch 
Abraham flourished ; about 150 years still later the Jews 
were in slavery in Egypt, and the Egyptian Kingdom 
was already nearly two thousand years old when the 
Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. In all pro- 
bability, the Exodus was by no means universal, and a 
few laggards and shirkers stayed behind amid the 
alluring " fieshpots of Egypt ", or slipped back to their 
old haunts during the forty years' wanderings in the 


The Jews of Africa 

desert. Possibly others returned during the days of 
the Judges, or in the more exciting times of the King- 
doms of Judah and Israel, when perhaps a maritime 
traffic had developed between Palestine and Egypt, 
and there were probably fair-sized colonies of Jewish 
inhabitants at Cairo and other North Egyptian towns 
when the destruction of Palestine as a state dispersed 
the Jews in so many directions especially in Asia and 
Africa . Those who went to Egypt from time to time 
had no doubt to undergo many fluctuations of fate, 
but they appear to have been allowed to remain per- 
manently in the country and shared in its vicissi- 
tudes of fortune throughout its many changes of 
government and domination. When the mighty em- 
pires conquered by Alexander the Great were divided 
among his generals, Syria, Judea, and Palestine were 
apportioned to Laomedon, who, however, was soon 
dispossessed by Ptolemy I, formerly satrap, and 
afterwards King of Egypt (322-285 B.C.). Ancient 
historians state that Ptolemy visited Jerusalem circa 
320 B.C., " pretending that he wished to sacrifice, and 
seized it on a Sabbath, a day on which the Jews did 
not fight ". The Egyptian monarch " is said to have 
taken many captives from Jerusalem, and from the 
rest of Judea, as well as from Samaria, and to have 
settled them in Egypt ", and Josephus reports that 
" thereafter many Jews went voluntarily to Egypt to 



live, partly on account of the excellence of the land, 
and partly on account of the kind treatment accorded 
them by Ptolemy ". It is maintained that this king 
made good use of the Jews for military purposes, and 
organized the Jewish population of Egypt, while 
granting the Jews of Alexandria equal rights with the 

Palestine remained an Egyptian province until 
198 B.C., and the earlier Ptolemies befriended the Jews 
both in Egypt and in her dependancies. The Jews of 
Alexandria had formed an important portion of the 
inhabitants of the town from its foundation by Alex- 
ander the Great in 332 B.C., and Ptolemy I granted 
them a separate section of the city, " so that they 
might not be hindered in the observance of their laws 
by continual contact with the pagan population ". 
The Jews, however, were not confined to this quarter, 
and their dwellings and synagogues were distributed 
all over the city. Nor were their rights disputed when 
the Romans took possession of Egypt, and the Emperor 
Augustus confirmed and his successor maintained 
them. As a matter of fact the Alexandrian Jews " not 
only enjoyed civil rights . . . but in public Ufe 
occupied a more influential position than anywhere 
else in the ancient world ". In the year 38 a.d., a 
persecution of the Jews in Alexandria took place under 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. x, p. 262. 

35 D 

The Jews of Africa 

the auspices of the Roman Governor Flaccus, and in 
the course of the next century, revolts of the Jewish 
inhabitants against their Roman oppressors were 

Little is known regarding the position of the Jews 
in Egypt during the Arab invasion and occupation of 
the country, nor of their fortunes under the various 
dynasties of Caliphs which ruled the land for so many 
hundreds of years. In the twelfth century, certain 
renowned Jewish scholars and travellers went to 
Egypt, among whom were the celebrated poet Judah 
ha-Levi, the great Jewish scholar, Maimonides, and 
that famous Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela. 
The last-named gave a detailed account of the more 
important Jewish communities in Egypt, from which 
it appears certain that the Jewish population of 
Alexandria had been much reduced in number since 
the time of the Roman occupation. During the last 
three centuries of Arab or Saracen domination, the 
Jews on the whole led a quiet existence, although at 
times a despot's persecution or a fanatical riot 
resulted in much trouble and misfortune. The six- 
teenth century, however, was destined to see the last 
of the Mameluke rule over Egypt, for early in the year 
15 17, the Turkish Sultan SeUm I, defeated the last Bey 
of the Mamelukes, and took possession of the country. 

Selim entirely altered the system under which the 



Jews had been governed in Egypt. For many hun- 
dreds of years— under the rule of the Caliphs — the 
Jews had been under the authority of an official of 
their own race, appointed by the head of the state, and 
known under the title of Nagid. At the time of 
Selim's conquest of Egypt, the Nagid was a certain 
Isaac Cohen Sholal, who had enacted many important 
regulations for Jerusalem during his term of office. 
When Selim abolished the post, Sholal took up his 
residence in the Holy City, and the Turkish Sultan 
made all the Jewish communities independent of one 
another, appointing David ibn Abi Zimra at the head 
of the Jews of Cairo, while Abraham De Castro was 
selected to fill the post of " master of the mint ". 
Later, this latter office appears to have been included 
in the duties of the Zaraf Bassa or Bashi, who nearly 
always was a Jew, while another JeVvdsh official (who 
was often the Chief Rabbi), was named the " Tshlebi " 
or " Chelebri ". Solyman I, " the magnificent ", who 
succeeded to the Turkish throne in 1520, three years 
later appointed Ahmed, or Achmed Pasha, to the post 
of viceroy of Egypt. The latter was a most ambitious 
soldier of fortune, and being disappointed in his desire 
to obtain the post of Grand Vizier, conceived the design 
of throwing off the Turkish yoke and recovering the 
independence of Egypt, over which he proposed to rule 
as supreme lord, instead of as the vassal of the Turkish 


The Jews of Africa 

Sultan. Abraham De Castro was still master of the 
mint, and Achmed, after taking some preliminary steps 
and many precautions, proposed to him that his 
(Achmed' s) name should appear on the Egyptian 
coinage instead of that of the Sultan. De Castro 
feigned acquiescence, and, obtaining the viceregal 
order for the alteration, secretly set out for Con- 
stantinople, where he informed Solyman of Achmed 's 
treacherous intentions. ^ In the meantime, Achmed, 
incensed by de Castro's action, but unable to avenge 
himself on the wary Zaraf Bashi, planned to destroy all 
his co-religionists in Cairo. He therefore imprisoned 
many of the leading Jews, and demanded from the 
others for their release a sum of money so enormous 
that the community was quite unable to raise the 
amount. He then threatened to pillage the Jewish 
quarter and put the whole of the inhabitants to death, 
if the sum were not paid. The money not being 
forthcoming on the appointed day, the Jewish quarter 
was looted in part, and death appeared to confront the 
inhabitants, when a rebellion, headed by one of the 
viziers named Mohamed Bey, broke out against 
Achmed. Achmed was wounded and escaped, but he 
was subsequently captured, thrown into prison, and 
beheaded. According to Basnage, " The Jews being 
deUvered, made a great Entertainment, and called the 

1 See Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. iv, p. 595. 



Feast they celebrated in Memory of this event, Nessim ; 
because this word signifies a Miracle, and the Stake to 
which Achmed's head was fastened ". These events, 
which occurred in March 1524, gave rise to the estab- 
lishment of a minor Jewish festival in Egypt, on the 
lines of the national feast of Purim. The feast was 
celebrated on the anniversary of the event, Adar 28th, 
and was known as the " Cairo Purim ", or " Purim al 
Mizriyim " (Purim in Egypt). A Megillah, or Hebrew 
Manuscript, was prepared which contained a narrative 
of Achmed's plot and its attendant circumstances, and 
of the conspirator's fate, and this account of the 
downfall of Achmed and the defeat of his devices, was 
read in the synagogues throughout Egypt every year. 
Soon after the middle of the seventeenth century, 
the renowned pseudo-Messiah, Sabbathai Zevi, visited 
Cairo. At this period, the post of Zaraf Bashi was 
filled by Raphael Joseph,^ who, according to Graetz, 
was " a man of great wealth, and open-handed benevo- 
lence, but of unspeakable credulity, and ineradicable 
propensity to mysticism and asceticism ".2 n Jq^s 
not, however, seem probable that a man of " un- 
speakable credulity" would have been appointed to 
a post of this nature, and in all probability, Raphael 

^ Raphael Joseph was known as the " Tshlebi " or " Chelebri," 
and was sometimes spoken of as " Joseph of Aleppo," and " Raphael 
Joseph Halabi." 2 History of the Jews, vol. v, pp. 124-5. 


The Jews of Africa > 

Joseph was by no means as credulous as the historian 
alleges. On the other hand, there can be little doubt 
that he, like many other usually practical men of the 
world, at this period, fell absolutely under the spell of 
Sabbathai Zevi, among whose most faithful adherents 
he soon occupied a prominent place. At the period 
referred to, Raphael Joseph was one of the most 
popular men in Cairo. We read that " fifty learned 
Talmudists and Cabbalists were supported by him, and 
dined at his table. Everyone who sought his com- 
passion found help and reUef in his need ". The 
support of a man like this was a tower of strength to 
the new Messiah who, — ^to a certain extent, — made a 
confidant of Raphael Joseph, to whom he disclosed 
some of his plans for his Messianic career. In 1665, 
Sabbathai again visited Cairo, this time to invoke the 
aid of Raphael Joseph for the community of Jeru- 
salem, which was then oppressed by the demands of 
the local officials. The necessary money was provided 
by the Tshlebi, and Sabbathai soon left Cairo for the 
Holy City, where, in spite of the pecuniary assistance 
he provided, he did not succeed in impressing the 
Rabbis with his Messianic claims. As a matter of 
fact, he appears to have been banished from Jerusalem 
through the influence of those who disbelieved in him, 
and he never returned to the Holy City. When he 
divided up the world into twenty-six kingdoms, he 



requited Raphael Joseph for his services with one of 
these territories which he was to rule over under the 
title of King Joash. 
f In more modern times the Jewish inhabitants of 
Egypt lived on the whole in safety and comfort in the 
country of their ancient taskmasters, but in the year 
1840, they were subjected to attacks brought about by 
" blood accusations ", which were afterwards officially 
withdrawn, owing to the intervention of Sir Moses 
Montefiore, Cr6mieux, and others who visited Cairo for 
the purpose of aiding their brethren in Egypt and 
Syria, a task in which they were eminently successful. 


EGYPT (continued) 

The Alexandrites and the Cairenes — The Arab Domination 
of Egypt— The Nagids of Egypt— The Zaraf Bashis— 
Thevenot, Ogilby, and Vansleb — Le Bniyn and his 
Illustrations — Modern Jewry in Egypt. 

THE history of the Jews of Alexandria is 
unlike that of their brethren in most of the 
towns of the world, inasmuch as they were 
present at the very inception of the city by its founder 
Alexander the Great. From that time, to the present 
day — a period of nearly twenty-two and a half centuries 
— the Jewish inhabitants of Alexandria have formed 
an integral, and at times extremely important, portion 
of the population of the town. Protected by the 
Ptolemies, they enjoyed almost complete civil and 
religious Uberty, and according to a recently discovered 
inscription one of their ancient synagogues was dedi- 
cated to Ptolemy II and his sister and wife Berenice. ^ 
When the Arabs conquered Egypt in the year 641, 
and took possession of Alexandria, the treaty of 
capitulation stipulated that the Jews were to be allowed 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. x, p. 263. 

Egypt (continued) 

to remain in the city, and the Arabian General, Amr,^ 
writing to the Caliph, stated that he found 40,000 
Jews in the town. Early in the Christian era, they 
had been ruled, according to Strabo, by an ethnarch, 
who acting like " the archon of an independent city, 
gives special attention to the proper fulfilment of the 
duties and to the compliance with the various regula- 
tions ". This official would appear to have been the 
precursor of the later Egyptian official Nagid, but the 
earliest date in which the latter title is referred to was 
not until about the year 952. Cairo was established 
by the conqueror of Alexandria, Amr ibn al-Asi, in 
641, and was known at that period by the name of Al 
Fostat. Cairo proper was founded nearly three 
hundred years later by a vizier named Jaahar.^ The 
older town was partially destroyed in 1168, but was 
rebuilt, and now forms part of the suburbs of Cairo. 
Maimonides called it a two sabbath days' journey from 
Cairo proper, and it is quite three or four miles away 
from the Jewish quarter in the Muski. 

The great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, settled 
at Fostat with his family soon after they left the city 
of Fez where they had formerly resided. Here he 
practised as a physician in the family of the Sultan 

1 See Note I, p. 55. ^ According to Leo Africanus, Cairo was 
built by Gehoar, the vizier of Caliph Elcain, and was named by 
him Alchair. See his Historie of Africa, vol. ii, p. 137. 


The Jews of Africa 

Saladin, and here the most learned of Jewish scholars 
wrote his celebrated works " Mishneh Torah ", and 
" Moreh Nebuchim ". On his death, which occurred 
on December 13th, 1204, his remains were transferred 
for interment to Tiberias in Palestine and his tomb has 
ever been regarded as a place of pilgrimage for his 
people. When he died, Jews and Mohammedans alike 
observed pubUc mourning for three days. A few years 
before the arrival of Maimonides in Egypt, Benjamin 
of Tudela paid a visit to the country, and he wrote a 
general account of the Jewish communities which 
came under his notice. He found only 3,000 Jews in 
Alexandria, and 2,000 in Cairo, and he estimated the 
Jewish population in Damietta at 500 souls. In 
addition he speaks of Jewish colonies at Mahalla or 
Mahallat, Sefitah, and Al-Butji, and other travellers 
of about the same period record a Jewish settlement at 
Reshid, the Rosetta of more modem times. 

For a considerable period the position of Nagid was 
occupied by members of the family of Maimonides 
who held the post until the early part of the fourteenth 
century. During the fifteenth century the Jews of 
Egypt endured some persecution at the hands of the 
Mamelukes, and the Cairene Israelites suffered many 
hardships. The travellers MeshuUam ben Menachem 
Volterra,^ and Obadiah of Bertinoro,^ have left accounts 

1 1481. 2 1487, 

Egypt (continued) 

of the position of the Jews in the country, and it 
appears from the narrative of the former, that when he 
visited the country only sixty families were left in 
Alexandria, and the Jewish quarter in Fostat was in 
ruins, although two synagogues still existed. Cairo, 
however, still possessed 500 Jewish householders, in 
addition to some Karaites and Samaritans, and there 
were six synagogues in the city. Obadiah found still 
fewer Jews in Alexandria, but reported that there 
were 700 Jews in Cairo, together with 50 Samaritans 
and 150 Karaites. The Samaritans, we are told, " are 
the richest of all the Jews, and are largely engaged in 
the business of banking ".^ The Community had been 
strengthened and augmented by the arrival of refugees 
from Spain, who were well received by the other Jewish 

Better times, however, were coming for the Jews of 
Egypt, and the advent of the Turks considerably 
benefited the Jewish colonies. Within certain limits, 
the Jews were reasonably prosperous and fairly secure 
in their possessions, in addition to which they had the 
rare privilege— for those days— of the free exercise of 
their religious rites, while their customs and regulations 
were not unduly interfered with. Reference has 
already been made to the post of Zaraf Bashi, which 
was held early in the sixteenth century by Abraham 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. v, p. 64. 


The Jews of Africa 

de Castro. Many travellers assert that the position 
was one of great importance, as this official " takes 
care of the Grand Signior's Revenue ". In all pro- 
bability the post was something similar to that of a 
modern minister of finance, although Graetz expressed 
the opinion that it was merely that of a " Jewish mint 
master and tax farmer ". Menasseh ben Israel 
writing— somewhat indirectly — regarding the office, a 
century later than de Castro's appointment, stated 
that " the greatest viceroy of whole Europe " (sic) was 
" the Bassa of Egypt : this Bassa always takes to him 
by ordre of the Kingdome a Jew with the title of 
Zaraf -Bassa, (Thresurer), viz., of all the Revenue of 
that gouvernement ".^ 

When Leo Africanus visited Egypt, Cairo possessed 
a numerous and busy Jewish colony. At this period 
the Jews did not frequent the agricultural centres, 
and, as George Sandys, the enterprising Elizabethan 
traveller, remarked, they resided " onely in cities ". 
Leo tells us of " the goldsmiths street " of Cairo, which 
he says was " inhabited for the most part by Jewes, 
who deale for riches of great importance '\^ and there 
can be little doubt, that by this time, the Jewish 
Community was already rising in wealth and influence. 
Leo also mentions that he was informed " that at the 

^ Humble Addresses. * Historie of Africa : Pory's Translation, 
Brown's Edition, vol. ii, p. 872. 


Egypt {continued) 

verie head or confluence of the branches of Nilus 
(about fifty miles from Cairo), there standeth a building 
of marvellous antiquitie, called the sepulchre of 
Joseph, wherein the dead bodie of Joseph lay, till it 
was by the Jewes transported unto the sepulchre of 
their fathers ". Leo was probably in Egypt during 
Selim I's reign, and nearly a century elapsed before 
George Sandys came to Cairo (circa 1610). He 
reported, inter alia, that the customs were farmed by 
the Jews, who paid " for the same unto the Bassa 
twenty thousand Madeins a day, thirty of them 
amounting to a Royall of eight ". He does not tell us 
much regarding the Jews of Egypt, but there is a 
touching reference to its Jewesses, in the account of 
his caravan journey from Cairo to Jerusalem, which he 
undertook in company with three other Englishmen 
and three Italians. " Among us ", he remarks, " were 
divers Jewish women ; in the extremity of their age 
under-taking so wearisome a journey, onely to die at 
Jerusalem ; bearing along with them the bones of their 
parents, husbands, children, and kinsfolk ; as they 
doe from all other parts where they can conveniently ".^ 
Thevenot devotes part of a chapter to a description 
of the Jews of Cairo, and many other references to 
them will be found throughout the Egyptian portion 
of his Travels into the Levant. Writing soon after the 

1 Sandys' Travailes. 


The Jews of Africa 

middle of the seventeenth century, he remarks on the 
great number of Jews at Cairo, and states " the Jews 
are very powerful in Egypt, and govern all the affairs 
of that Kingdom ; the Customes being in their hands, 
and they being the only Serats or Bankers. Besides 
that, they enjoy some offices about the Basha, which 
make them have his Ear ; and they daily put new 
inventions into his Head, for raising of Avanies 
(? Revenues). He has three principal officers, to wit, 
the Basha' s Schelebi, which is an office instituted 
within these few years ; the Saraf Basha, and the 
Saraf of the Basha, who set their Wits continually a 
devising, and think of nothing else but of ways how to 
persecute the poor Franks. A Turk told me one day, 
that the Jews were the Turk Hounds for catching 
Money from the Franks ; for the Turks of themselves 
are neither malicious or cunning enough, to chase the 
Prey ; but when once the Jews have made sure of the 
Game, the Turks come in and carry all away ". It 
seems clear from the above statement that the Egyptian 
Viceroy relied on his Jewish officials to find out sources 
of revenue for the purposes of the state and for his privy 
purse, that both the " Tshlebi ", and the " Zaraf- 
Basha " were Jewish officials of very considerable 
power, and that they were evidently in constant 
attendance at the daily Divan presided over by the 
Viceroy of Egypt. It is stated that the Jews had 


Egypt (continued) 

settled in a large quarter of the town of Cairo specially 
reserved for them, which Thevenot stigmatises as 
" short, narrow, nasty, and stinking ". Ogilby, who 
wrote concerning the same period, observed that they 
lived mainly in the " new city ", which appears at that 
time to have been more favourably situated for 
residents engaged in commerce. He estimated that the 
town contained the large number of 100,000 Jews, for 
the most part engaged in trading and merchandise. 
They chiefly spoke " a mixt Language, a meet Gilly- 
maufry hasht together of all usual Tongues now 
call'd Lingua Franca " ; they still called the country 
by the ancient name of Mizraim, from " Mizraim, the 
son of Ham, being there the first planter ". 

Many of the older writers on Egypt speak of the 
works and traces of " Joseph, son of Jacob ", and 
reference to these is sometimes made under the more 
unfamiliar appellation of " Joseph Jacobson ", a name 
more reminiscent of the Ghettos of Europe than of the 
far-famed Viceroy of the Pharoah of whom we read in 
the Pentateuch. An interesting volume published in 
1660,1 refers to the canals constructed by Joseph, and 
Vansleb, whose work on Egypt was issued a few years 
later, speaks of a great pillar built by Joseph at 
Memphis to measure the rising of the Nile, and of a 

* The World Surveyed, by Vincent Le Blanc. 


The Jews of Africa 

canal or channel called " Bahr Jusef ", or " The 
River of Joseph ", which passes the town of " Fium ", 
and which is believed to have been carried out by 
" Joseph Jacobson ". The same author tells us of " a 
very ancient Bridge of Bricks made for a passage for 
the River (Nile) when it overflows " at Sennuris, which 
was built by " Joseph, Jacob's son ", and of certain 
ruins at the top of a mountain near the monastery of 
Casciabe, which are all that is left of an ancient town 
which was once inhabited by the Patriarch Jacob, and 
is still called " Modsellet Jacub ". Then there is a 
long and detailed description of the wonderful well in 
the Castle of Cairo, " commonly named Joseph's 
Well ", but we are informed that "they that think 
that Joseph, Jacob's Son caused it to be digged, are 
deceived, for the Castle of Cairo was built many ages 
after Joseph's death ; and it is a common opinion of 
all Arabian authors that Joseph dwelt at Memphis, 
which was on the other side of the river near the 
Pyramids, and not on this side where Cairo stands ". 
Joseph's Hall, Prison, and Well are all described by 
Thevenot and Le Bruyn, the latter, however, con- 
tenting himself with a practical recapitulation of the 
former author's statements. 

Vansleb states that he at first considered that the 
main channel of Cairo was kept in repair by the Turks, 
Copts, and Jews, in turns, each community doing the 


Egypt {continued) 

work once in three years, but he subsequently ascer- 
tained that the " Soubaschi of Cairo " was made 
responsible for the upkeep and clearance of the canal, 
although no doubt he took care that the Jews and 
Copts did not escape their share of the expense. He 
remarks on the antiquity of the Jewish settlement, 
and observes that the Jews " are very numerous, and 
are in great repute, chiefly at Cairo, and in the maritime 
towns ; but unless it be such places, there are none to 
be found, for if their occupations call them into the 
country, they usually disguise and hide themselves : 
for when the country people find them out they abuse 
and affront them strangely ". Nevertheless, according 
to this author, the Copts were far worse treated than 
the Jews. Basnage observed that the importance of 
the Jewish population in Egypt was due to the Hberty 
they enjoyed. * ' Their Mechanicks " , he asserts, ' * were 
dispersed over the Countrey, and in all the Cities ", 
and it is interesting to observe that evidently the Jews 
did not confine themselves to dealing with merchandise 
or money, but worked with their hands as well as their 
heads. " In fine ", he goes on, " they pretended 
(anno 1673) to be more numerous in this Countrey, than 
when Moses led them out of it ", although according 
to the writer, the Jewish population had been steadily 
decreasing for some years. Jews and Christians ahke 
had to pay a poll tax from " sixteen years of age ", 

51 E 

The Jews of Africa 

paying " every one head by head a certain price yearly, 
amounting to eight and forty bags ". Disputes 
between Christians, Turks, Moors, and Jews, were 
determined by having recourse to the decisions of their 
respective Consuls, without bringing the matter before 
the ordinary judges. The descriptions of Jewish 
costumes in Egypt which are to be found in Le Bruyn's 
Voyage to the Levant, are the most interesting because 
of the plates with which the letterpress is accompanied. 
One of the drawings depicts a Jew, apparently of 
middle age, playing on a kind of three-stringed guitar, 
which is, however, " play'd upon with a Bow just as a 
Violin ". The costume is stated to be typical of those 
in use in the seventeenth century by Egyptian Jews ; 
" Their Turban ought to be mixt with blew Strypes 
and the rest of their Habit must be of a Violet Colour ; 
which colour they are obHged to wear to distinguish 
themselves from others, for else there would be no 
manner of difference betwixt them and the Turks in 
their Habits ; the Persons of Note are much more 
neatly habited than that which we have here repre- 
sented in the Cut ". Other authorities speak of Jews 
being ordered to wear yellow turbans, but this was 
probably at an earher date. " The Jewesses . . . 
wear upon their Heads a Black Cap very long, round 
which is twisted a white or brown handkerchief 
stryped with Gold and Silver. Their Habits are 


Egypt (continued) 

commonly of stryp'd Silst : When I drew the Jewess 
that is represented here (Plate 93) she was sat upon a 
Sopha, smoaking a Pipe of Tobacco, whose stalk was 
of Egyptian Reed. . . ." ^ The lady depicted, like 
most North African Jewesses, was inclined to cor- 
pulence, a condition which appears to have been 
universal with regard to them, when circumstances 
did not conspire to the contrary. Evidently the new 
custom of smoking had rapidly spread among the 
Jewish race in spite of Rabbinic qualms on the subject. 
We are told by a modern author, 2 that smoking was 
very prevalent among the Jews of Cairo in the seven- 
teenth century, and that they smoked more than their 
Polish co-religionists. The orthodox Cairenes struggled 
hard against the temptation to smoke on the Sabbath, 
and certain tobacco devotees " were accustomed to 
fill a hooka overnight on Friday, and thus they kept 
the tobacco alight for Sabbath consumption ". Others, 
still more scrupulous, would not smoke themselves, but 
took the opportunity to visit a " Mohammedan friend 
on the Sabbath and sit in his room while the latter 
smoked ". 

During the greater part of the nineteenth century, 
and also at the present day, the Jews of Egypt have 
enjoyed almost, if not entire civil and reUgious liberty. 

* A Voyage to the Levant, by Le Bniyn. * Jewish Life in the 
Middle Ages, by Israel Abrahams. 


The Jews of Africa 

and there can be little doubt of the general prosperity 
of the community. Considerable information re- 
specting the modern Cairene Jews is afforded in the 
chapter entitled " Egypt in 1888 ", in Mr. E. N. 
Adler's Jews in Many Lands, which also contains a 
description of the ancient Jewish Synagogue in the 
Fostat quarter of Cairo. Here is preserved a Sepher 
Torah (Scroll of the Law) which, it is claimed, was 
written by Ezra. The officials of the Synagogue 
refused to show the Scroll to Benjamin II, and when 
he expressed his disbeHef in the authenticity of the 
document, called him " a reformer, who would not 
beUeve in miracles ". Benjamin of Tudela, who 
visited the Synagogue, must have also been a dis- 
believer, and does not mention the Sepher. Mr. 
Elkan Adler, however, was more fortunate and saw the 
famous scroll which Graetz had denounced '' as a 
sham, a fraud, a delusion, and a snare ", and he 
evidently was of the same opinion as the Jewish 
historian, as he did not think the scroll three hundred 
years old. He saw, however, a far more reputable 
document, a title deed or firman, relating to the 
ancient synagogue, which confirms the Jews in 
its ownership, and is about eight hundred years 

^ Jews in Many Lands. 


Egypt (continued) 


I. The Fostat Quarter of Cairo contains what was 
once a magnificent Moqsue, erected in honour of Amr, 
or Amru, the conqueror of Egypt. In the centre of the 
court of this edifice there is a small building " tastefully 
ornamented, a lasting proof of Amru's justice, like the 
mill at Potsdam ; for it belonged to a poor Jewess who 
would not sell it to the Sultan, for which reason instead 
of having it pulled to the ground, he contented himself 
with building around it ".^ 

1 Prince Puckler Muskau, Travels and Adventures in Egypt. 
London, 1847. 




The Antiquity of the Jewish Settlements — The Jews of Cyrenia 
— Djebel Nefoussi — The Jewish Troglodytes — The Spanish 
Occupations — The Jews of Tripoli — Rabbi Simeon Ben 
Labi — Later Events. 

IT is impossible to ascertain at what period the 
Jews first settled in the country now known as 
Tripoli, but the celebrated Arabian historian, 
Ibn-Khaldoun, asserts that the Nefoussi, an ancient 
tribe of the Louata (the Lybians of Antiquity), them- 
selves professed Judaism, a fact which had, he asserts, 
hitherto been unrecorded by Jewish historians. These 
very early Jewish inhabitants— if they really were 
Jews — were strengthened and augmented by settle- 
ments of Israelites estabhshed in Cyrenia circa 322 B.c.^ 
The first Jewish colonists " were introduced in con- 
formity with the general policy of Ptolemy (I) ; and 
they soon became so numerous . . . that at length, no 
other country besides Palestine, contained so many 
individuals of their nation. Enjoying equal rights 
with the Greeks, and the special favour of the King, 

1 Hamilton, Wanderings in North Africa, 



they formed in the end a fourth order in the state, and 
were governed by municipal magistrates of their own 
. . . their frequent mention in the New Testament 
proves how important a part of the Jewish nation 
they constituted ".^ Under Roman domination, which 
commenced circa 74 B.C., the Jews of Cyrenia lost some 
of their privileges, and the other inhabitants of the 
country appear to have oppressed them, now that the 
personal favour of the Ptolemies had ceased to aid 
them. Their numbers had, in all probability, greatly 
increased, as large bodies had joined them from 
Palestine after the Roman conquest. They appear 
to have always resented their position under the rigid 
rule of the Roman Empire, and their " fierce im- 
patience of the dominion of Rome " existed from the 
earliest days of the Roman occupation of Cyrenia. ^ 
Frequently in rebellion, the risings of the Jews finally 
culminated in a sanguinary struggle in the course of 
which they are said to have slain 220,000 Greeks and 
Romans, but, after a contest marked by extreme 
ferocity, in the course of which great slaughter took 
place on both sides, they were finally suppressed by 
Marcus Turbo. The final decision of the rebellion took 
place in the reign of Trajan (117 a.d.), and Eusebius 
and Josephus both give accounts of the campaign, the 

1 S^eNotel, p. 79. 2 Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire, vol. ii, p. 384. 


The Jews of Africa 

former alleging that " the Jews attacked the Romans 
on every side ", and that " Africa bore a very great 
share in the common calamity " .^ The population of 
Lybia is said to have been so reduced by these terrible 
encounters, that new colonies had to be established 
there, and many centuries had to elapse before the 
country was able to recover from the effects of the 
Jewish struggle for liberty. 

According to the historian Morceaux, during the 
sixth century " the persecutions of the Emperor 
Justinian resulted in an altogether unforeseen result, 
as they absolutely contributed to the growth of 
Judaism in Africa ".^ Numbers of Jews fiercely 
hunted within the Roman Empire, or expelled from 
its confines, " took refuge with the Berbers in the 
lofty mountains of the desert, and here they resumed 
their propaganda, so that when the Arabs arrived on 
the scene, a number of the Berber tribes were more or 
less attached to Judaism particularly in Tripoli . . . 
and in the Sahara ".^ " Under the Fatimite dynasty 
in Egypt, Jews from the oasis of Pessato established 
the most ancient community in Tripoli ",* but Ben- 
jamin of Tudela, who travelled through Northern Africa 
in the latter part of the twelfth century, makes no 

1 Morgan, A Complete History of Algiers. 2 Slousch, Un 

Voyage d'£tudes Juives en Afrique. ^ Revue des £tudes Juives, 
vol. xliv, p. 22. (See also Slousch, p. 3.) * Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. xii, p. 262. 



mention of Tripoli. Nevertheless, there can be Uttle 
doubt, that a large and important colony of Jews 
existed for many centuries in the Djebel Nefoussi 
territory of North-Western Tripoli, and that the 
importance of this settlement — which has been com- 
mented on by Ibn-Khaldoun — continued until the end 
of the fifteenth century. The old tombstones, which 
are still to be found in the existing cemeteries, indicate 
the antiquity of the settlements, but, although the 
last visible inscription is dated 1392, it was not until 
the year 1496 that the Jews permanently quitted the 
town of Djado, the most important of their settlements 
in Djebel Nefoussi, and made their way to the port of 
Tripoli, and to the island of Jerba, off the Tunisian 
coast. ^ About this period, Arabs of a particularly 
bigoted character commenced to attack both Jews 
and Berbers, and Djebel Nefoussi became a centre of 
persecution for these races. The majority of the 
Jewish population consequently fled, and of those who 
remained, some embraced Mohammedanism, while 
the descendants of the few Jewish survivors are still 
to be found in two troglodyte villages named Msellata, 
and Dema, and in " the villages of Iffren which form 
the eastern portion of Djebel Nefoussi ".^ 
Fourteen years later than the exodus from Djebel 

* Slousch, Un Voyage d'^tudes Juives en Afrique. * Ibid. 


The Jews of Africa 

Nefoussi — that is, in the year 15 lo — Ferdinand, King 
of Spain, one of the bitterest of the foes of the Jewish 
race, sent an army to Northern Africa to harry and 
destroy the unfortunate inhabitants, and to endeavour 
to satiate his inordinate lust for the blood of his former 
Jewish subjects. At this period, the Jews of Tripoli 
were, in the main, a well-educated and prosperous 
class. They possessed good schools, eminent rabbis 
and teachers, and were altogether in a position superior 
to that of their brethren in most other parts of the 
world. The poor refugees from Djebel Nefoussi seem 
to have lived in another part of the town, and formed 
a separate community, until the exodus of the older 
Jewish inhabitants to Jerba, when the former took 
possession of the Jewish quarter. In the course of 
Ferdinand's campaign, " the Spaniards marched against 
Tripoli, and made themselves masters of the country, 
which they dehvered up to pillage. All the Jews of the 
town, who formed an important community, were 
deported by the enemy to Naples, where many of them 
died of misery and sorrow, in this sad year of desola- 
tion ".^ Most probably, the Spaniards disdained to 
interfere with the poverty-stricken Jewish refugees 
from Nefoussi, and confined their attentions to their 
wealthier co-religionists. At all events, when nearly 

1 Joseph Ha-Cohen, La ValUe des Pleurs. 


forty years later the famous Fezzan Rabbi, Simeon 
Ben Labi, visited the town, he still found descendants 
of the Jewish fugitives in a wretched condition. Ben 
Labi had intended merely to touch at Tripoli, on his 
way to Jerusalem, but he was so struck by the miser- 
able plight in which he found these people, that he 
resolved to abandon the pilgrimage that he had planned 
and to undertake instead the task of bringing back the 
almost outcast Jews to the knowledge of their rehgion 
and their law. He accepted the position of their 
Chief Rabbi in the year 1549, ^.nd " under his manage- 
ment matters rapidly improved and a modem com- 
munity developed "^ 

The new Chief Rabbi was an eminent Jewish scholar 
and cabbaUst, and had never come into contact with 
members of his faith in so deplorable a state of ignor- 
ance as those whom he had found at Tripoli. He 
found that they knew nothing of the Jewish laws. 
They were not even acquainted with the Jewish 
prayers. Ben Labi's labours, however, were crowned 
by wonderful success, and, as a matter of fact, he 
actually re-converted these Jews to Judaism. Rab- 
binical law was established in Tripoli, and within a few 
years the town disputed with Jerba and Tunis the 
claim of being the home of Rabbinism in North Africa. 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. vii, p, 589. 

The Jews of Africa 

Although Ben Labi was a Spaniard, Tripoli was 
seldom chosen as a residence by the Spanish and Portu- 
guese refugees. It was, of course, avoided during the 
Spanish domination, but even when Solyman, the 
Magnificent, conquered the Spaniards and drove them 
out in 1551, the Spanish Jews settled there only in very 
limited numbers, by which may be explained the scarcity 
of Spanish names among the Jewish population. 

Tripoli was very httle affected by the Sabbathai 
Zevi movement in the seventeenth century. An 
ardent disciple of the pseudo-Messiah, Miguel Cardoso, 
visited the town, and endeavoured to conduct pro- 
paganda there, but he was unsuccessful, and had to 
flee from the attacks of his co-religionists in the city. 
In the early part of the eighteenth century, the Jews, 
in common with the other inhabitants, were threatened 
with extermination by the Bey of Tunis, but the 
latter — whose force was weakened by an epidemic — 
had to retreat, whereupon the Jews established a local 
Purim, or festival of rejoicing, which is held on the 
24th of Tebet, and is called " Purim Sherif ", or " Purim 
Kidebuni ". Another locally kept Purim is " Purim 
Borghel", which is celebrated in memory of the defeat 
of a well-known corsair who burnt " at the stake the 
son of Abraham Halfon, the caid of the Tripolitan 
Jews" (circa 1792). ^ 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 262. 



During the nineteenth century the Jews in Tripoli 
have considerably increased in numbers, and the 
community, as a whole, is prosperous, while the 
advent of the Italian regime in the twentieth century 
is likely to conduce still further to their benefit. 



TRIPOLI {continued) 

Djado and its Jewish Inhabitants — ^The Exodus to TripoH — 
Jewish Customs of Djebel Nefoussi — Curious TripoUtan 
Jewish Superstitions — Jewish Executioners — The Travels 
of the Beecheys — Jewish Costumes in Tripoli — A Stern 
Mosaic Punishment. 

AN ancient document in the form of a letter, 
attributed to Maimonides, remarks that the 
Jews of Jerba, and of Djebel Nefoussi, 
although attached to their belief in the Almighty, 
had the same superstitions and the same practices as 
Berber Mussulmen. It is stated that though they 
were unobservant of many Jewish customs, they were 
particular not to eat the hindquarters of animals. In 
short, although they were not orthodox Jews, they 
were not Caraites. There can be little doubt that 
many of the Berber tribes embraced Judaism, and 
that the troglodyte villages still existing in TripoH are 
inhabited by the descendants of some of these Jewish 
converts who retain some of the practices of Judaism. 
Many of these people have a tradition that their 
forebears came from Palestine, or from countries in the 


Tripoli (continued) 

vicinity of the Holy Land. Little is, however, 
known regarding the history and customs of these 
primitive Jews, among whom, it has been contended, 
Rabbinical Judaism was unknown. 

At Djado, in the Djebel Nefoussi country, near the 
ruins of the old Jewish town long deserted by its former 
inhabitants, there is a subterranean synagogue and, 
not far off, caverns with mortuary niches. The whole 
of the Djebel Nefoussi country, in fact, contains 
ancient relics of the former Jewish population. There 
are ruins of synagogues, old cemeteries, troglodyte 
villages, and Jewish catacombs or subterranean mor- 
tuaries. Much of the information respecting these 
was brought to light by the publication of M. Slousch's 
Voyage d'l^tudes Juives en Afrique. The ruins, still 
visible, however, no doubt only relate to a very small 
portion of the ancient Jewish settlements of Nefoussi. 
The Arabs who supplanted the Berbers had few 
scruples about the destruction of cemeteries, and 
nearly all of the Jewish ones were soon turned into 
cornfields, in which every now and then a stray piece 
of tombstone with an Hebraic inscription is turned up 
by the plough. ^ A " Hebraic- African " patois was 
current in Djebel Nefoussi and throughout the territory 
occupied by the Jews of the Tripolitan Sahara, and 

* Slousch, Voyage d'£iUides Juives en Afrique, p. 8. 


The Jews of Africa 

M. Slousch gives examples of the existing differences 
between this Jewish lingua franca and pure Hebrew. 
The patois is designated the Dialecte du Djebel, and 
is still in constant use in Djebel Iffren and other Jewish 
settlements in Tripoli. 

When the majority of the Jews quitted Djado and 
the territory of Djebel Nefoussi in the year 1496, the 
settlement must have been of considerable importance. 
In Djado alone there were no less than eighty Jewish 
jewellers, and the exodus of the Jewish population is 
still lamented by the inhabitants of the semi-deserted 
town. The Jews of Fossato or Pessato occupied the 
old Hara (or Ghetto) of Tripoli, after the former 
Jewish inhabitants of the port had retired before the 
Spanish conquerors, and, as previously recorded, these 
descendants of the ancient Jewish aborigines of the 
country, were brought back to a knowledge of Judaism 
by the celebrated Rabbi Simeon Ben Labi. To com- 
memorate this great religious revival, it is the custom 
at Tripoli and in other communities on the coast for 
the eighteen benedictions (Shemoni Asra), which 
throughout the world are recited in the synagogues in 
silent prayer on Friday evening services, to be intoned 
aloud by the minister or Rabbi. Benjamin II observes 
with regard to this custom that the Jews of TripoU 
informed him that their ancestors " in their ignorance 
. . . had only kept the Sabbath day, until a Chacham 


Tripoli (continued) 
had instructed them in the observance of Friday 
evening, and in memory of this they had determined 
to have this prayer recited aloud ".^ In many 
instances the Jews of TripoU have customs very 
dissimilar from those in force in other parts of the 
world. For instance, although the admission of 
strangers to the ceremony is distinctly alluded to in the 
Haggadah, or Seder Ritual, and is practised throughout 
Jewry, the Jews of Iffren and of several other Saharan 
settlements never invite a guest during these evenings, 
or during the f^east of the New Year. It is difficult to 
trace the origin of this ancient practice so contrary to 
the spirit of hospitaUty which is of the essence of 

The Jews of Djebel used to celebrate a third day of 
Pentecost, quite unknown to Judaism elsewhere. It 
was instituted by them in memory of Moses, when he 
struck the rock, and, by a miracle, produced a supply 
of water in an arid place. Curiously enough, the 
Mohammedans associated themselves with the celebra- 
tion of this feast, believing that its commemoration 
would lead to the coming of a year conspicuous for 
its abundant supply of water. " This ceremony of 
libations, however, is not absolutely unique, as a 
similar custom was observed in Uzah by M. Huguet ".^ 

1 J. J. Benjamin II, Eight Years in Asia and Africa. * Slousch, 
Voyages d'l^tudes Juives en AJrique. 


The Jews of Africa 

The evening of the first day of the month of Nissan is 
known throughout all Tripolitan Jewry as the night 
of " Bassisa ", or " the feast of the act of dipping ". 
It is a family celebration unknown to the rest of 
Jewry, and on its occasion the whole family come 
together to celebrate it. When the members are all 
assembled they soak or dip a preparation of mashed 
corn and barley, mixed with caraway and coriander 
seeds, in oil, and of this they all partake after the head 
of the household has pronounced the following benedic- 
tion : " O ! thou who openest without a Key, who 
gives without humihating, give us and ours all that 
we need ". When we remember that the majority of 
the Jews of the TripoUtan interior were occupied with 
agricultural pursuits, it will not be difficult to recognize 
in this old custom the survival of an ancient ceremony 
of the Harvest Feast. Benjamin II gives a description 
of a dish called Busi which is, in all probabihty, the 
one alluded to above and which he states is thus 
prepared : " Water is boiled, and salt and wheat flour 
poured into it ; this is well mixed, until it becomes a 
thick hard dough, which is put into a large dish ; a 
greasy sauce is then made and poured over it. The 
whole family then seat themselves roimd the dish 
and, as knives and forks are not used, each plunges his 
hand into the dish, tears off a portion of the dough, 
dips it several times into the greasy sauce, and then 


Tripoli (continued) 

eats it ". He says this dish is greatly enjoyed by Jews 
and Christians alike. ^ 

Some of the Jews of Tripoh take an oath in a very 
ancient formula which runs : "By the father, by the 
Lamp, I declare this to be the truth". M. Sathon, 
who first drew attention to this curious asseveration in 
the Revue des Ecoles de V Alliance Israelite, declares 
that he does not know its origin, but M. Slousch 
asserts that he considers it may refer to the seven- 
branched candlestick, the symbol of the African Jewish 
ritual since the days of Carthage until the time of the 
Mellahs of the Middle Ages.^ Another very quaint 
Jewish custom practised by the Jews of Tripoli re- 
lates to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is to have one 
corner of the wall of their dwelling-place coloured 
black, as a sign of mourning. ^ At Djerba and Iffren, 
the Jewish fiancee who visits for the first time the newly 
whitewashed house of her husband, throws an egg at 
the angle of the wall situated in front of the gate so as 
to disfigure its whiteness. The Berbers of Nefoussi 
evidently copied an old custom of the Jews and thus — 
in a measure — wept for the loss of Jerusalem. 

Few writers of the seventeenth century mention the 

1 Benjamin II, Eight Years in Asia and Africa, * Slousch, 

Voyage d' Etudes Juives en Afrique. ' [This custom is also pre- 
valent among the Jews of Eastern Europe, who also when they 
erect a building, for the same reason, leave a small unimportant 
portion unfinished]. 


The Jews of Africa 

Jews of Tripoli, and, as a matter of fact, neither Ben- 
jamin of Tudela nor Leo Africanus tells us anything 
about them. Of later writers, Ogilby just mentions 
the existence of Jews in New TripoU, and alludes to 
their Poll Tax or to the " Tribute of the Jews ". There 
can be Httle doubt, however, that they did not occupy 
as prominent a station as did their co-religionists in 
the other Barbary states. Their religion, in many 
parts of the country, was tainted with local practices 
and superstitions, and the absence to any great extent 
of Spanish and Portuguese immigrants did not conduce 
to the improvement of the status of their community. 
Some of the more recent works on Tripoli make 
mention of other curious traits and religious customs 
among the Jews, and we are told that " they have a 
fast of seven days and seven nights, which many 
pretend to have kept ". It is stated that " the poorer 
Jewesses will work night and day till they have 
amassed money enough to purchase a piece of linen, 
which remains by them till wanted to bury them ", 
and that " a poor Jewess will buy a basket (called here 
a cuffa) of lime, and go herself to decorate and white- 
wash the grave of any near relation she has lost, and 
plant fresh flowers round it. . . ." ^ Tully informs 
us further that the Jews in TripoH were exceedingly 

* Tully, Ten Years' Residence in Tripoli, 

Tripoli {continued) 

observant of the ancient rites and practices of Judaism, 
but this was at a period when the reformer Ben Labi 
and his immediate successors had revived the ancient 
religion and swept it free from pagan and Moslem 
superstition and error and from the mixture of local 
customs and rites which had been assimilated in the 
course of centuries of profound ignorance. 

Although some persecutions of the Jews undoubtedly 
went on from time to time in the town of TripoU and 
other parts of the country, they were far better treated 
there than in Morocco. In the year 1817, the Jewish 
population of the port was estimated at 2,000 souls, 
who possessed three synagogues. " There are about 
thirty of them who are considered to be in good cir- 
cumstances ; the others are workmen, goldsmiths, 
etc. ". The trade with Europe " is almost entirely in 
their hands ; they correspond with Marseilles, Leghorn, 
Venice, Trieste and Malta ".^ The Jewish quarter 
was shut up every evening at sunset, and during the 
period when the Marabouts held their annual festival 
the Jews were not allowed to walk about in the streets. 
One of the works written about this period relates that 
during the author's visit a Uttle Jewish boy who had 
been unwise enough to go out was killed by the Mara- 
bouts or their followers. With regard to costume, the 

^ Jackson, Algiers : being a Complete Picture of the Barbary 


The Jews of Africa 

use of gaudy clothes appears to have been forbidden to 
the Jews, but in other respects the attire adopted was 
not very different from that of the other sections of 
the population. Their turbans, however, had to be 
made of a blue material, and the Mohammedans, of 
course, avoided the use of this colour in their head- 
dress. Men had to restrict themselves to black slippers, 
but women could wear either black or yellow slippers, 
but were not allowed to use boots. " The garb of the 
Jewish women varies but little from that of the Mos- 
lems ; their full dress is exactly the same, but the walk- 
ing dress, instead of showing one eye, exhibits both" ^ 
In the course of his expedition. Captain Lyon paid a 
visit to the Gharian Mountains, and reported that at 
that period, there were many Jews living in these 
highlands, " whose dwelHngs are much cleaner and 
better excavated than those of the Arabs, and are 
also neatly whitewashed. These people as in Tripoli 
are the only handicraftsmen, and seem here to be 
rather better treated than elsewhere ". They " are 
employed to weigh and prepare the Bey's share (of 
the harvest), and are well paid by the Arabs, in order 
that they may give short measure ; for although using 
false weights is by the law of Mohammed a heinous 
crime, yet they fancy the sin is not incurred if the Jews 
defraud for them ".^ Many writers on Tripoh have 
* Lyon, Travels in Northern Africa. 

Tripoli (continued) 

asserted that executions are not allowed to be per- 
formed by Mohammedans, " a sufficient number of 
Jews being always kept in reserve to discharge this 
public duty ".^ Captain Lyon remarks that the 
" Moors of Tripoli are never employed as hangmen ; 
but the first Jew who happens to be at hand has that 
office conferred upon him ", but there appears to be no 
evidence of the antiquity or otherwise of this custom. 2 
During the years 182 1 and 1822 an expedition was 
formed to explore the northern coast of Africa from 
Tripoh eastward, and in their narrative of this expe- 
dition, Captain F. W. Beechey and Mr. H. W. Beechey 
give some particulars of the Jews of Tripoli at this 
period. In the course of their travels they visited an 
ancient port named Zeliten, the centre of a group of 
villages in which " a very considerable part of the 
population " was Jewish. They reported that they 
" were informed that the manufactures of the place 
are chiefly in the hands of these people ; we found 
them uniformly civil, obliging, and industrious, and 
although much persecuted by the Mohammetan 
inhabitants, they appear to support their ill-fortune 
contentedly ". Another place visited was Hudia, 
distinguished by its wells, and they were told that the 
Arabs had given the locality this name " in con- 

1 Russell, History and Present Conditioft of the Barbary States. 
2 Travels in Northern Africa, 


The Jews of Africa 

sequence of the bad water usually found there, and 
which they consider to be only fit for Jews ; the Arab 
term for a Jew being Hudi ". . . . The authors, 
however, did not beheve in the Arab explanation of the 
name of the place. ^ They pointed out that the Jews 
were formerly very numerous in the PentapoHs,^ and 
we find them described by Procopius as having once 
inhabited the country on its western extremity. 
Hudia may in such case be the last settlement they 
possessed in this neighbourhood, and the place may 
very pr'obably have received its appellation from that 

On arriving at Benghazi, the writers ascertained that 
the town contained about 2,000 inhabitants, a large 
proportion of whom were Jews. They were " a 
persecuted race, but uniformly steady in their pursuit 
after riches . . . they are . . . the principal mer- 
chants and tradesmen of the place, and their well 
directed and unremitting industry alone enables them 
to meet the heavy exactions which are made upon 
their purses and property by the adherents to the 
religion of the Prophet. Their houses are generally 
cleaner and better furnished than those of most of the 
Mohammetans, and we never entered any of them 

^ See Note II, p. 79. ' Appolonia. Arsinoe, Berenice, Cyrene, 
and Ptolemais. Five cities in the district of Cyrenaica in Northern 
Africa. Vide Jewish Ev cyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 589. 


Tripoli (continued) 

without finding the whole family employed in some 
useful occupation. We found them invariably civil 
and obliging, and apparently contented with their 
condition . . . the ' fierce impatience ' which formerly 
characterized the Jews of the Cyrenaica has disappeared 
with the probability of its being successfully exerted ; 
and poverty is now almost the only evil to which they 
will not quietly submit ".^ 

A later visitor to Benghazi, James Hamilton, states 
*' there are Jews here, into whose hands most of the 
less laborious trades have fallen, as is usual in all 
countries, especially in the East. . . They are ready 
to turn their hands to anything, but after showing 
themselves serviceable as may be, ask prices equal to 
about ten times what would be demanded in Bond 
Street. ... It must be confessed in favour of the 
Jews, that if their filth and ignorance equal those of 
their brethren in all these countries, they are not 
behind them in industry. They are the only hard 
workers in the place. . . . One of the community, who 
by a series of most ingenious manoeuvres has contrived 
to obtain EngHsh protection ... is now broker to 
the Vice-Consulate ".^ 

Benjamin II, travelling in Tripoli in the middle of 

* F. W. and H. W. Beech ey, Expedition to Explore the Northern 
Coast of Africa, from Tripoly Eastward. 2 James Hamilton, 
Wanderings in North Africa. 


The Jews of Africa 

the nineteenth century, found that the Jews Hved there 
" free and happily . . . they carry on a considerable 
trade, and are mostly very rich ". The Community 
numbered " about i,ooo families ", and possessed 
eight synagogues. Many of the Jews " dress in the 
same fashion as in Tunis, others in the fashion of 
Algiers, and many others wear a peculiar costume 
consisting of a long garment reaching to the knees, a 
short burnon (burnouse), white trousers reaching to the 
knees, and red shoes. The women wear for head-dress 
a red fez, wound round with a silk kerchief and beauti- 
fully ornamented in different ways. To this is added 
a long garment and a wide shawl hanging from the 
head, thrown gracefully round the upper part of the 
body. They wear slippers but no stockings, their 
hands and feet are covered with gold and silver rings, 
the nails painted red and the eyebrows black ". 

An interesting account of the Jews of TripoH in the 
last quarter of the nineteenth century is afforded by 
Mr. Edward Rae, who travelled through '' The Country 
of the Moors " at this period. He states that the 
Jewish population was still estimated at 2,000, the 
same number computed by Jackson sixty years 
previously. The Jewish Quarter is near the Bab el 
Djedid, or New Gate, and many of its inhabitants are 
engaged in the manufacture of ivory and silver inlays 
for the adornment of rifles and more peaceful articles 


Tripoli (continued) 

of domestic use. Mr. Rae employed a Jewish money- 
changer, whose brother received him " in a pretty and 
picturesque dwelling of the Jewish-Moorish type. We 
were very hospitably entertained with brandy and 
sweetmeats, of which, understanding it was good 
breeding to do so, we ate large quantities. We passed 
along the Har el Kebir, the chief street of the Jews' 
quarter, and entered the Synagogue. Such a dis- 
orderly, noisy, irreverent congregation, with its forest 
of dark blue turbans, I have never seen. One of the 
rabbis read from the Hebrew scriptures while the 
conversation was animated and general. ..." The 
Jews of the town were stated to be very charitable, 
" and in every commercial transaction one in every 
thousand of value is set aside for the poor ". 

This author is responsible for a very curious state- 
ment, which is, however, uncorroborated by any other 
writer on Tripoli and the Tripolitans. In describing 
a visit to the Jews' Quarter, which, at that time, could 
be seen from a considerable distance in consequence of 
an extremely lofty palm tree, he observes, " We came 
to a square of waste ground, a dirty, ill-drained area. 
It had a melancholy interest, for many a poor Jewess, 
who had been unfaithful to her husband, was stoned to 
death here. Banishment, of late years, has taken the 
place of stoning ".^ It seems hardly probable that 
* Rae, The Country of the Moors. 


The Jews of Africa 

this stern relict of the Mosaic Code could have survived 
the period of the dispersion, and it seems questionable 
whether the local authorities would have permitted 
the infliction of so drastic a punishment. Above all, 
unfaithfulness is an extremely rare offence among 
Jewish women, especially those unaffected or but 
little affected by European culture, and it is unHkely 
that those of Tripoli should have proved an exception 
to the universal rule. It is probable that the author 
misunderstood his informant and that the place in 
question served some other purpose. 

Writing in the first decade of the twentieth century, 
M. Slousch remarks that in the Djebel Nefoussi 
country " the Jewish woman is absolutely free, and on 
an equality with the man. She is the worthy relative 
of the Hellenist Jewess, knowing how to defend her 
rights, against all intrusions of Judaeo-Arabic customs 
in force in the maritime oases, with a spirit of indepen- 
dence which is truly characteristic ".^ At this period, 
the Jews of the town of Tripoli numbered 12,000 
people, out of a total population of 40,000. The 
city contained eighteen synagogues, and several 
others were distributed in the other towns of the 
country. 2 

* Voyage d'J^tudes Juives en Afrique. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. xii, p. 262. 


Tripoli {continued) 


I. " The thousands whom Ptolemy Soter took from 
their homes after he had subdued Judea were settled 
by him in comfort and happiness at Alexandria and 
Cyrene, as equal citizens with the Macedonians 
patronized by him and his son, and allowed the free 
exercise of their religion ; they were assisted, too, by 
money and privileges in the pursuits of industry, so 
that many of their countrymen followed voluntarily, 
and all were raised to opulence and consideration". ^ 

II. Despite the opinions of the Beecheys, it would 
seem probable that the word *' Hudia " signifies that 
there is some defect in the quahty of the water. In 
Frederick Horneman's journal he mentions " Jahudie," 
and informs his readers that it was so called " because 
the water is bad, or other water is not to be found ". 
The place is marked as Biltoradec on Horneman's 
map, " Jahudie " being a second name for this inland 
village or district, which is in Egypt, while " Hudia " 
is on the Tripolitan Coast about five hundred miles 
west of " Jahudie ". 

1 See Note in " History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire," by Edward Gibbon. Bohn's Edition, Vol. I, p. 35. 




The Jews of Carthage — The Early Spanish Refugees — The 
Foundation of Kairwan — The Arab Domination — The 
Spanish Occupation — Joseph Ha-Cohen's Account — The 
Spaniards Expelled — The Deys and the Beys — French 
Influence and its Effects — ^The Jews under the French 
■ Regency. 

THERE is an old tradition among the nomadic 
tribes of Tunisia, that the Jews settled in 
the country before the destruction of the 
First Temple, and although this statement has been 
sometimes regarded as unfounded,^ there can be Httle 
doubt that a colony of Jews existed in Carthage soon 
after the building of the city. The First Temple at 
Jerusalem was erected circa 1004 B.C., and Josephus 
maintains that Carthage was founded 143 years later, 
circa 861 B.C., while other computations of the date 
range from 878 B.C. to 826 B.C. As the First Temple 
was not destroyed until 587 B.C., it is quite possible 
that the Moslem legend may, after all, be correct. It 
is impossible, however, even to conjecture what the 
Jewish population of Carthage may have been, when 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 271. 


that renowned city and republic challenged the 
Roman Empire for the mastership of the world. In 
recent times, a Jewish necropolis with many inscrip- 
tions in Latin and Hebrew has been discovered to the 
north of the site of the city near the hill Gamart, and 
although this ancient rock-hewn cemetery only con- 
tains about two hundred tombs, there may have been 
other Jewish burying-places in the vicinity. " Modern 
scholars are inclined to identify the Biblical Tarshish 
with Carthage, since it is thus translated in the Septua- 
gint, the Targum, and the Vulgate ",^ and the Talmud 
particularly mentions some erudite Carthaginian 
teachers of the Law. Nevertheless, in all probabihty, 
the Jews did not arrive in Carthage in any numbers 
imtil after the destruction of the Second Temple, and 
little or nothing is heard of them in the accounts of 
Hannibal's campaigns. There seems, however, Httle 
doubt that " after the dissolution of the Jewish State, 
a great number of Jews was sent by Titus to Maure- 
tania, and many of these settled in Tunis. These 
settlers were engaged in agriculture, cattle-raising, and 
trades. They were divided into clans or tribes, 
governed by their respective heads, and had to pay the 
Romans a capitation tax of two shekels ",^ The 
Carthaginian Jews were more content under Roman 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol iii, p. 594. * Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. xii, p. 271. 


The Jews of Africa 

rule than were their co-religionists in the adjacent 
state now known as Tripoli. They gradually increased 
in numbers, and when the Vandals conquered the 
country in the year 439 a.d., the Jews were treated 
with much moderation. 

The Byzantines, having subdued the Vandals, took 
possession of the country, in 534, the armies of the 
Emperor Justinian being led by the renowned general 
BeUsarius. The status of the Jews was altogether 
changed by the advent of their new rulers, and very 
probably many of the Tunisian Jews fled to the 
mountains of Tripoh and took refuge with the Berber 
tribes in order to escape the cruelties of the " Emperor 
of the East ". A century later, the Jewish population 
was augmented by the arrival of numerous former 
residents of Spain who fled from the persecution of the 
Visigoths, and certain of these immigrants also mingled 
with the Berbers who are supposed to have been con- 
verted to Judaism about this period. Then came the 
Arab invasion of Northern and Western Africa of circa 
644 A.D., together with the arrival of the Arabian Jews, 
and Tunis and other Tunisian cities soon contained a 
very large number of Israelites by race or adoption. 

About the year 670, the important town of Kairwan 
was founded by Ubka ibn Nafi. It rapidly acquired 
a large Jewish population, drawn from Egyptian, 
Arabian, and Cyrenia sources. In the subsequent 
warfare for Tunisian independence which ensued 



between Imman Idris and the Caliphs of Bagdad, the 
majority of the Jews took the side of the CaUphs. 
Their party was unsuccessful, and the conqueror made 
them suffer severely for their defection. For a time, 
their influence in the country waned under Imman 
Idris' rule, but under the Fatimites they again in- 
creased in power and numbers, notwithstanding the 
terrible decrees of Omar (see p. 92). They once more 
took part in the politics of the country, and their 
political importance from the end of the eighth to the 
commencement of the eleventh centuries extended 
throughout Tunisia and more particularly in Kairwan. 
With the accession of the Zirite dynasty, circa 10 16, 
another regime of persecution set in for the Jews who 
suffered considerably in Kairwan, whence many fled to 
Tunis, where the oppression was less violent. But in 
the next century, the Jewish inhabitants of Tunis had 
their own turn of misfortune under the Almohade 
dynasty, when determined attempts were made to 
convert them to Mohammedanism. Matters settled 
down again" about the middle of the twelfth century, 
when the Jews of Tunis had a quarter in the city 
allotted to them for a ghetto, and, " under the Hafsite 
dynasty, which was established in 1236, the condition 
of the Jews greatly improved".^ In the year 1270, 
however, Kairwan was proclaimed a holy city and the 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 273. 

83 G 

The Jews of Africa 

Jews of that town as well as those residing at Hammat 
were required either to leave, or abandon their faith ; 
some preferred the latter course, and nominally 
embraced Islam. ^ 

Shortly after the commencement of the fourteenth 
century, a Jewish official, bearing the title of " caid ", 
was appointed by the Tunisian authorities to the post 
of Receiver of Government taxes. At this period, the 
Jews in the country had to pay a communal tax, for 
the benefit of the Jewish Community, to which every 
member contributed according to his means. He had 
also to pay a personal or capitation tax, for which all 
classes of the inhabitants were liable. In addition, 
" every Jewish tradesman and industrial had to pay 
an annual tax to the guild to which his trade or 
industry belonged ".^ Nevertheless, despite all these 
exactions and taxes, the commerce of the country 
was, in the main, in the hands of the Jews, who 
appear, however, to have been treated more cruelly 
in Tunisia during the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries than in any other of the North African 

It has been stated, that it was " long enough before 
the Jews enjoyed ... an existence worthy of human 
dignity " in Tunisia. " Centuries of the greatest 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. vii, p. 416. « Ibid. Vol. xii, p. 273. 



misery and of the most cruel oppression have succeeded 
in bending them, but with the toughness peculiar to 
their race, they have revived since they share the 
rights and liberties of the hereditary people "^ As a 
matter of fact, the condition of the Jews during those 
tvv'o centuries was such that while refugees from Spain 
and Portugal flocked into Algiers and Morocco, they 
avoided Tunisia, and this may possibly account for the 
few Jewish personages of note who are known to have 
resided there daring this period. Nevertheless, the 
Jews of Tunisia were empowered to conduct their own 
affairs, and they held their own courts and administered 
justice after their own rules. But the Jewish financiers, 
the learned rabbis, and the great Jewish scholars, who 
came in the train of the fugitives from the Iberian 
Peninsula kept aloof from the kingdoms of Tunisia and 
TripoU. Matters did not improve in the first three 
quarters of the sixteenth century. During the wars 
under the Arabian Prince Hascen, who had first 
conquered the country and then suffered defeat at 
the hands of Barbarossa's troops, the assistance of 
Charles V of Spain was invoked by the defeated 
ruler of Tunisia. The Spanish potentate sent a 
powerful army to Africa, which, after two engage- 
ments with Barbarossa's armies, took possession 

1 Hesse-Wartegg, Tunis : The Land and the People. 


The Jews of Africa 

of Tunis and re-established Hascen on the throne as a 

vassal of Spain. The Jewish author, Joseph Ha- 

Cohen, published (1575) an interesting description of 

the results of this campaign so far as the Jewish 

population of Tunisia was concerned. 

" The Emperor Charles marched against Tunis in 

Barbary and took possession of it on the 21st of July 

of the year 5295 (1535) and Tunis was deprived of all 

its glory. The Jews were in great numbers there ; 

some of them took flight to the desert, where they were 

consumed by hunger and thirst, and reduced to the 

last extremity of distress ; they were despoiled of all 

they had brought with them by the Arabs, and many 

of them subsequently perished ; others were massacred 

by Christians who fell on them in an attack from the 

town ; others again were carried into captivity by the 

conquerors without anyone coming to their aid in this 

day of divine wrath. Rabbi Abraham of Tunis has 

written a description of the sufferings they endured, 

and expresses himself on this subject as follows : 

* Here we were literally swallowed up ; the sword 

devoured us ; elsewhere they died of hunger and 

thirst, but what can we do ? It is God's will ; if he has 

decreed that I shall die, I shall hope for nothing less.' 

Thus far Rabbi Abraham. They were sold — men and 

women — as slaves, to various countries ; but at 

Naples and Genoa the Italian Communities ransomed 



a great number of them. God had intervened on their 
behalf ".1 

The Spanish domination of Tunis lasted from the 
year 1535 to the year 1574, and was marked by the 
cruelty and oppression which made Spain a by-word 
throughout the world for despotism, barbarity, and 
bigotry. The hatred felt for the Spaniards in Europe, 
Africa, and America, at this period, was most intense 
and fully deserved, and a thrill of reUef must have 
been felt when the redoubtable Selim II swept them 
from Africa, a few years before their Armada was 
destroyed by the British. During the Spanish regime 
the Jews suffered severely in Tunis and other seaports 
in the country, but it is curious to observe that some 
centuries later, resident Jews of Tunis and other towns 
placed themselves under the protection of the Spanish 
among other Consuls, " and so escaped the power and 
jurisdiction of the Bey and his ministers. This is the 
reason that some of the Consulates in Tunis count 
their subjects or proteges by hundreds, and even 
thousands, amongst the Tunisian Jews ".^ 

Under direct Turkish Government and the sub- 
sequent semi-autonomous rule of the Tunisians, the 
Jews enjoyed " a fair amount of security, being prac- 
tically guaranteed the free exercise of their religion, 

1 Joseph Ha-Cohen, La ValUe des Pleurs. 2 Hesse- Wartegg, 
Tunis : The Land and the People. 


The Jews of Africa 

and liberty to administer their own affairs. They 
were, however, always exposed to the caprices of 
princes, and to outbursts of popular fanaticism ".^ 
Notwithstanding the disturbed state of the country, 
under the rule of the Turkish Deys, and the Tunisian 
Beys, the Jews prospered amid the perpetual struggles 
for supremacy. Early in the seventeenth century the 
Jewish community was greatly augmented by the 
arrival of a large number of Italian Jewish colonists. 
The newcomers, at first, joined the Spanish and 
Portuguese Communities, but later, at the end of the 
seventeenth century, they established their own con- 
gregation and communal institutions. In the year 
1705, the Bey, Hussein Ben Ali, became the indepen- 
dent ruler of Tunisia, and from this period the position 
of the Jews steadily improved, and despite the op- 
pression and suffering with which they had to contend, 
they were the principal business men of the country 
and exercised considerable influence, notwithstand- 
ing the ostensible contempt with which many of 
them were treated. A celebrated Jewish traveller 
who visited Tunis in 1772, tells of the influence 
which the Jewish Caid, Solomon Nataf, wielded 
at the Tunisian Court, and many authorities allude 
to the important status of the Jews of the 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 274. 


country in financial and commercial matters at this 

Shortly after the middle of the nineteenth century, 
the Jews of Tunisia obtained rights equal to those of 
the other inhabitants of the country, mainly through 
the intervention of the Emperor Napoleon III, who, 
after two years of diplomatic negotiation, sent a French 
man-of-war to enforce the demands of the French 
Government for the enfranchisement of the Jews. 
" The Constitution under which these rights were 
secured was abrogated in 1864 in consequence of a 
revolution which entailed great suffering on several 
Jewish communities ",^ but in the year 1881, Tunisia 
became a dependancy of France and the Jews now 
possess full civil and reUgious Hberty. 

When Benjamin II visited the city of Tunis in the 
year 1853, he estimated the Jewish population to be 
about 16,000, but by the commencement of the 
twentieth century their numbers had nearly doubled, 
while the total number of Jews in the regency was 
estimated (1918) at 65,213 souls. 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 274. 



TUNISIA (continued) 

The Jewish Necropolis at Carthage — The Ordinances of 
Omar — Jerba and Kairwan — Maimonides — A Jewish Cor- 
sair — ^The Jews under the Turks — Mordecai M. Noah — 
Benjamin II on Tunisian Attire — Wingfield's Remarks — 
Tunis in the Twentieth Century. 

THE early advent of the Jews in the country 
now known as Tunisia was conclusively 
proved by the discovery of the ancient 
Israelite cemetery in the Gamart Hills in the vicinity 
of the city of Tunis, in close proximity to the site of 
Carthage. It has been suggested that the rock tombs 
there brought to light had been hewn according to the 
regulations laid down for their construction by Jewish 
tradition, while the fragments of Hebrew inscriptions 
fully determined their origin, which was further em- 
phasized by frequent representations of the seven- 
branched candlestick, although most of the inscriptions 
were in the Latin language.^ These tombs were 
richly adorned with mural decorations in relief and 
fresco, but they contained no vessels or furniture 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. iii, p. 617. 

Tunisia (continued) 

except lamps. The embellishments served to indicate 
that the Jews of Carthage were both wealthy and 
artistic, while the small number of tombs suggest a 
small Jewish population. This possibly consisted of a 
number of merchants whose ancestors had embarked 
in oversea traffic when Solomon, King of Israel, laid 
the foundations of maritime commerce with Phoenicia 
and Northern Africa, and who had perhaps settled in 
Carthage not long after the city was founded. It may 
therefore be conjectured, perhaps with justification, 
that some of the present Jewish inhabitants of Tunisia 
are descended from ancient settlers in Carthage, while 
others may claim as ancestors the Jews who migrated 
there before the country was conquered by the Arabs. 
Many of these early, and indeed almost aboriginal, 
colonists had undoubtedly eventually to embrace the 
Mohammedan faith, and their descendants are still 
devotees of that religion, but others have in all pro- 
bability remained true to the more ancient faith, from 
generation to generation, until the present day.^ 
Others, again, like the Jews in the island of Jerba, have 
become tainted with Mohammedan superstition, and 
have assimilated certain rehgious practices and customs 
foreign to Judaism. 

When Tunisia was conquered by the Arabs in the 
middle of the seventh century, the Jews came under 

* Elis^e Reclus, Universal Geography, vol. ii : North-West Africa. 


The Jews of Africa 

the enactments laid down by Omar I, who reigned from 
634 to 644 A.D., which were formulated to differentiate 
between the Jews and the Christians on the one hand, 
and the Mohammedans on the other. The provisions 
dealt with taxes, places of worship, attire, cemeteries, 
festal processions, free entertainment of Moslem 
travellers, and many other matters. Neither Jew nor 
Christian could hold an official position in the state ; 
they were not allowed to enter a mosque, indulge in 
singing, or ride on horseback. Many of these rules, 
however, were not strictly enforced, but some of them 
were in practice as late as the establishment of the 
French Regency in the nineteenth century. About the 
end of the eighth century, the Jews rebelled against 
the power of Imam Idris, but being subdued, had to 
pay him a capitation tax and to furnish a certain 
number of Jewish virgins annually for his harem. A 
large body of the community, however, refused to 
accede to the demands of their conqueror and fled to 
the island of Jerba where their movements and their 
doings were less subject to his control. The remainder 
of the Jewish population lost a good deal of their power 
and influence for the time being, and tribes which 
formerly inhabited the country districts found it safer 
to seek protection in the larger towns and exchange 
their agricultural and farming occupations for com- 
merce. In this way Kairwan and other important 


Tunisia (continued) 

centres in Tunisia received a considerable addition to 
their Jewish population which had previously been 
diminished by the exodus to Jerba and by other 
causes. After the death of Imam Idris, the Kairwan 
Jews attained to prosperity, and the community began 
to acquire high repute among the Jews of the East- 
Many important institutions centred round the Syna- 
gogue, the supporters of which found money to ransom 
Jewish captives, and to contribute to the upkeep of 
Jewish universities. Jewish chroniclers speak of the 
" great scholars of Kairwan " who kept up an active 
correspondence with the geonim ^ of Babylon. Part of 
this correspondence has been discovered, and these 
letters throw a certain amount of light upon the 
intellectual activities of the city. The study of the 
Talmud and of the related literature was highly 
developed in Kairwan, and some of the heads of the 
College and other resident scholars became famous 
among the Talmudic authorities of this Period. ^ 

Until the middle of the eleventh century, the Jewish 
Academy at Kairwan was an important centre of 
religious and literary activity, but soon after the death 
of the famous scholars Hananeel and Nissim (circa 
1050) the college fell into decay. About this time the 
general community was suffering severely from the 

1 [The heads of the famous Jewish Academies.] * Jewish 
Encyclopedia, vol. vii. 


The Jews of Africa 

effects of the raids of the Bedouin, and a large portion 
of the Jewish population fled to Tunis. The im- 
portance of Kairwan as a Jewish centre thereupon 
rapidly declined, and has never revived. 

Somewhere about the year 1165, Maimonides visited 
the island of Jerba, when he was on his way to Egypt 
where he eventually settled. He seems to have formed 
a very poor opinion of the Jewish inhabitants, and, 
indeed, of the Jews in general who were resident in 
North- West Africa. His views have been preserved 
in the form of a letter to his son in which he wrote : 
" Beware of the inhabitants of the West, of the country 
called Gerba, of the Barbary States. The intellect of 
these people is very dull and heavy. As a rule beware 
always of the inhabitants of Africa from Tunis to 
Alexandria ; and also of those who inhabit the Barbary 
coasts. In my opinion they are more ignorant than 
the rest of mankind " . . . . ^ Possibly the great Jewish 
philosopher was adversely prejudiced against his 
North African co-religionists by their failure, for the 
most part, to practise many of the precepts of Rab- 
binical Judaism, coupled with their assimilation of 
many local rehgious customs and superstitions. On 
the other hand, these Jews scrupulously observed all 
the first days of the principal Jewish festivals, and 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 272. 


Tunisia (continued) 

although they ignored the minor feast of Purim, they 
duly celebrated the festival of Hanucah. 

At first the Jewish inhabitants of Tunis were not 
allowed to live in the city proper, but the ghetto, or 
" Hira ", became their headquarters. After the pro- 
clamation of Kairwan as a holy city, Jews were not 
allowed to sleep even a single night in the town and 
they could only visit it by day by the special permission 
of the governor. Little information is available 
respecting the Jews of Tunisia in the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, although all authorities agree that 
they were severely persecuted at that period. Few 
travellers mention anything of them, and there are 
not many Jewish writers or scholars of importance who 
left accounts of their experiences in Tunisia. The 
communal affairs were directed by a council, which 
was presumably nominated by the Jewish Caid, who 
was himself appointed by the government and whose 
authority was supreme. He chose not only the 
council, but also the rabbis, and no rabbinical decision 
was held to be legal until it had received his sanction. 
The duties of the Council included the administration 
of law and justice among the Jews, the collection of 
their taxes, and the settlement of their local dis- 
putes. ^ When Barbarossa contended with the Em- 
peror Charles V for the possession of Tunisia, he 
* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 273. 


The Jews of Africa 

entrusted the command of the garrison of Tunis to an 
old friend of his named Sinan Rais, a renegade Jew of 
Smyrna. Sinan had, at all events ostensibly, adopted 
the creed of the Prophet, and he was admitted to have 
been one of the boldest and most experienced of all the 
leaders under Barbarossa's banner. His courage and 
talents, however, did not avail on this occasion, as 
Tunis was taken by storm on July 25th, 1535. It is 
stated that Sinan used his influence with Barbarossa in 
preventing the massacre of the 7,000 (some authorities 
say 22,000) slaves who were shut up in the citadel. 
The old corsair must have favourably impressed 
Charles V, as nine years later the Emperor requested 
Apiano, the governor or prince of Elba, to release 
Sinan's son, who was in slavery on the island. Apiano 
made some excuses, in consequence of which Elba was 
raided by the commander of the Emperor's ships, 
whereupon the youth was released, and it was reported 
that '* his Father no sooner saw him, but he dropped 
down dead thro' excess of joy and surprize ".^ 

Although the Jews of Tunisia experienced great 
relief after the expulsion of the Spaniards, in many 
respects their position was by no means enviable. 
Nevertheless they felt great joy when the cruel op- 
pressors who had driven them from Spain over a century 

1 Morgan, History of Algiers. Sinan is sometimes alluded to as 
" Chef out Sinan Rais ", Chef out meaning " The Jew ". 


Tunisia (continued) 

and a half previously, and who had then persecuted 
them atrociously in their new home for nearly forty 
years, were driven out of Tunisia after their ignomin- 
ious defeat by the Turks under Selim II. The Jews 
had, however, to submit to all kinds of sartorial 
regulations, and were obliged to wear a special costume 
consisting of a blue frock with linen sleeves, wide 
linen drawers, black slippers, and skull caps. They 
were allowed to wear stockings only in winter, and to 
ride only on asses or mules, and then without a saddle. 
Subordinate officials imposed all kinds of tasks upon 
them which they were compelled to execute without 
any compensation. ^ Custom became with them, not 
surprisingly, second nature, and when all the regulations 
with regard to costume were withdrawn after the 
French occupation, many of the Jews had become so 
accustomed, perhaps even attached, to the obligatory 
attire, as to neglect to exercise their liberty with 
respect to their clothing until a considerable period had 

After the establishment of Turkish domination, the 
position of the Jews in Tunisia gradually improved. 
The advent of the Italian Jewish colonists brought a 
class of Jews to the community which had hitherto 
been denied them owing to the unwillingness of the 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, p. 274. * Hesse-Wartegg 

Tunis : Land and People. 


The Jews of Africa 

Spanish and Portuguese Jews to settle in the country, 
and in the middle of the eighteenth century the older 
congregation combined with the later arrivals in joint 
support of the communal burdens. By degrees, 
scholars and prominent rabbis began to settle in the 
country, and with the rise of intellectual conditions, 
poHtical progress once more began to make headway. 
Travellers began to note the activity of the Jews in 
commercial matters, and the influence of the im- 
migrants from Leghorn eventually secured the trade 
with Italy to the Tunisian Jews. When Jackson 
visited the country in 1817 he reported that the Jews 
had practically monopoUzed the trade with Italy and 
exported the same sort of goods to that country as were 
shipped to France.^ 

A few years previously, the United States Consul to 
Tunis, Mordecai Manuel Noah, a prominent American 
Jewish politician and philanthropist, sent an extremely 
interesting report on the condition of the Tunisian 
Jews to the Washington Government. He maintained 
that in spite of some apparent oppression, the Jews 
were among the leading people in Tunis. They were 
at the head of the customs, they farmed the revenues, 
and they guarded the Bey's money and valuables, 
being his treasurers, secretaries, and interpreters. 

* Algiers, . . . The Barbary States. 


Tunisia (continued) 

They were prominent in art, science, and medicine, 
and possessed so much influence, that the public 
functionaries were loth to incur their hostility and 
cultivated their alliance and their friendship. ^ Ben- 
jamin II arrived at Tunis soon after the middle of the 
nineteenth century, and ascertained that some of the 
Jewish inhabitants were very rich, counting even, as 
he said, millionaires among them. Many held govern- 
ment appointments. The Government allowed the 
Jews every privilege, but they suffered at times from 
the fanaticism of the Arabs. Most of them still dwelt 
in the Jewish quarter or Mellah, although they had 
no need to confine themselves to that part of the 
town. By this time some of the men had adopted 
European dress while others had modified the old 
regulation costume. The women of the wealthier 
classes showed much extravagance in their attire. 
They wore " a folded garment and wide trousers of silk, 
and satin, which are quite tight from the knee, and 
ornamented with rich embroideries of gold and silver. 
Over all this they put on a kind of silk tunic without 
sleeves, reaching as far as the knee, composed generally 
of two different coloured kinds of stuff. They cover 
their head with a fez, round which is wound a silk 
kerchief, with the ends hanging down. They Hkewise 

* Travels in England, etc. 

99 H 

The Jews of Africa 

wear stockings and shoes. Upon their trousers, in 
particular, great extravagance is lavished ; and I was 
told that they often cost the rich from 400 to 500 reals. 
The married women wear round the waist a kind of 
girdle. . . . They are generally very beautiful, rather 
stout, and in their beauty resemble their sisters in 
Bagdad. . . . The ladies of Tunis are more corpulent. 
The Bagdad ladies are very industrious, while it is 
quite the contrary with those in Tunis. In Tunis as 
well as Bagdad the girls marry from the age of thirteen 
and upwards ".^ Benjamin gives some description of 
the curious superstitions and superstitious customs of 
the Tunisian Jews, some of which were practised by the 
women but concealed from the men. He mentions 
that in the city of Tunis alone there were four large 
s5niagogues and over fifty smaller ones. He also gives 
a description of the Jews in the other towns in Tunisia, 
some of which had very important communities, and 
of the Jewish inhabitants of the country districts. 

Much interesting information respecting the Jews of 
Tunisia is afforded in a work written by the Hon. 
Lewis Wingfield, who travelled in the country some 
thirteen years later than Benjamin H.^ Evidence is 
given of the custom of some of the Jews of Spanish 
descent of placing themselves under the jurisdiction of 

* Eight Years in Asia and Africa. * Wingfield, Under the 
Palms in Algeria and Tunis. 


Tuni sia (continued) 

the Spanish Consul, a practice already mentioned. On 
one occasion a Spanish official having granted protec- 
tion to a certain Jewish family from the extortion of 
the Tunisian Government, the authorities came to the 
Consul and demanded the surrender of the Jew. The 
Spanish Consul refused to give up the man, and 
threatened to send for a man-of-war to defend him, 
whereupon the Bey withdrew his claim. The Jews 
are reported to have had another place of refuge when 
in extremity and to have at times sought protection in 
the vicinity of certain mosques, which possessed 
privileges resembling those of the Savoy and Alsatia 
in old London. At this period, the Jewish population 
of Tunis was estimated at 20,000, about one-sixth of 
the total inhabitants of the city, and the display of 
wealth noticeable in the town was put down to the 
preponderance of the Jewish inhabitants. They had 
acquired from the Bey the exclusive right to manu- 
facture wax, which brought them a relatively enormous 
income. They were also engaged in distilling brandy, 
nominally for their own use, but really for supply to 
the Moors and Turks who bought it at a high figure. 
The author gives a most amusing description of a 
Jewish dance to which he was invited, which affords an 
interesting picture of Jewish social Ufe in Tunis at this 
period. He describes one of the Jewish dancers as 
being " a vision of beauty, lithe and young, with a 


The Jews of Africa 

warm yellow light shining down upon her : a really 
lovely girl of about seventeen, exquisitely made, as we 
could easily see through her very scanty raiment, her 
great tender eyes shining out . . . from under heavy 
eyelashes ". 

Wingfield was of the opinion that the garb of the 
Jewish women is the same as was worn by the women 
of Palestine in the New Testament period. In this 
view he is supported by the author of Africa Illustrated, 
who states that according to tradition the Jewesses of 
Tunis " have preserved the identical costume of the 
Hebrews of Scriptural times ". According to this 
writer the principal features of this venerable costume 
consisted of a pointed cap on the head, a very loose 
jacket often richly embroidered, descending to a little 
below the waist, tight hose to cover the legs, and 
either sHppers or a kind of Hessian boot with tassels. ^ 

About the year 1876, when Edward Rae travelled 
to Kairwan, he found that neither Christians nor Jews 
were allowed within its walls. A mile from the town 
he came to a Httle village called Dar al Mana— the 
House of the Obstacle or Prohibition— beyond which 
point Jews were forbidden to approach the city. Rae 
evidently found means to enter the city, and discovered, 
inter alia, that owing to the absence of Jews and 

1 W. R. Smith, Africa Illustrated, 

Tunisia (continued) 

Christians, there was not a silversmith's shop in the 
town.^ The liturgy of the Tunisian Jews is in many re- 
spects unique in Judaism and is distinct from the Ger- 
man and Polish, or the Spanish and Portuguese versions, 
while some of the prayers are recited in Arabic. Of 
these an example is mentioned by filisee Reclus, who 
quotes from Maltzan, who on his part observes that it 
" is precisely the one most frequently uttered, and 
indeed the only one that the women use ". This 
ancient petition beseeches the Lord '* to let loose his 
wrath upon Spain, as well as on Ismael, Kedar, and 
Edom ".2 

According to Hesse- Wartegg the Jews were still 
oppressed in Tunisia after the French occupation, and 
only succeeded in obtaining full Hberty in the last days 
of the nineteenth century. By this time the Jewish 
population of Tunis had increased to 30,000, but the 
houses in the ghetto were still dingy, dirty, and 
dilapidated. The Jews were very observant in 
religious matters, and made pilgrimages to Jerusalem 
as frequently as the Mohammedans went to Mecca. 
The author gives a most interesting and entertaining 
account of Jewish life in the Tunisian capital, which is, 
however, marked by some obvious errors, for example, 
the statement that the young Jewish girls were 

» The Country of the Moors. * Universal Geography. 

The Jews of Africa 

fattened by being fed with " the flesh of young dogs ". 
He also refers to the tight-fitting hose-like attire 
adopted by the Jewish women, and asserts that, 
according to some historians, these garments were 
part of the dress of the old Biblical Jews.^ 

At the commencement of the twentieth century the 
Jews in Tunisia enjoyed considerable prosperity and 
possessed twenty-seven synagogues, some of which are 
of considerable size and importance. They are for 
the most part engaged in commerce, but a considerable 
number follow the liberal professions, while others are 
prominent in financial circles. The Island of Jerba 
still has a Jewish population of 4,500, and many other 
provincial congregations form prosperous and wealthy 
communities. 2 

1 Tunis : Land and People. * Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. xii, 

p. 276. 




The Earliest Arrivals — ^The Jews under the Arabs — Simon Ben 
Smia — ^The Arrival of the Spanish Jews — ^The Rise 
of Algiers — Misfortunes in Tlemcen — Oran — The 
" Gomeyim " — ^The French Occupation — Jewish Civil and 
Religious Liberty. 

THE existence of certain Jewish epitaphs 
discovered in Algeria which are beUeved to 
date back to the first or second century of 
the Christian era serves to indicate that Jewish 
colonists arrived in that part of Northern Africa at an 
early period.^ It may be conjectured, therefore, that 
after the destruction of the Second Temple, a certain 
number of Jewish fugitives found their way to Algeria 
as they did to other countries of Northern Africa, but 
there is no reason to beUeve that the immigration was 
considerable. The advent of the Vandals may have 
led to an increase in the Jewish population, for after 
the conquest of the country, Justinian legislated for 
the Jews, in common with other races who had settled 
in Algeria from time to time. Later, as in Tunisia, 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 381. 


The Jews of Africa 

there was a great immigration of Jews from Spain, 
whence they had been driven by the persecutions of 
the Visigoths, and these new arrivals are said to have 
conducted a Jewish propaganda among the native races. 
The situation of the Algerian Jews under the Arab 
rule varied with the different dynasties and their 
individual rulers. On the whole, they prospered, and 
there was no serious persecution until the Almohade 
line came into power about the middle of the twelfth 
century. These fanatical rulers attempted the con- 
version of the Jews under their rule, and succeeded in 
securing the apparent apostasy of a number of in- 
dividuals, while at the same time many others fled 
the country. For a considerable period, Algeria was 
split up into four smaller states, Tremecen (Tlemcen), 
Tenez, Algiers, and Bugia. These diminutive king- 
doms were at peace with one another for a lengthy 
period, until the King of Tlemcen broke his treaties, 
and was conquered by the King of Tenez. ^ During the 
era of the quadripartite division of Algeria, the Jews 
gradually raised themselves to a situation that was 
considerably better than that of their co-rehgionists 
in Europe in general and in the Iberian Peninsula 
in particular. 2 At the end of the fourteenth century, 
the Spanish barbarities caused thousands of Jews to 

^ Morell, Algeria. * Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 381. 



flee to Northern Africa, and a large number of these 
settled in Algiers, Oran, and the other towns of Algeria. 
There they were, on the whole, hospitably received, 
being required only to pay a small capitation tax to 
the Moslem authorities. Simon Ben Smia or Semia, 
who is said by some writers to have been Chief Rabbi 
of Seville, has been named in connection with this 
settlement (circa 1390). ^ When Ben Smia ''and his 
fellow exiles landed on the African Coast, the Rabbi 
entreated Sidi-Ben-Jusuf, a celebrated Marabut of 
Miliani, for an asylum, which was readily granted ". 
The Arab Chief and the Hebrew Rabbi drew up a 
formal agreement, guaranteeing the rights of the new- 
comers. " The Rabbis of Algiers assured me that this 
deed is still kept in the principal synagogue of the 
City ".2 Ben Smia succeeded the celebrated Rabbi 
Isaac ben Sheshat Barfat (otherwise known as 
" Ribash ") as Chief Rabbi of Algeria, in 1408, and 
held the office until his death in 1444. He seems to 
have been a great leader, a most indefatigable writer^ 
a physician, a poet, and a learned theologian. The 
Duran, or Durand, family, of which he was one of the 
most distinguished members, are believed to have 
originated in Provence. 

* According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, his name was Simon ben 
Zemah, Duran I, known under the abbreviation of Rashbaz. 
Duran was his family name. ^ jjig Tricolor on the Atlas; or 

Algeria and the French Conquest, by Francis Pulsky. 


The Jews of Africa 

At the end of the fifteenth century, the fall of 
Granada and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, 
resulted in another great exodus to Algeria, and 
according to an old chronicler, " Those who arrived at 
Oran were so numerous that the Arabs on seeing their 
vessels, thought that enemies were descending upon 
them and killed a number ; but afterwards the Moslem 
prince took pity on them, and, through the intervention 
of an influential Jew of the country named Dodihan, 
permitted them to land. He had board cabins erected 
outside the city for them and the cattle they brought 
with them "^ The newcomers were gradually ab- 
sorbed into the older Jewish community, and thus 
Arabic continued to be the current speech of the 
Algerian Jews, although in Morocco, Spanish eventually 
became the dominant language. Large numbers of 
the immigrants settled in the city of Algiers, which 
had hitherto been a town of somewhat insignificant 
importance, and a mere " bone of contention between 
the Kings of Tlemcen and Tunis ". When the Turks 
took possession of the country, they made Algiers its 
capital, and this further attracted Spanish immigra- 
tion. The Jews were found useful citizens and were 
encouraged to settle. Later they were allotted a 
separate quarter of the city, although they were only 
permitted to have a certain number of business 

^ JewishJEncyclopedia, vol. i, p. 381. 


establishments, and were subjected to special 

At the commencement of the sixteenth century the 
town of Tlemcen — the ancient Caesaria — was a rich and 
populous centre for the Jews, but, according to Leo 
Africanus, the Jewish quarter was sacked during the 
interregnum which occurred after the death of King 
Abuhabdilla (Abu Abd Allah Mohammed) in 1516 a.d., 
and the inhabitants " were all so robbed and spoiled, 
that they are now brought almost unto beggarie ".^ In 
the same year, Barbarossa, who had been called to the 
aid of the King of Algiers against the Spaniards, 
treacherously seized the kingdom and then, with the 
aid of the chiefs of the adjoining territory, captured 
Tlemcen.^ At this period the town had ten large 
synagogues, which, however, were not sufficient to 
hold all the worshippers who presented themselves. 
Leo remarks that they " were in times past all of them 
exceedingly rich " — a frequent fable respecting Jews 
—but the fatal year, 15 16, appears to have had terrible 
consequences, as the old chronicler admits that by the 
year 1517, " their number and strength is wonderfully 
decreased ". 

In the year 1509 the Spanish conquered the province 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 386. * Leo Africanus, History 
and Description of Africa. ^ Otherwise known as Tremizen, 

Tiemcen, Tlemsen, Telensin. 


The Jews of Africa 

of Oran, and Cardinal Ximenes, who had made use of 
the services of a Jew to facilitate the capture of the 
territory, severely oppressed the Jews as a mark of his 
gratitude. He did not, however, expel them, in spite 
of the Inquisition, and they were allowed to exist, if 
not within the town of Oran, at all events in its im- 
mediate neighbourhood, until the year 1669, when 
they were all banished, under Taxardo, who turned the 
principal synagogue into a church. 

In the other provinces of Algeria, the change from 
Arab to Turk domination had considerably improved 
the condition of the Jews. They certainly had to put 
up with heavy taxation, and the contempt of the 
dominant race, but they had the right to manage their 
own affairs and their religion was not interfered with, 
although these privileges were denied them almost 
everywhere else. Nevertheless, at times, their lot 
was very bitter, and they were nearly always in the 
hands of the Deys, and the Pashas, and sometimes 
inferior officials, who occasionally when it suited their 
purpose allowed the populace to pillage their houses. 
Their fear of the Spaniards and their natural hatred 
of Spanish rule was very intense, and when Charles V 
suffered his disastrous defeat at the hands of the 
Algerines in the year 1541, the joy of the Jews was 
unbounded. The rabbis composed prayers, and the 
poets wrote poems, to commemorate the misfortunes 



of their hated oppressors, and long after these occur- 
rences, the anniversary was observed joyfully in the 
Algerian synagogues. During the occupation of the 
Kingdom of Tlemcen by the Spaniards, the latter 
instituted a persecution of the Jews, in the year 1563, 
in the course of which 1,500 Israelites are said to have 
been murdered or enslaved. It is not to be wondered 
at, therefore, that the Algerian Jews were full of joy 
whenever the Turks were victorious over the Spaniards, 
despite the fact that their Hves under the Moslems 
were by no means always secure, their possessions 
immune from robbery, or their fate in general one to 
be envied. In the middle of the sixteenth century, the 
Emperor Charles V sent Jacob Cansino, a Jew of Oran, 
to represent Spain at the court of Morocco, and 
descendants of this envoy held the ofhce of Spanish 
Consul for more than a century. During all this time, 
Jews were expelled from all Spanish territory, with the 
exception of Oran, and had the envoy put his foot on 
Spanish soil, he would have run the risk of suffering 
severe penalties. These and other anomalies have 
puzzled students of the Jewish question in Spain, and 
it is perhaps as difficult to comprehend the appoint- 
ment by the Emperor as it is to understand the accept- 
ance of the position by the envoy, after the diabolical 
treatment of his co-reUgionists. 
At the commencement of the seventeenth century, 


The Jews of Africa 

the city of Algiers had, according to the historian 
Haedo, 150 Jewish houses, and, according to another 
report, 8,000 Jews. Another authority, Jean Baptiste 
Gramaye, asserts in his Africa Illustrata, that " in the 
Jews' quarter, the house of Jacob Abum had 300 
inhabitants, and that of Abraham Ralhiri 260 ".^ 
This statement will assist in reconciling the two 
preceding ones. Soon after this period, a new colony 
of Jews consisting of emigrants from Italy, mainly from 
Leghorn, settled in Algeria. They took up their 
residence for the most part in the city of Algiers, where 
they were called " Gorneyim " by their co-religionists, 
and they soon attained great importance as social 
economic factors. ^ During the greater part of the 
seventeenth century, Algeria was almost continually 
at war with either Spain, France, or England, mainly 
in consequence of the exploits of the Algerine pirates, 
and the cruelty shown by them to their prisoners. 
Nothing, or practically nothing, is heard of Jewish 
slaves among the victims of these pirates, although it 
is improbable that there were not a considerable 
nmnber of Jewish prisoners in the vast number of 
prizes which they took in the course of their operations. 
Whether the Jews were released on their landing or 
ransomed by their co-reHgionists, does not appear, and 

* Morell, Algeria. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 382. 


it is surprising that the point has not been mentioned 
by writers on the Barbary States. By the end of the 
seventeenth century, the Jewish population of Algeria 
had increased considerably, and in Algiers alone there 
were said to be nearly 10,000 Jews. By this time, the 
two sections of the community were less distinct, and 
there was an admixture of Spanish and Hebrew in the 
Arabic language which the Jews used. The " Gor- 
neyim ", too, began to make their influence felt, 
although, up to this period, they had kept themselves 
separate from the other Jewish sections of the com- 
munity. Their business activities had considerably 
increased, and some of their leading representatives 
acted as bankers to the Deys, negotiators between the 
Turkish authorities and European powers, and coun- 
cillors to the highest officials. 

During the eighteenth century, the position of the 
Algerine Jews continued to improve, more especially 
that of the " Gomeyim ", who had by this time " ac- 
quired an ever-increasing importance in the economic 
and political life " of the country.^ Their success, 
however, was jealously resented by the janizaries, and 
these and other discontented sections of the population 
fomented a riot, in the course of which the mob at- 
tacked the Jewish quarter, killed the principal Jewish 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 386. 

The Jews of Africa 

banker and other Jews, and destroyed much property. 
The Dey seems to have acquiesced in the attacks on the 
Jews, who fled for protection to the foreign consuls. 
These riotous outbursts took place in the year 1795, 
and were supposed to have occurred owing to the 
opposition to an internal loan floated by two Jewish 
bankers who had previously obtained a monopoly of the 
gtain trade. Three years previously, Oran had been 
permanently evacuated by the Spaniards, and the 
Jews were invited to return to the province where they 
were allotted a large tract of land on which they 
settled, and built a new town adjacent to the older 
part of the city. A letter written by a Dr. Naudi to 
the Rev. C. S. Hawtrey, dated October 15th, 1816, gives 
a vivid and interesting account of a persecution of the 
Algerine Jews which broke out in the year 1804. Dr. 
Naudi was a local secretary of the Society for the 
Promotion of Christianity among the Jews. His 
letter is dated from Malta, but he appears to have been 
intimately acquainted with what occurred. He states 
that at this period the Jews were nowhere in a better 
position in Barbary than they were in Algiers, but that 
a violent rebellion broke out in the neighbourhood of 
the town, and the Jews were unjustly charged with 
participation in the outbreak. " The traitorous 
promoters were persons in the government, and nearly 



intimate with the Dey ... but as some of these 
gentlemen borrowed money from a merchant Jew, 
the Jews were considered as the perpetrators, not- 
withstanding they were not concerned at all in the 
affair ". The attitude the Dey assumed was, that if 
the Jews had not lent the money, the rebellion would 
not have ensued, therefore the Jews should be con- 
sidered as the true revolutionists. " They were 
therefore taken away, tortured, and racked in a variety 
of barbarous ways, and made to suffer every kind of 
torment, particularly that most terrible one, of being 
suspended alive by a long rope on the outside of the 
tower walls, having hooked nails thrust into different 
parts of the body, often under the chin bone so as to 
suspend the body perpendicularly. Several hundreds 
lost their lives in this desperate way ; others were 
punished by burning, some by stripes ; and the 
greater part, by confiscation of their goods and 
properties, were reduced to a state of poverty. . . . 
This contingency was the cause of great migrations of 
the Jewish people from Algiers to other parts of 
Barbary, particularly to Tunis. Numbers of the more 
religious among them . . . resorted to Palestine and 
to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, as if the time of 
their restoration was at hand ".^ 

* Perceval Barton Lord, Algiers, 

The Jews of Africa 

The French expedition to Algiers commenced in the 
year 1830, and eventually freed the Algerian Jews from 
the cruelties and persecutions carried out under the 
Turkish regime. The Israelites welcomed the advent 
of the French as a veritable deliverance, " and the 
very day after the entrance of the French troops at 
Algiers, they became devoted allies of the civilizing 
power which made an end of Turkish barbarity in the 
country ".^ The services of the Jews were very 
useful to their new protectors, and many of the Algerian 
Jews joined the French forces, served with ability in 
the field, and took a prominent part in the defence of 
Oran, which was besieged by Abd-el-Kader in 1833. 
With the fall of Constantine, in October 1837, the whole 
country passed into the hands of the French, and a 
new era opened out for the Jews. It did not follow, 
however, that their position was one of absolute 
freedom, although they were relieved from the con- 
tempt and oppression of the Turks. The adjustment 
of the local laws between Jews, Moslems, and Christians, 
and the assimilation of the Algerian Jews into the 
ranks of the French citizens, was spread over a con- 
siderable period. The laws were frequently changed, 
and full civil, religious, and political rights were only 
obtained in the year 1870, while at the end of the 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 384. 


nineteenth century, an outburst of anti-Semitism in 
the provinces resulted in attacks on the Jews in Oran 
and other towns, followed by riots in Algiers itself. 
The present Jewish population of Algeria in about 
65,000, of whom more than 10,000 reside in Algiers, 
while important communities exist in Oran, Biskrah, 
Constantine, and other places. 



ALGERIA (continued) 

The Almohade Persecutions — ^The Miraculous Voyage of Simon 
Ben Smia — Isaac Ben Sheshet — Algerian Jews under the 
Turks — D' Aranda's Slavery — The Manumission of Bellinck 
— Jewish Funerals — Benjamin II in Algeria — Morell and 
Wingfield — The Twentieth Century. 

MANY of the inhabitants of Jewish com- 
munities in Algeria maintain that their 
ancestors settled in North Africa after the 
destruction of the Second Temple/ but their claim has 
not been substantiated. The ancient sepulchral in- 
scriptions relating to Jews which have been discovered 
in the country, bear Latin, not Hebrew, names, and 
so the presumption that the owners of these names 
came from Italy, and not direct from Palestine, is 
fairly warranted. Nor is it considered that the number 
of Jews who came to Algeria at this period was very 
large, " since the proportion of Jewish epitaphs in the 
great mass of Latin-Algerian inscriptions is very 
small ".2 Practically nothing is known of the life and 
habits of these early Jewish settlers, although their 

1 See Note I, p. 138. 2 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 381. 


Algeria (continued) 

religious influence among the native races is supposed 
to have been very considerable. In fact, one Arabian 
ruler considered it his duty to stamp out all traces of 
Judaism from his kingdom, in consequence of the 
continued conversion of the Berber races to the ancient 
faith. The persecutions of the Jews, instituted by Abd 
al-Mu'min, in 1146, were carried out by the Almohades 
owing to the supposed existence of a myth (" of which 
it is impossible to find the least foundation in Moslem 
tradition ") ^ that the Prophet had allowed the Jews 
religious freedom for 500 years, but that after that 
period, they were to be forced — if still unwilHng — to 
adopt the faith of Islam. Large numbers of the 
persecuted people ostensibly apostatized, but the 
Moslems " becoming suspicious of the sincerity of the 
new converts, the Almohades, in order to distinguish 
them from Moslems of longer standing, obliged them to 
wear a special garb ".^ 

During the years 1390 and 139 1, fearful massacres of 
the Jews were enacted throughout the provinces of 
Castile, Aragon, and Andalusia in Spain, and in the 
Balearic Islands, and thousands of Jewish refugees 
made their way to the coast cities of Northern Africa. 
Large numbers of the exiles landed at Algiers, Oran, 
Bugie, and other cities, and from thence penetrated 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i, p. 381. 2 Ji)i(i_^ vol. i, p. 381. 


The Jews of Africa 

into the interior of Algeria, where they settled with the 
permission of the Moslem authorities, and were well 
received by their Jewish co-religionists, and by the 
population at large. The exodus of the Spanish Jews 
to Algeria has been the source of many tales and 
legends, among which there is an account of a miracle 
which appears to have been firmly beheved in, even in 
modern times, by Algerian Jews.^ The story is as 
follows : When the persecutions of the Jews in Spain 
commenced in the year 1390, Simon Ben Smia, the chief 
rabbi of Seville, a man of exalted capacity and great 
fortune, was, by the King's order, arrested, and thrown 
into prison, together with sixty other heads of Jewish 
families, and many of the Moors, who still remained in 
Seville. This arbitrarj^ act was followed by a number 
of exactions from the Jews and Moors throughout the 
Kingdom, and finally, by an order for the execution of 
those who were in prison. The night preceding the 
day fixed for the execution had arrived, and all his 
companions in misfortune were plunged in the deepest 
woe, when suddenly Simon, who had been engaged in 
fervent prayer, started up, took a piece of charcoal, and 
sketched on the wall the figure of a boat ; then turning 
to those who wept, " Let all", said he, " who fear 
God and wish to leave this place, put a finger as I do, 

* Lord, Algiers, with Notices of the Neighbouring States ofBarbary. 


Algeria (continued) 

on this boat ". They all did so, and immediately the 
figure became a real boat, commenced motion of its 
own accord, passed through the wall, which opened to 
allow it to do so, glided through the streets of Seville, 
to the great astonishment of all the inhabitants, 
without injuring a single house, and directed itself 
straight towards the sea, into which it plunged with all 
its crew. Still left to its own direction, it continued 
its course, until in due time it came to anchor in the 
road of Algiers, then inhabited only by Mohammedans — 
Moors, and Arabs. The rabbi having sent an embassy 
to the Algerines, explaining by what means he had 
been brought to tlieir coasts and requesting an asylum 
for himself and his companions, was answered that 
they could do nothing without consulting the Sidy Ben 
Yusef , a famous Marabout, who then resided at Meliana. 
Messengers were therefore immediately despatched on 
horseback, and the saint's answer proving favourable, 
the Algerines, headed by their Chiefs, went out to 
receive the strangers, met all their needs, introduced 
them into their city, and assigned them lodgings. As 
late as the year 1835, when Lord's work on Algiers was 
published, this legend was still impHcitly believed in 
by Jews of education in Algeria, and when a French 
visitor attempted to laugh at the story, in the presence 
of a Jew, '* a person of good information and master 


The Jews of Africa 

of many European languages ", he was at once stopped 
by the grave reply, " It is an article of our faith". 

Ben Smia is said to have entered into a treaty with 
the Algerines, and among the conditions of the ad- 
mission of the refugees were " the free exercise of their 
religion — liberty to build as many temples as they 
might require — to engage in commerce, exercise trades, 
and make wine and liquors." This treaty, written on 
parchment, the rabbis of Algiers say they still possess 
and retain among their archives. Nevertheless, its 
stipulations were subsequently ignored, and the 
condition of the Jews of the country was by no means 
satisfactory until the French established their regency 
more than four hundred years after the arrival of Ben 
Smia and his fellow fugitives. At the time of the 
great Spanish exodus to Algeria, among the fugitives 
was the famous Rabbi Isaac Ben Sheshet who had been 
a resident of Barcelona, and had finally returned to his 
birthplace, Valencia. Wlien he arrived in Algiers, in 
139 1, he was appointed Chief Rabbi, in the face of 
much opposition, in which Ben Smia joined. Ben 
Sheshet was much revered by the Algerian Jews, and 
pilgrimages to his tomb are still made on the anniver- 
sary of his death. When Ben Smia was elected Chief 
Rabbi after Ben Sheshet 's death, the community 
exacted a promise from him, that he would not, " Hke 
his predecessor, have his election confirmed by the 


Algeria (continued) 

regent ". It is stated that much against his will, he 
had to receive a salary as he had no other means of 
existence, having lost all his property in the Spanish 
persecutions. He was much respected in court circles 
in Algiers, and on his death was succeeded by his son, 
who died in 1467. 

The Jews in Algeria under Turkish rule were, to a 
certain extent, an ill-used and oppressed people and 
suffered from the insolent arrogance of the Moham- 
medans of every class, but they nevertheless were in 
the possession of some compensations which were 
denied to them in many European countries. Although 
they were by no means admitted to equal rights with 
the Mussulmans, the observance of their manners and 
customs was not interfered with. It is true that their 
attire was limited to the more sober colours, but this 
was to a large extent nominal, for the law was not 
observed with strictness, unless some over-ofhcious 
official wished to assert himself, or some ostentatious 
Israelite decked himself out in clothes which attracted 
the cupidity of a not too friendly mob. As a matter 
of fact, Jews, in many countries, have preferred to 
wear dark-coloured clothes without any legal obligation 
to do so. It has been stated that Jewish women were 
forced to go with their faces unveiled, but this can 
hardly have been a hardship to the daughters of 
Israel, with whom veiling has never been a general 


The Jews of Africa 

custom. Jews certainly had extremely heavy taxes 
to pay, but their activity in business and the ad- 
vantages of their environment for traffic, compensated 
them to some extent for the extra imposts for which they 
had to provide. It has been observed that the Algerian 
Jews are superior in bodily strength to those of Europe. 
" Under the sky of Africa . . . the wondrous people 
have preserved their special type ; an aquiline nose, a 
black beard, a magnificent but deceptive eye, a clear 
but colourless complexion. Their appearance is less 
scriptural and engaging than the interesting charac- 
teristic of the Lithuanian Jews. ... As always where 
they muster strong, they engross almost all the com- 
merce : bankers, brokers, and agents. . . . Nothing 
can be done without them. They attend to all branches 
of industry, save agriculture. Active, intriguing, and 
versatile, they form a great contrast to the apathy of 
the Moors ".^ 

Ogilby states that they were no better used in 
Algeria than in all parts of Christendom. For besides 
the imposts levied on them, "it is permitted to every- 
one, yea and to the Christians themselves, to offer 
them a thousand affronts . . . Free Christians or 
Merchants . . . cannot take Lodgings in the Houses 
of Turks ; but in those of the Jews they may, who 

^ Morell, Algeria. 

Algeria (continued) 

have their quarters assigned them in the City ".^ 
Nevertheless, Hakluyt observed that " the securest 
lodging for a Christian . . . is a Jew's house : the Jew 
and his effects being responsible for the damages he 
receives ". Ogilby remarks that the coins generally 
in circulation were of foreign origin and that " the 
Jews have the most Profit and Command of all this 
money, being indeed the only Exchangers, for which 
they pay an annual Rent to the Bassa ". He says 
that the most certain part of the income of the country 
was the " Poll Money " of the Jews and the Moors, 
which was generally collected from the head of the 

Much curious information respecting the Jews in 
Algeria in the middle of the seventeenth century can 
be gleaned from the pages of a little work entitled 
The History of Algiers and its Slavery, by Emanuel 
d'Aranda, " sometime a Slave there ". D'Aranda 
sailed from St. Sebastian in the year 1640, and was 
soon after captured and sold as a slave in Algiers. In 
the course of his adventures in the services of his 
master (who was AH Pilchini, or Ali Pellegin, Captain 
Pasha of the Algerine GalHes and Galeots), he was 
shipwrecked near Tetuan, and he mentions that the 
Jews, of whom a number were on board, prayed to 

1 John Ogilby, Africa. 

The Jews of Africa 

Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. At Tetuan he got 
lodgings with a Jew in the Mellah, and finally a Jew 
of Ceuta negotiated his ransom between the " Christian 
Fathers " and the Governor of Tetuan, and obtained 
his freedom in March 1642. Although it would thus 
appear that the Jews acted as agents between the 
owners of slaves and those treating for their ransom, 
they were not themselves permitted to purchase any 
Christian slaves or otherwise to hold them. They do 
not, however, seem to have been prevented from 
purchasing negro or infidel slaves. D'Aranda states 
that renegade Jews were not admitted into the army, 
" but the Jews who would serve, eating Swine flesh 
before they renounce, affirm, that by this means they 
are become Christians, and then they renounce with 
the same solemnities as are observed by the Christians ". 
At the public wells and conduits, " Those who come to 
these Conduits for water, take it in their Turns save 
onely the Jews, who are to give way to every Slave 
who comes after them, and to be served last of all ".^ 
D'Aranda tells a curious tale of one of the Jewish 
slave ransom agents, which depicts the Jew in rather a 
more favourable light than is usual by writers on 
Algeria : "It happened that having some business 
with a Jew, named Pharette, concerning a Bill of 

^ Morgan, History of Algiers. 

Algeria {continued) 

Exchange, the Jew asked me whether I knew not a 
Dunkirk slave named John Bellinck ? Whereto reply- 
ing that I did, the Jew said to me, ' Pray bring me 
where he is, I would fain speak with him, for I have 
order to redeem him, and send him home to his 
country ' ". Later d'Aranda found means to bring 
Pharette to Bellinck, and said to the latter : " ' I 
bring you good news, this Jew hath order to pay your 
ransom '. . . . Bellinck was so surprised at these 
words that he cast himself at the feet of the Jew, 
saying to him in Dutch : ' Ah, good master Jew, 
redeem me for the death and passion-sake of Jesus 
Christ ' ". D'Aranda was extremely amused at the 
way in which Bellinck expressed himself to a man 
holding Pharette's religious views, and " could not 
forbear laughing at that compliment, which the Jew 
observing, asked me the reason of it ". So he told him 
in Spanish what Bellinck had said, whereupon the Jew 
also laughed at it, and said to him : " Tell him in your 
language that what I intend to do for him shall be 
upon no other account than his own ". Pharette had 
evidently not been converted to the doctrine of 
vicarious atonement.^ 

A curious seventeenth-century proposal connects 
the then newly-established Jewish community in 

1 D'Aranda, History of Algiers and its Slavery. 

The Jews of Africa 

London, in the time of Charles II, with the manu- 
mission of slaves in Algeria. " A large sum of money 
appropriated for the redemption of captives having 
been lost, somehow, between the Navy Board and the 
Commissioners of Excise, it was gravely proposed, 
' That whatever loss or damage the EngUsh shall 
sustain from Algerines, shall be required and made 
good to the losers out of the estates of the Jews here 
in England' ".^ 

Under the Turkish Administration, the organization 
of the Jewish Algerian settlements steadily and 
successfully developed. At the head of each com- 
munity was an official selected by the Arab or Turkish 
governor of the town or district, who was entitled the 
mukaddam. This officer was the authorized representa- 
tive of the Jews, and " the sole legal intermediary 
with the Moslem authorities for all administrative and 
financial affairs. He was assisted by a council ap- 
pointed by himself, which, apart from its administra- 
tion of the general affairs of the community, saw to 
the levying and collecting of the taxes imposed on the 
Jews of the country ".^ The Rabbinical Tribunal 
could inffict penalties and fines, settle matrimonial 
questions, and the succession to estates, and could 
even sentence culprits to corporal punishment, and 

* Christian Slavery in Barbary, p. 29. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. i, pp. 382-3. 


Algeria (continued) 

these judicial pronouncements and sentences were 
carried out by the mukaddam. The general law of the 
country was only appealed to when one of the parties 
to the suit was not of the Jewish faith. The revenues 
of the community were obtained from taxes levied 
upon articles of food, prepared according to Jewish 
custom by officials selected for such purposes, in 
addition to which, collections were made for different 
objects four times a year. At this period the Jews 
resided in a separate portion of the towns, but in the 
country districts, although they lived apart, they were 
under the immediate authority of the local sheik, 
which rendered their position extremely precarious. 
The " native " Jews were quite unprotected, but the 
Italian and other foreign protected Jews claimed the 
assistance of the consuls of their respective countries 
with considerable benefit. 

An extremely interesting and instructive account of 
the Algerian Jews in the early part of the nineteenth 
century is given in Lord's work on Algiers, in the course 
of which it is stated " that the influence . . . they 
exercise on the government, commerce, and revenues 
of the states of Barbary, renders a notice of them 
necessary in any work professing to treat of these 
several subjects ". Lord paints a rather sombre 
picture of the state of the Jews in Algeria, shortly 
before the French occupation of the country, but in 


The Jews of Africa 

many respects their services in a business capacity 
appear to have been almost indispensable to the other 
inhabitants. Much is said of the beauty of the 
Jewesses, and one author is quoted as saying of the 
Barbary States that " any one who has visited these 
countries, will not require to be reminded of the beauty 
of the daughters of Israel ". Their dress is thus 
described : "A fine linen chemise with long loose 
sleeves, and over this a large robe, covering the body, 
but leaving the neck and breasts bare : it is made of 
cloth or velvet, according to the circumstances of the 
wearer, and is embroidered round the edges ; their 
petticoat is commonly dark green superfine cloth, 
embroidered with gold, and reaching no farther than 
the knee, the legs are bare, and the feet thrust into 
httle slippers, so small that they just cover the toes 
and can scarcely be kept on in walking. Round the 
waist they wear a sash of silk and gold, the ends of 
which, adorned with little metaUic plates, are suffered 
to hang loosely behind, so that when they move these 
make a tinkling noise. The unmarried women wear 
the hair plaited in different folds, and flowing down the 
back ; they have a very graceful method of twining a 
wreath of wrought silk round the head, and weaving 
it behind into a bow. ..." Men and women, married 
and unmarried, all evidently delighted in personal 
finery, although at this period they hardly dared 


Algeria (continued) 

to move outside their houses from fear of robbery or 

It is stated that the Jews have imbibed many 
Moslem superstitions and observances and frequently 
consult " diviners " and fortune-tellers. Benjamin II 
also alludes to the belief in " sorcery, witchcraft, and 
incantations " prevalent among the Algerine Jews. 
Many of these curious and superstitious customs were 
observed during sickness, or at deaths and funerals^ 
An account of the burial of a Levite is related by Mr. 
Riley, who states that at the funeral he observed 
*' about a dozen women in tattered garments, who 
formed an inner circle round the grave, while about a 
hundred were standing at a little farther distance. 
. . . The twelve women who had at first been quiet, 
seemed to be seized with a sudden paroxysm of grief, 
and began to approach each other with their hands 
raised above their heads, stretching the palms towards 
each others' faces. Then they commenced howling, at 
first moderately, but soon broke out into the most 
violent wailings and yellings, which it is impossible 
to describe ; they tore their faces with their long 
finger-nails, and made the most hideous contortions of 
their features ; the mania was now communicated to 
all the women present,who joined in the lamentations, 
but the others did not tear their faces like the twelve, 
who kept it up, stamping with their feet, and going 

131 K 

The Jews of Africa 

round in their circle ; the blood and perspiration mixing 
together, and streaming from their faces, ran all over 
their filthy garments, and dyed them red in streaks 
from head to foot. This paroxysm lasted from fifteen 
to twenty minutes, when they were so much exhausted, 
as to be under the necessity of ceasing for a few mo- 
ments to take breath, when they commenced again and 
went over the same ceremony, seemingly with re- 
doubled vigour ". 

There is also an account of the funeral of a rabbi, 
which was communicated by M. Rozet, who was 
present. At this interment, no women appear to have 
been permitted. Two men bearing lighted tapers 
accompanied the corpse, which was borne to the grave 
followed by the sons and nearest male relatives of the 
deceased, and many rabbis, all wrapped in long cloaks 
with the hoods drawn over their eyes. The body was 
taken to the tomb of the Great Rabbi, Simon ben 
Smia, where it was laid down, " and all the assistants, 
taking off their slippers, advanced one by one, to kiss 
it, after which a short prayer was chanted ". After 
this a sermon was preached by one of the rabbis, a 
collection made for the poor, and the corpse taken to 
the spot reserved for the interment of the rabbis. 
After the body had been placed in an open grave, a 
second oration, prayer, and collection took place. 
Then, a further prayer having been chanted, the 


Algeria (continued) 

bearers suddenly seized the body and ran with it as 
fast as they could for about a hundred paces, pursued 
by eight old men and two rabbis, who on coming up 
with them immediately formed a circle about the 
body, holding hands, and commenced to move round 
it, singing. After having made several turns, one of 
the rabbis left the circle, took some gold pieces which 
had been brought, wrapped up in paper, and threw them 
as far as he could in different directions, taking care 
to throw one for each turn which the others made. 
When he had done, the circle opened, and the bearers 
again seizing the body, bore it back with equal rapidity 
to the grave, into which it was immediately lowered, a 
few branches placed over it, and the earth thrown into 
it.^ Lord's account of the customs of the Algerine 
Jews extends to nearly seventy pages and far exceeds 
in detail and interest any similar relation of the kind. 
Benjamin II devotes only about ten pages to Algeria, 
although he paid a lengthy visit to the Regency in 
1854, making a stay of six months in Algiers, where 
he published two works. Among other places de- 
scribed by Benjamin is the town of Bona, on entering 
which, after leaving Tunis, it seemed to him as if " he 
had entered paradise after a sojourn in purgatory ". 
Here he found a very large and ancient synagogue, 

^ Lord, Algiers. See also Note II, p. 139. 

The Jews of Africa 

which was revered by the Mohammedans as well as 
the Jews in consequence of an extraordinary legend 
with which it is connected, which is related by Lord 
as well as Benjamin 11.^ 

At the time of Benjamin's visit, he estimated the 
Jewish population of Algiers to consist of i,ooo famihes, 
and Morell, whose work was pubUshed about the same 
time, reckoned that soon after the French occupation, 
there were about 5,000 Jews in Algiers, and over 
19,000 in the whole of Algeria. Benjamin states that 
the houses of the Jews *' are built in the European 
style and are very neat and clean. Some of them live 
in the European, others in the African style ". Morell 
remarks that the " upper town " of Algiers " retains 
its Arab appearance, and is almost exclusively in- 
habited by Moors and Jews ", the latter having 
twenty-five synagogues in the city. Benjamin, how- 
ever, only speaks of twelve synagogues, two large and 
ten small ones ; he reports that " much care is bestowed 
in the schools upon the instruction of the children in 
the Hebrew and French languages ".^ 

Morell's account of the Jews of Algiers has many 
points of interest, as by the time it was written the 
Jewish population had had nearly twenty years of 
liberty under the French flag. He remarks that " the 

1 See Note III, p: 140. » Benjamin II, Eight Years in Asia 
and Africa. 

Algeria (continued) 

Jewish women of Algiers have generally a greater 
freedom, and are more confidentially treated by their 
husbands, than the Moorish women. They go out at 
option, and do their own commissions. They are 
commonly pretty. Matrons or maids, they go with 
uncovered faces ; and their coiffure consists of a 
sarmah, or conical head-dress resembling the ancient 
hennin, and the cap of the French cauchoises. The 
rest of their costume consists, with the common womeni 
of a full blue cotton gown, without being confined at 
the waist, with very short sleeves, letting those of the 
chemise descend below them. The poorer sort put a 
kind of cap on their head instead of the sarmah, 
letting the point fall back on the neck. Like most of 
the men, they generally go bare-legged and bare- 
footed. The young girls wear their hair long and 
plaited in a tail, to which they tie red and blue ribbons. 
As a coiffure, they wear a small but very elegant cap of 
green velvet, adorned with a golden tassel, and with 
a border also of gold, forming the sides of that kind of 
Greek cap which passes gracefully under their neck, 
where it is tied. Some sweet faces and regular features 
are often seen amongst them. Nothing can be more 
graceful than a pretty Algerian Jewess going to the 
fountain, and carrying a pitcher on her head ".^ Morell 
further observes that the Jews gave the French a 
* Morell, Algeria. 

The Jews of Africa 

hearty welcome, and their condition has been so much 
improved by their advent that they have turned the 
tables on their former tyrants. He considered that it 
might take time before they shook off the effects of 
their former burdens and insults, " but if they put their 
hands manfully to the plough, and drop the convict's 
dress and mind ", and recognize " the wisdom of dis- 
encumbering themselves of their narrow pride and 
bigotry ... a bright future may very probably await 
this singular people ". 

Benjamin II wrote that " on the whole it can be 
asserted without hesitation that the Jews in Algeria 
live in a happy condition under the French Govern- 
ment ", although the senior Jewish inhabitants spoke 
of the decline of religion, and the falling off in business 
profits, since the arrival of the new masters of the 
country. Among the accounts of Algeria about the 
last quarter of the nineteenth century, few books give 
such interesting details as can be found in the work 
entitled Under the Palms in Algeria and Tunis, by Lewis 
Wingfield. The author devoted considerable attention 
to the Jewish population, and in the course of a de- 
scription of the city of Biskrah, remarks that the old 
town was almost exclusively inhabited by Jews, 
although the community was not mentioned by 
Benjamin II, who had visited the country only fourteen 
years previously. " The Jewesses ", says the author, 


Algeria (continued) 

*' wear nothing but gold (in the way of ornaments), 
and a handsome set they are. There is one now 
passing down the street, fine-featured and deUcate- 
complexioned, her long black Oriental eyes shaded 
with soft dark lashes. She wears the black pointed 
cap of Constantine, festooned with thick gold chains, 
and about her neck is draped soft filmy folds of crimson 
gauze, all specked with shining dots. A pleasant and 
refreshing sight is her small head and natty attire, as 
seen by the side of the preposterously gaudy ' ladies of 
the desert ' ". Wingfield gives some description of 
the Jewish quarter in Tlemcen, through whose queer 
labyrinths he found his way to the busy scene in front 
of the palace. Here " Jewesses, in groups, were 
wrapped in mantles of Pompeiian red, with wide gold 
border, which is peculiar to them. Jews, their hus- 
bands, cool and comfortable-looking , were dressed in 
white full linen breeches and embroidered satin 
jackets, with wonderful gold turbans rolled loosely 
round the red tarbouche ". When Benjamin II 
arrived at Tlemcen, circa 1854, he estimated the Jewish 
population at about 500 famihes, evidently in a fair 
financial situation. Lady Herbert remarks that the 
Jews of Algeria, who are very numerous, preserve the 
characteristic appearance of their race. " Under the 
Mohammedan laws, they were always subject to 
outrages and persecutions, but thanks to the patience 


The Jews of Africa 

and tenacity by which they are distinguished, they 
appear to endure everything, and they have made 
themselves indispensable to their persecutors by their 
profound knowledge of commercial affairs, which seems 
to be their almost exclusive monopoly at the present 
time ".^ Lady Herbert gives an exceedingly interest- 
ing account of the ceremonies attending a modern 
Jewish wedding in Algeria, with other information 
respecting Jewish customs at this period. At the 
commencement of the twentieth century the Jewish 
population of Algeria contained a large number of 
artizans, as well as merchants, traders, and agents. The 
chief rabbi, until the withdrawal of all state concern in 
religious affairs, was appointed by the President of the 
French Republic on the recommendation of the 
Central Consistory of Paris. The City of Algiers has 
nineteen synagogues, of which six are official and 
thirteen private. ^ 

I. " History has recorded the date and cause of the 
Israelitish immigration into West Africa, after the 
destruction of Jerusalem ; but the immemorial estab- 
lishment of the Scenite Jews, who in the whole extent 
of Barbary are mixed with the Berber population, 

* Lady Herbert, L'A Igerie Contemporaine. * Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. i, pp. 286-7. 


Algeria (continued) 

would lead us to suppose that it forms the foundation 
of this immigration from the East and Syria, which 
Sallust has related in these words : * Afterward the 
Phoenicians— some for the sake of lessening the pressure 
at home, others from motives of ambition and curiosity 
— built Adrumetum, Hippo, Leptis, and other cities 
on the sea-shore '. Numerous Jewish migrations 
occurred during the persecutions of Adrian ; and in the 
third century these emigrants formed independent 
tribes in the Hedjaz near Medina, and near Mecca ; 
and their religion spread in Yemen. If we may 
believe the Arab historians, most of the African 
Berbers and Arabs professed the Hebrew faith in the 
seventh and eight centuries, and the preaching of 
Mohametanism made no way amongst them. This 
would appear to explain the phenomenon of the Jews 
forming till lately (1843) a fourth of the population of 
Algiers, and more than four-fifths of that of Oran ".^ 
II. M. Rozet was much at a loss to know the meaning 
of this last singular ceremony, and after some enquiry 
was at last informed by a rabbi that as soon as a man 
dies the Devil always stations himself at the door of 
the house, in order to get possession of the body when 
on its way to its last abode. He is appalled, however, 
by the number of rabbis, whom he finds walking at 
each side of the body, and, afraid to execute his project, 

* Algerie, by Baron Baude, vol. iii, 1843. 

The Jews of Africa 

at once follows the procession in hopes of finding some 
favourable moment, or of slipping into the grave along 
with the deceased. To prevent this is the object of 
the last manoeuvre. " The Devil ", said the rabbi, 
*' who was at that moment certainly near the grave, 
or perhaps in it, seeing that we took away the body, 
ran after it : we then formed a circle to prevent his 
taking it away, and while he was amusing himself 
collecting the pieces of gold, which one of us had 
thrown with that intent, we profited by the moment to 
escape from his pursuit " ! 

III. " The community has a very large ancient 
synagogue called Grebe, in which, on the north wall, the 
place of the ark of the covenant is formed by a 
small room to which they ascend by several steps : in 
this room are the Pentateuchs. This little room has a 
particularly sacred character. One day I remarked 
several Mussulman- women enter it, seat themselves 
for some time on the floor, and, after having offered a 
gift, retire. I asked the cause of this ; for it seemed 
to me strange that Mussulman-women should visit a 
synagogue in such a manner ; and in reply I heard 
the following story : — Several hundred years ago, at 
very high tide in stormy weather, a plank was driven 
very near ashore ; some Mussulmen tried to fish it out, 
but it receded ; and the same thing happened when 
some Christians endeavoured to draw it out : some 


Algeria (continued) 

Jews, however, having come and made the attempt 
the plank was driven to land, and there it remained 
Fastened on this plank they found a Pentateuch, and 
this they conveyed to the synagogue, and displayed it 
there. From this miracle arose the belief in the 
holiness of the room where the Pentateuch was pre- 
served, and whenever a woman, either Mussulman or 
Christian, is not well, she has only to come here, to 
pray and make offerings, in order to recover. I 
expressed my disbelief in the miraculous power of this 
sanctuary, and explained the history of the fishing-out 
of the plank and the Pentateuch from the sea quite 
simply ; for, if the story was true, perhaps some Jew 
might have suffered shipwreck and might have fastened 
the Pentateuch to a plank in order that it might not be 
lost ; but, that it should have happened that Jews 
had drawn it up, when Mussulmen and Christians had 
failed to do it, I declared it to be either an accident, 
or that the sea must have become calmer during the 
time. After such an inference they considered me an 
unbeliever, and scolded me as such ". 




The Jews and the Berbers — ^The Jewish-Berber Queen — The 
Foundation of Fez — Spanish and Portuguese Refugees — 
Samuel Palachwe — Jewish Diplomatists — Muley Arxid's 
Treachery — The Tolaianos — Memaran and Ben Hattar — 
— Ben Hattar and the British Treaty — ^The Infamous Muley 
Yazed — The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 

MOROCCO is perhaps the most important of 
the Barbary states ; it is formed out of a 
considerable part of the ancient Maure- 
tania. Some time before the Christian Era, Maure- 
tania was conquered by the Romans, and in the year 
45 B.C. it became a Roman province. It is held by 
some authorities that even at this early period Jewish 
colonies had long been established in this part of the 
world, and both the Daggatuns (or Daggatouns)^ 
and the Berbers are said by them to be of Jewish 
origin. John Davidson, who was ultimately murdered 
by the wild Arab tribes of Morocco, stated in a letter 
to the Duke of Sussex (1836), that he was told by some 
Jews in the Atlas mountains that their ancestors ** did 
not go to the Babylonish captivity, that they possess 
many writings, that they have a city cut out of the 

1 Leo Africanus, History and Description of A frica. 


solid rock with rooms above rooms, in which they 
dwelt upon their first coming to this country ; and 
that there are some writings carved in these rocks 
which they attribute to some early Christians who came 
and drove them into the valley which they now 
inhabit ". In a village in the Warikah district near 
VMorocco city, Davidson was visited by some Jews, 
" who stated that they have here the tombs of two 
rabbis who escaped from the second destruction of 
Jerusalem ; that their nation has resided here ever 
since that event ".^ It is therefore quite probable 
that at a very early date Jewish colonization existed 
within the territories now known as Morocco, and this 
view is supported by the Hebrew inscriptions which 
have been discovered in the province of Fez, and in 
other parts of the country. ^ Moreover, most of the 
Berber tribes in the Atlas and Rif mountains, the 
district of Suz, and the oases of Tafilet, possess legends 
and traditions connecting them with such early Jewish 

In any case, whatever may be the claims of superior 
antiquity for those who may be designated the aborig- 
inal Jewish inhabitants, the first really important 
settlement of Jews in Morocco and in the adjoining 
states of Fez and Suz, were in all probability composed 

* John Davidson, Travels in Africa. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, 
vol. ix, p. i8i. 


The Jews of Africa 

of refugees from the destruction of Jerusalem and the 
conquest of Palestine by the armies of Vespasian and 
Titus. For a considerable period these refugees lived 
under the Romans and the Vandals in a state of 
considerable prosperity, but under their Byzantine 
successors especially, and under the Emperor Jus- 
tinian, whose renowned general, Belisarius, conquered 
the country circa 534, they experienced some oppres- 
sion. The Byzantine general was accompanied during 
his campaign by the Greek historian Procopius, who 
acted as his secretary and left an account of the 
hostilities. The latter observed in one of his works, 
that he had seen " near a great Fountain, at Tangier, 
two columns of white stone, whereon, in the Phoenician 
Tongue was an Inscription to this purpose : ' We fly 
from the Robber Joshua, the son of Nun '. . . . 
Almost innumerable are the writers, ancient and 
modern, who make mention of this ; but he (Procopius) 
was certainly the first introducer of it ".^ At what 
date this interesting record of the aboriginal in- 
habitants of Palestine was erected, it is of course futile 
to conjecture, but nearly 2,000 years had elapsed since 
Joshua had scattered the Canaanites, the Jebusites, 
and other races, before Belisarius found traces of them 
far away from their old home in Palestine. 

1 Morgan, History of Algiers. 


About the year 667 a.d., the country was attacked 
by the Arabs, and Jews and Berbers fought side by 
side against the new invaders. At this period, accord" 
ing to Mohammedan historians, the most powerful 
Berber tribe was ruled by a Jewish princess, Kahinah . 
Dahiyah Bint Thabitah Ibn Tifan, the tribe being \ J 
known as the Kahinah, and having dominion over ] 
nearly all the Berbers.^ Dahiyah fought the Arabian 
general Hassan ibn al Numan, and defeated him, and 
the Arabs had to withdraw ; but some years later they 
returned, and although the Jewish princess made the 
most strenuous efforts, the Berbers were defeated, and 
their brave leader " fell near a well, which, in memory 
of the heroine, is still called " Bir al- Kahinah ". 
Dahiyah died in the year 703, and from this period, the 
Arabs dominated Morocco, and the religion of the 
Prophet became the paramount creed of the country. 
No doubt many of the Berber races who had adopted 
the Jewish faith, now embraced the tenets of Islam, 
although they retained certain Jewish customs and 
observances which their descendants practise up to 
this day. Other tribes which preserved their Jewish 
behefs have, however, been greatly affected by their 
Mohammedan environment, and in language and 
external appearances are entirely Berber. Morocco 

1 The " Kahinah ", or " Cohanim ", were the descendants of the 
High Priest Aaron. 

The Jews of Africa 

was eventually placed under the rule of the Caliphate of 
Bagdad, and many Jewish inhabitants from that city 
found their way into the new Arabian province. 

About twelve years before the termination of the 
eighth century, the CaUphate of Bagdad came to an 
end, and the dynasty of the Idrisids was founded by 
Imam Idris who speedily announced his independent 
possession of the Empire of Morocco. His successor, 
Idris II, founded the city of Fez in 808, and he colonized 
it to some extent with Jews from Andalusia, whom he 
invited to settle there, reUeving them of military 
service on payment of 30,000 denarii, annually. 
During the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, the 
Jews in Morocco enjoyed tolerable security, coupled 
with a fair amount of social and intellectual progress, 
limited, to a certain degree, by the civil and political 
disabilities imposed by the Pact of Omar. Fez fell 
into the hands of the fanatic Almohade, Abd al Mmnin, 
in the year 1145, and from that time until about the 
end of the fourteenth century, much persecution and 
oppression fell to the lot of the Jews of the city. Never- 
theless, when the great Spanish persecution of 139 1 
broke out, the situation had so improved in Fez, under 
the more lenient rule of the Sheik Maula, that many of 
the Spanish fugitives found their way to the country 
and its capital. When the Jews were expelled from 
Spain, a century later, great numbers fled to Morocco 



and Fez, and in the latter country, they were enslaved 
by the inhabitants but were afterwards set free by 
Sultan Said III. This monarch set aside a large 
portion of the new town of Fez for their use, and 
\ protected and encouraged them. Later, in the year 
^ 1536, another large influx of Jews took place, on this 
occasion from Portugal. The inhuman bloodhounds 
of the Inquisition had hunted the Marranos from the 
Kingdom, and thus led to the downfall of their state 
by the loss of many of their most wealthy and in- 
telligent citizens. The loss of Spain and Portugal was 
the gain of Morocco and the other states of Northern 
Africa, and thousands of enterprising and capable 
merchants, smaller traders and artizans, brought 
commerce and wealth to the Moslem countries which 
offered the Jewish refugees protection. Soon the new 
settlers succeeded in raising themselves to their proper 
status in their new homes. Some of them were men 
of superior education and ability, versed in statecraft 
and skilled in finance. It was not long before a few of 
them attained considerable rank in civic and diplomatic 
circles, acting in some instances as government agents, 
consuls, and envoys to the very countries from which 
they themselves had had to flee. The attachment of 
the Jews to the countries of their birth is one of the 
most amazing features of their history. Scorned, ill- 
treated, and oppressed as they have been in almost 

147 L 

The Jews of Africa 

every region in which they have settled, they have 
ever forgiven the barbarities that have been showered 
on them, and even when exiled from the lands of their 
birth, they have often forgotten their former oppres- 
sion in their love of what was once their native 
country. It might have been thought that the very 
languages of Spain and Portugal would have been 
abhorrent to the victims of such cruelties, but the 
refugees to Morocco were so numerous and their 
retention of their mother tongue so strenuous, that 
eventually the use of Arabic among the Jews of 
Morocco was discarded, and Spanish was adopted, an 
evidence of the powerful influence exercised by the 
new arrivals. 

About the end of the sixteenth century the army of 
King Sebastian of Portugal was nearly annihilated 
during the war with Morocco, and his Kingdom was 
practically destroyed. Some few nobles who escaped 
destruction at the battle of Alcazar- Kebir " were taken 
captive and sold to the Jews in Fez and Morocco. The 
Jews received the Portuguese Knights, their former 
countrymen, into their houses very hospitably and let 
many of them go free on the promise that they would 
send back their ransom from Portugal".^ Probably 
some of these very prisoners or their fathers had 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 21. 


gloated over the agonies of the co-religionists of their 
benefactors in the auto-da-f^s of the Inquisition, but 
the Jews are not as a people revengeful, although they 
have not always benefited themselves by their chival- 
rous attitude to their enemies. ^ 

In March 1554, the city of Fez " was totally pillaged 
by the Algerines, who found therein an immense 
booty ; And they being about to do the hke to the Jews 
quarter . . . those people wisely compounded with 
Saha Rais (the Algerine general) for 300,000 Ducats. 
And because two Janissaries notwithstanding that 
composition, broke into Juderia, with a design to 
plunder, the Basha instantly caused them to be hanged 
up over the gate of the said Juderia, or Jews Quarter ".^ 
Late in the sixteenth century, in the reign of Muley 
Hamed, a certain Samuel Palachwe (or Pacheco), was 
appointed Moroccan envoy to the Netherlands, and 
eventually settled in Holland, where he acted as consul 
for Morocco at the Hague. He is stated to have 
*' proposed to Prince Maurice, the son and successor of 
William of Orange, that the Jews should enjoy freedom 
of domicile in the Netherlands ",^ and that the Prince 
gave the proposal his support, thereby laying the 

^ [A remarkable instance of the typical attitude of the Jew towards 
his persecutor is that of Krushevan, the arch-Russian anti-Semite. 
After the Russian Revolution his children were found to be friendless 
and starving in exile, and were admitted and cared for in a Jewish 
charitable institution] . ^ Morgan, History of Algiers. * J. A. J. 
De Yilliers, Holland and Some Jews. p. 12. 


The Jews of Africa 

foundation of the important and wealthy Jewish 
Community in Holland which contributed in no small 
degree to the financial and political resuscitation of the 
Netherlands. In the year 1614, the Spanish Am- 
bassador to Great Britain, brought a charge of piracy 
against Palachwe, alleging that the envoy had brought 
three prizes into Plymouth. Palachwe' s " successful 
defence was that he was a Moroccan subject, in the 
service of the Sultan, then at war with Spain ".^ The 
Jewish diplomatist evidently did not make a fortune 
in the Moroccan service, for when he lay dying at the 
Hague, the Netherlands Parliament assisted him with a 
loan of six hundred guilders. He was granted a public 
funeral by the States General and was buried with 
much ceremony in the old Jewish cemetery at Ouder- 
kerk in the year 1616. 

Nearly half a century after the death of Samuel 
Palachwe, Menasseh ben Israel tells of another 
Palachwe in the service of the Kingdom of Morocco, 
a certain " Seignior Moseh Palache, Judge and 
Governor of the Jews in the city of Morocco ".^ About 
the middle of the seventeenth century, the disciples of 
the pseudo-Messiah, Sabbathai Zevi, did their best to 
arouse the enthusiasm of the Moroccan Jews in the 

* A. M. Hyamson, History of the Jews in England, p. 144. 
* The Humble Address of Menasseh Ben Israel to His Highness the 
Lord Protector, 



cause of this Arch-Pretender. The coming of the 
Messiah in the year 1666 was predicted in Morocco as 
it was almost everywhere else where Jews were to be 
found. Sasportas who had been Rabbi in Sallee wrote 
from England to his former congregants warning them 
against Sabbathai's campaign, but the letter was 
intercepted by one of the Pretender's agents, and 
eventually the Jews in this port were persecuted, and 
some of them had to flee in consequence of their 
adherence to his Movement. In the main, however, 
Morocco was not so deeply affected by the Messianic 
frenzy as some of the other Asiatic and African King- 
doms and provinces. The country was already in the 
throes of the civil war which eventually led to the 
consolidation of the Kingdoms of Morocco, Fez, and 
Sus into the Empire of Morocco. The Jews had quite 
enough to do to save their lives and property in the 
prevailing confusion and terror, and, despite the 
promises and the prophecies of the new Messiah, his 
adherents made little headway in a country so pro- 
foundly disturbed by internecine troubles. Eventually, 
however, Muley Arxid, or Reshid, the vigorous Xeriff 
of Tafilet, by dint of unwearied bravery and activity 
and unbounded treachery, succeeded in eliminating his 
brothers and other princes and rulers, and in making 
himself the sole monarch of Morocco and the neighbour- 
ing states. His enterprizes are said to have been made 


The Jews of Africa 

possible only by the funds provided by a wealthy Jew 
who was eventually betrayed and murdered by the 
ungrateful usurper. The tale of his perfidy is related 
in an interesting small quarto, published anonymously 
in London in 1670, which gives, inter alia, some little 
information respecting the Jews of Morocco at this 
period. 1 In this communication it is stated, that the 
Jews of Morocco " never grow rich, but the Mohumetans 
do accuse them of some Crime, to have a pretence to 
seize upon their Treasure, as it happened lately to a 
Jew, who was grown a petty Prince ; he commanded 
a Place strong by Situation and Art, called Darbin- 
meshaal (according to Basnage, Dar Michael) ; there 
was but one ascent, and that so difficult, that without 
his leave all the Moors of Barbary might have spent 
their Dales in the siege of it. . . . This Jew had won 
the esteem and favour of the Grandees round about by 
his courteous behaviour and good hospitaUty : for it 
was his custom to invite all the Persons of Note into 
his City, and there entertain them very kindly ; this 
dealing made every one, especially the Arabs, to love 
him, and got him a great name. When Muley Archeid, 
otherwise called Taffaletta, flung himself into the 
protection of the Arabs, and that they had all owned 
him for their Prince, he was also entertained by this 

1 A Letter from a Gentleman of the Lord Ambassador Howard's 
Retinue to his friend in London, dated at Fez, Nov. i, 1669. 



courteous Jew, and at a small provocation, he was 
massacred ; Taffaletta found one Point in the Law of 
Mahomet to justifie the Murder which was approved of 
and applauded by the ignorant Multitude ". Basnage 
partially confirms this account, stating that Muley 
Arxid " must have miscarry' d had he not found a Jew 
vastly rich, whom he stripped of all his Treasures, by 
means of which he assembled the Inhabitants of the 
Province, was elected King, and dispossessed his 
brother King of Fez and Morocco ". He adds, how- 
ever, that Muley Arxid " acknowledged the Service the 
Jew had done him, by granting the Nation the same 
Liberty it had enjoyed, making Joshua Ben Amossech 
Prince of it ". It is, however, significant of the really 
brutal character of Arxid that when (according to 
Chenier), he took the town of Morocco in 1670, " at 
the desire of the inhabitants he caused the Jewish 
Councillor and Governor of the Ruling Prince Abu 
Bekr together with the latter and his whole family, to 
be pubHcly burned, in order to inspire terror among the 
Jews ".^ 

Notwithstanding the cruelty shown by Muley Arxid 
to some of his Jewish subjects, he placed certain 
favourites of that faith in trusted and prominent posi- 
tions, both at his court, and in his kingdom generally, 

* Jewish Ev cyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 22. 


The Jews of Africa 

and much evidence of this is to be found in works 
dealing with the Morocco of this period. Muley Ismail 
who succeeded his brother Muley Arxid, continued his 
brother's attitude to the Jews, as while oppressing and 
taxing them heavily, he made confidants and prominent 
officers of a few selected and trustworthy individuals. 
This Sultan had been previously Governor of Me- 
quinez, a post to which he had been appointed by his 
brother Muley Arxid, and, while there, a certain Don 
Joseph de Toledo (otherwise known as Joseph Toledani) 
was of great service to him and enjoyed his confidence. 
Joseph's father, Daniel Toledano, had also been a 
confidant of Muley Ismail. He was a native of 
Mequinez, and had been made a Councillor of State. 
A Hebrew scholar, as well as a statesman, he was a 
friend of Jacob Sasportas, the famous Rabbi. Another 
son of Daniel, Hyam Toledano, was subsequently 
appointed Ambassador to Holland and England, by 
Muley Ismail. Joseph Toledani was eventually ap- 
pointed one of the principal officers of Sultan Ismail's 
household and was subsequently sent as envoy to the 
courts of several European princes. He was also 
deputed to draw up and conclude the Articles of Peace 
between Morocco and the United Provinces in the year 
1684. During the disturbances which ensued in 
Morocco after the death of Muley Arxid, Ismail be- 
sieged the city of Fez, and the town was surrendered to 



him after negotiations had been conducted with a 
Jewish envoy sent to the Sultan by the Chief of the 

Two other well-known councillors and officers of 
Muley Ismail, were Memaran (or Maimaran) and Moses 
Ben Hattar (or 'Attar), both distinguished inhabitants 
of Mequinez. Windus, in his Journey to Mequinez, 
tells a story of the rivalries of the two Jewish courtiers, 
which is corroborated by other authorities. " Me- 
maran being formerly Chief Favourite, had the sole 
command of the Jews ; but, seeing Ben Hattar boldly 
push himself forward, and fearing a rival in the Em- 
peror's Favour, he endeavoured to destroy him, and 
offerred the Emperor so many quintals of Silver for his 
Head ; Upon which he (the Emperor) sent for Ben 
Hattar, and telhng him that a Sum of Money was bid 
for his Head : He resolutely answered, That he would 
give twice as much for the Person's who offerred it : 
Then the Emperor bringing them together, took the 
Money from both ; told them ' They were a couple of 
Fools ', and bid them be friends. Which made Ben 
Hattar desire Memaran' s daughter in Marriage, who 
being granted to him, they now between them govern 
the Jews of his Dominions with absolute authority ". 

When, in the reign of George I, the Hon. Charles 
Stewart was sent with a British Squadron " to 
cruize against the Sally Rovers ", and to act as 

The Jews of Africa 

" Plenipotentiary to treat of Peace with the Emperor 
of Morocco ", he was met at Tetuan Bay by Moses Ben 
Hattar, who had been sent by the Emperor to arrange 
the terms of peace. Windus remarks that Ben Hattar 
" had often been employed in the former Treaties, and 
was a Person more artful and interested than any other 
in the Country, and chiefly to be considered, in regard 
he had it more in his power to make the Negotiations 
successful, or defeat it as he had done that of others ".^ 
Moses Ben Hattar duly signed the Articles of Peace, 
which were then submitted to the Emperor for con- 
firmation. The Jewish diplomat had unlimited powers 
over the Jews of Morocco, a power extending to that of 
life and death ; he was a personage of great im- 
portance and wealth, and on the arrival of the British 
Ambassador, the latter was invited to take up his 
residence in the Jewish courtier's house, which " was 
one of the best in Mequinez ". One of the Articles of 
Peace between George I of England and Muley Ismail 
provided that " the same Liberty shall be granted to 
the Subjects of the Emperor of Morocco residing in the 
Dominions of his Britannic Majesty, which is given to 
the EngHsh Consul in Barbary, to name a Person, or 
Persons, to decide the Differences that may happen 
between the Subjects of His Imperial Majesty, a Moor 
for the Moors, and a Jew for the Jews ". 

^ A Journey to Mequinez. London, 1725. 



Ismail's successor, Muley Mohammed, attempted 
still further to oppress the Jews by special taxation, 
but the project was opposed by his eldest son who was 
Governor of Fez and stated that the Jews of Fez were 
unable to bear even the ordinary taxes with which 
they were burdened. This prince had a Jewish 
Minister named EHjah-ha-Levi, who had at one time 
been sold as a slave, but who had gained the favour of 
the Moroccan Prince ".^ In the year 1789, the 
Emperor Muley Yazed ascended the throne on the 
death of the Sultan Mohammed. He was an extremely 
ferocious ruler who set no bounds to his cruelties. 
Almost immediately on his accession he instituted a 
merciless persecution of the Jews, who, he contended, 
had supported his brother in his contest for the throne. 
He also maintained that the Jews of Tetuan had 
insulted him, and " he ordered a general plunder of 
that unhappy people there, which was carried into effect 
in a most destructive way, with all its attendant 
horrors of insult and violation on the part of the 
soldiery ".^ The richer Jews of Tetuan were tied to 
the tails of horses and dragged through the city, and 
many Jews were killed and robbed, and Jewesses 
outraged in the cities of Morocco and Tetuan. In 
Fez, Mogador, Mequinez, Tangiers, and other towns 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 23. ' Jackson, Algiers. 

The Jews of Africa 

terrible cruelties were enacted, and many of the Jews 
fled to Gibraltar and other places. Some died as 
martyrs ; others were converted to Mohammedanism. 
Among the latter was Elijah ha-Levi, the former 
minister of the despot's brother in Fez, but, tormented 
by his apostasy, the ex-minister only survived his 
conversion to the creed of Islam for a few days.^ 
Many fearful deeds of barbarity to the Jews are related 
of this monster during the four years of his reign over 
Morocco. His inhumanity, however, led to his death, 
for many of his provinces rebelled, although un- 
successfully, and in one of the battles near the city of 
Morocco, he was severely wounded, and died " in the 
most excruciating torture ", in the year 1794.^ 

Although Muley Yazed's successor, Muley Solyman, 
was a mild and humane ruler as compared with his 
predecessor, the position of the Jews in Morocco 
continued to be one of misery and ill-treatment. " The 
nineteenth century, which brought emancipation to the 
Jews of most lands, left those of Morocco, on the whole, 
in their old state of sad monotony and stagnation. 
Every new war in which Morocco became involved 
resulted in some persecution of the Jews, and the 
contest with France in 1844 brought new oppression 
of the unhappy Jewish inhabitants. The miseries 

* Jost, Geschichte der Juden. ■ Buffa, The Empire of Morocco, 



endured by them led to the visit of Sir Moses Montefiore 
to the country in 1863, and after negotiations between 
him and the Sultan, an edict was pubHshed granting 
equal rights of justice to the Jews. Although, in 
theory, full protection was granted to them by such 
edicts and proclamations, in practice, matters did not 
improve much. The local authorities had very Uttle 
power over the populace, and dared not carry out the 
regulations for the protection of the Jews, as the 
enmity between them and the Moslems broke out on 
the slightest provocation. The only real protection 
obtained by Jews in Morocco was from the foreign 
consulates, and only a comparatively small number 
could obtain these privileges, as the government 
attempted by every means to Umit the number. 
Benjamin II stated when he visited the country in 
1854, that " as soon as the soil of civihzed Algeria is 
exchanged for Morocco, dangers of every kind begin "• 
Nevertheless, he was informed that over 100,000 
IsraeHtes were resident in Morocco although " persecu- 
tion, oppression, hatred and fanaticism surround our 
fellow- worshippers on all sides. ... It is only in the 
large harbour towns that the consuls take care that the 
Europeans find some protection and justice ; but in 
the interior the oppression is all the greater ".^ 

* Benjamin II, Eight Years in Asia and Africa. 


The Jews of Africa 

According to the Jewish Year Book of 19 19, the 
\ Jewish population of Morocco amounted to 109,712 
I souls, or a little over two per cent, of the general 
' population. 



MOROCCO (continued) 

An Early Moroccan Synagogue — Leo Africanus — Jewish 
Soldiers in Morocco — The Spanish and Portuguese Re- 
fugees — Jewish Artizans and Craftsmen — ^The Palachwes 
— Frejus and Pariente — Mouette's Account — Addison and ^ 
Ockley — Moses Edrehi and the Jews of the Atlas Range — 
Davidson's Fatal Journey — Walter B. Harris and Modern 

NOTHING absolutely authentic can be re- 
lated concerning the ancient Jewish in- 
habitants of Morocco, even though the 
colonists of Borion, or Borium ^ claim that King 
Solomon himself built their temple, which was trans- 
formed into a church by the Emperor Justinian in the 
sixth century. 2 The author Marcus Fisher, however, 
in his work entitled The History of the Jews under 
Mohammedan Rule, and Imam Idri'y, gives considerable 
information respecting the Jewish refugees who colon- 
ized Morocco after the destruction of the Temple. At 
a later period, the Jews of Morocco were evidently at 
times supporters of Imam Idris, while at others they 

1 " Borium was a town on the borders of the Pentapolis where 
the Jews are said to have had a splendid Temple or more probably 
a fine Synagogue ". See Milman, The History of the Jews. 
9 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. i8. 


The Jews of Africa 

fought him, but they were by no means successful in 
their opposition to that potentate. They were on 
better terms with his successor, Idris II, and during 
some centuries noteworthy Jewish scholars Uved in 
Morocco. This may be accepted as a fair indication 
of the comparatively peaceful state of the Jewish 
population. When the Almohades commenced to 
harass the Jews, they compelled them to wear a very 
prominent yellow covering for the head, and from that 
period, their clothing began to occupy a prominent 
position in the regulations which were from time to 
time enacted on their behalf. The mob, once given a 
lead by national legislation against the Jews, proceeded 
to further and unauthorized persecution, and for a 
considerable period the unhappy people was treated 
with contemptuous scorn and brutal persecution, from 
the results of which they have never really recovered. 
In the 'middle of the fifteenth century many misfortunes 
befell the Jews of Fez. A famine succeeded a fire, and 
in the two catastrophes, it is stated that over 20,000 
Israelites perished. Nevertheless, every Jew orMar- 
rano who could escape from Spain or Portugal fled to 
North Africa, where, despite scorn, cruelty, and 
robbery, they were at least allowed to profess their 
religion without being burnt at the stake. At the end 
of the fifteenth century, the King of Portugal dis- 
covered his mistake and endeavoured to stop the 


Morocco (continued) 

Jewish exodus by proclamations, but it was too late, 
and nearly every Jew who had money with which to 
bribe or wit to escape fled from the barbarians of the 
Iberian Peninsula. 

The tragic results of the poHcy of the Portuguese did 
not, however, come home to them for nearly a century 
later. At the commencement of the fifteenth century 
when " the empire of Morocco was in a condition of 
poKtical disintegration and moral decay . . . the 
Portuguese had possession of the best parts . . . and 
were gradually extending their outposts into the 
interior".^ About this period the traveller Leo 
Africanus was brought as a child to Africa, his father 
having been a victim of the fanaticism of the Spanish 
monarchs in their policy against the Moors and the 
Jews. Leo tells us a good deal about the Jews of 
Morocco which cannot be learnt from other sources. 
Benjamin of Tudela seems to have avoided the Barbary 
States as far as possible and evidently had no great 
opinion of the Jews of any of the North Central or the 
North- Western countries of Africa. Little also is to 
be gleaned from the pages of other authors of this era. 
In the year 1506, when Leo was about twelve years of 
age, he accompanied an official sent to Tefza by the 
Sultan of Morocco, " to receive the fifty thousand 

» Leo Africanus, History and Description of Africa. 

163 M 

The Jews of Africa 

ducats' fine from the Jews, who ' were said * to favour 
the King's enemies ". We are also told of a great 
army of mercenary Jewish soldiers who, living on and 
about the mountain of Demenfera> were led by *' diverse 
princes, and are continually in armes, and they are 
reputed and called by other Jewes in Africa, Carraum 
(probably Chairem), that is to say heretiques. ... I 
heard divers of their principal men avouch that they 
were able (circa 1520) to bring into the field five and 
twenty thousand most expert soldiers ". All kinds of 
trades and professions were pursued by the Jews, who 
were by no means confined to the capitals of the 
provinces, but resided as well in the smaller towns and 
villages. Many of them acted as bankers, changers 
of foreign money and agents, and they appear to have 
had the sole right of minting money, besides which, the 
law, prohibiting Mohammedans from practising the 
trade of goldsmiths, marked out a lucrative pursuit for 
them, in which many no doubt possessed expert 
knowledge brought from Spain and Portugal. There 
were Jewish artificers and artizans who exercised 
" divers handie-crafts ", as well as of other Jews 
engaged as merchants, makers of wine, inn-keepers, 
and vintners, and of Jewish architects who had been 
employed in the designing of the " Arab structures of 
Spain and Morocco ". 
As a matter of fact, the later Jewish arrivals in 


Morocco (continued) 

Morocco were a great acquisition to their newly- 
adopted country. " With their skill in the practise 
of commerce as carried out in European centres, with 
their knowledge of arts and industries, many of which 
were entirely unknown to the other inhabitants of the 
country, and with the wealth that they contrived to 
bring with them, despite the greed of their persecutors, 
they were able to contribute in no little measure to the 
rise and development of the Moroccan Empire under 
the rule of the Tafilet sherifs who came into prominence 
about the middle of the sixteenth century ''.^ In the 
main, the second half of the sixteenth and the first 
half of the seventeenth centuries formed a peaceful 
era for the Jews of Morocco. They appear, however, 
to have systematically assisted the Portuguese in their 
hostilities with the Moors, and in particular they aided 
the people of Saffee, who were besieged, and acted as 
negotiators for the Portuguese in many of the agree- 
ments which were arranged between them and their 
adversaries. Menassehben Israel, writing to Cromwell 
in 1655, remarks that " In the Kingdome of Barbary, 
there lives also a great number of Jewes, who (are) ever 
crueUy and basely used by that Barbarous Nation, 
except at Morocco, the Court and Kings house, where 
they have their Naquid or Prince that governs them, 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p 21. 


The Jews of Africa 

and is their Judge, and is called at this day Seignor 
Moseh Palache : and before him was in the same 
Court, that Noble family Rutlies, that had power and 
jurisdiction of all kinds of punishment, onely life and 
death excepted ".^ 

As a matter of fact, despite the insults and grievances 
to which the Jews were subjected, there can be Httle 
doubt that their leaders exercised considerable power 
and influence in court circles in Morocco at this period. 
In a quarto pamphlet entitled The Moors Baffled, which 
relates to circumstances concerning the City of Tangier 
under the rule of Andrew, Earl of Teviot, circa 1663, 
there is abundant evidence of the care exercised by the 
British Governor in dealing with the Jews.^ The 
anonymous author, in the course of some rather un- 
complimentary remarks, mentions Lord Teviot's care- 
fulness " to carry an Equal Hand in all Controversies 
that happened betwixt the Christians and the Jews 
that were residing upon the Place. He was no 
stranger to the latter, and now it was their interest to 
favour the Concerns of the Moors, as being the most of 
them born amongst them and greatly sympathized in 
their customs. Besides many of them were only come 
to Tangier to trade, having left their Wives and 

* To His Highness the Lord Protector . . . The Humble Address oj 
Menasseh Ben Israel. ^ The Moors Baffled, by George Lord 



Morocco {continued) 

Children in the Moors Dominions. But besides that 
both by Nature and Religion he was inclined to an 
impartial Justice ; he knew that to do otherwise, 
would soon open the mouth of a clamorous Jew, loudly 
to traduce him to the Moors ; and thereby instill an 
ill opinion both of his person and religion ".^ Muley 
Arxid, who reigned at this period, was one of the worst 
of the Moroccan persecutors of the Jews, and his 
extortions were mainly carried out by his Jewish tax- 
collector, Joshua ben Amossech. At his succession, 
Muley Arxid caused the synagogues in the city of 
Morocco and other towns to be demoHshed, and they 
were not re-erected until the advent of his successor to 
the throne. During his reign, the manufacture of 
wines and spirits by the Jews was considerably 
developed, as Arxid forced them " to supply wine to 
the Christian slaves as he found that it made them 
work better ", and this industry continues in the 
hands of the Jews up to the present day.^ 

In the year 1666, Sieur Roland Frejus of Marseilles, 
was sent to Morocco by King Louis XIV of France, to 
promote the establishment of trade between the two 
countries, and he was well received by Muley Arxid. 
Frejus employed a Jew named Jacob Pariente as his 
interpreter and agent, and the latter rendered most 

* The Moors Bafjied. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 22. 

The Jews of Africa 

valuable services to the Embassy, arranging the 
audiences with the Sultan and keeping the French 
envoy well posted with regard to the position of affairs 
in Morocco. Pariente appears to have been well 
known and respected, and his friendship with Aaron 
Carsines, the Jewish goldsmith of Muley Arxid, paved 
the way for friendly negotiations. In short, Frejus did 
very little without the advice of his Jewish agent, and 
succeeded in his mission extremely well. As Pariente 
did not know a word of French the Spanish language 
was used at all the interviews. Here and there in 
Frejus' narrative, we get glimpses of the influence of 
the Jews in Muley Arxid's Court ; his almoner was a 
Jew named Carsenay, and we are also told of a certain 
Isa ben Samuel, who showed the French envoy many 

Issued in the same year as Frejus' Voyage into 
Mauritania, and by the same publisher, was A Letter 
. . . concerning the Religion, Manners, and Customs of 
the Country s of Muley Arxid, ... By Mons. A., 
*' who lived twenty-five years in the Kingdom of Sus 
and Morocco ". The little pamphlet was published in 
167 1, but this account of Morocco evidently relates to 
a period about twenty years earlier, and the description 
of the Jews given is very clear and interesting. " The 

^ Relation of a Voyage into MauritarAa, by the Sieur Roland 
Frejus. . . . English'd out of French. — Minimop, 1671. 


Morocco (continued) 

Jews ", it says, " are very busily meddlesome in all 
sorts of Commerce, and in the Farms, taking usually 
the Kings Customes to Farm, wherefore there they are 
called Farmers, and for this reason, whosoever Trafficks 
there, must often pass through their fingers. ..." 
They " have no Lands there in propriety unless it is 
some gardens about their Houses, out of which they 
make some Wine, but not enough for their own use ; 
so that they . . . are forced to make use of Pass-wine, 
or Raisin Wine, for they call raisin of the Sun Pass.^ 
. . . The Jews wear a shirt. Drawers, a black Close- 
coat or Caffetan, and over it a black or dark coloured 
kind of Cloak, which they call Albernous, made with 
a Cowle Uke a Fryers Frock, but that there hangs down 
strings at the end of the Cowle and at the bottom. 
They have a black Cap, and black Pumps and Slip- 
pers. ..." It is stated that about a half a mile from 
the Great Mosque at Morocco, " is a great enclosure 
with High Walls, and there is the Jews Habitation, 
they are numerous and have a Synagogue, and a very 
fair House ; To their enclosure they have but one 
great gate which the Porter shuts every night and 
opens in the morning". * The writer was evidently 
disgusted at the state of the coinage and maintained 

* Raisin wine is used by Jews in all parts of the world for religious 
purposes, and especially for the ceremonies connected with the 


The Jews of Africa 

that there was no " currant money of Mauritania ", as 
it was fearfully debased. The old ducats of gold, he 
remarks, were excellent, " but ", says Mons. A., 
" every roguish Jew melts down and coins ducats 
after his own fashion, and impudently do it in their 
publick shops, and for this there is no order taken ; so 
that there are Ducats of several sorts and several 
prices ".^ 

Basnage asserts that many Jews lived in Sus, and 
that the capital of that province possessed " a rich and 
fine Synagogue, served by many Priests ; and their 
own Judges and interpreters of the Law, paid by their 
Nation, that lived upon Labour and Trade. There are 
in the Mountains of the Kingdom of Morocco, Farriers 
and Smiths, and People that serve to build their 
houses, because the inhabitants think this work too 
laborious. But they are not always employed in such 
sort of Works ; for they often force themselves into 
Court, and enter into offices ". 

Some of the Jewish rabbis in Morocco in the seven- 
teenth century attained to considerable eminence. 
Among these may be mentioned Jacob Sasportas, and 
Samuel Zarfati. Sasportas came of a well-known 
Spanish family of rabbis and scholars, and after having 
been made Rabbi of Morocco, Fez, and other places, 

1 The Religion, Manners and Customs of the Countrys of A'uley 
Arxid. — By Mons. A. 


Morocco (continued) 

" was imprisoned by the Moorish King " in 1646. He 
fled to Amsterdam, and remained there till 1659, when 
he returned to Morocco and was sent by the King on a 
special mission to the Spanish Court. Later, Sasportas 
occupied positions as Rabbi in London and Amsterdam. 
The Sabbathai Zevi movement had some curious, 
but not important consequences in Morocco. For 
several years the fast-day commemorating the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem was celebrated as a day of feasting. 
Prayer houses were changed for the occasion into places 
of festivity ; all mourning was turned into joy. A 
French traveller relates that while he was in Sallee, a 
Dutch ship arrived there with some Jews on board who 
announced " that the long-looked-for Messiah would 
be born in Holland at the beginning of the ensuing 
year (1672). The Jews, hearing of this good news, 
made a second feast of Tabernacles, and held a general 
rejoicing and treating for eight days together ".^ 
The Sieur Mouette, who is responsible for the above 
statements, gave a concise account of the position of 
the Jews of Morocco at this period. He remarked that 
they had a sheikh of their own in every town, either 
chosen by them, or appointed by the Emperor, who 
collected the taxes due to the State. The Jews rarely 
visited the country districts as when there they went 
in danger of their lives, and justice was rarely exercised 

^ Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 22. 

The Jews of Africa 

on their behalf. If brought before a local governor or 
justice, any attempt at defence led to insult and ill- 
treatment. Even at their funerals, the Jews were 
attacked by boys who were not hindered from throwing 
stones and using every kind of maledictory expression. 
In the meantime, despite all their troubles, they 
managed to provide for their poor, although heavily 
taxed by every official who could legally or illegally 
oppress them financially. ^ 

This position of affairs as regards the Jews of 
Morocco in the reign of Muley Arxid is confirmed by 
the Rev. Lancelot Addison, father of the poet, one of 
the Chaplains of Charles II, who wrote two books 
deahng mainly with the countries of West Barbary, 
with special reference to the Jews.^ According to this 
writer the Moors did not allow the Jews to be in 
possession of any weapon of defence, unless it was for 
purposes of trade. They were bulUed and hectored by 
the Moors, and their children were ill-treated by the 
Moorish children while resistance or retaliation was 
impossible. Jews born and bred in the country 
differed fit tie in their costume from the Moors. They 
wore " little black brimless Caps ", instead of the red 
Fez used by the other inhabitants, but went slip-shod 

The Travels of the Sieur Mouette in the Kingdoms of Fez and 
Morocco. « West Barbary. The Present State of the Jews . . . 

in Barbary. 


Morocco {continued) 

like the rest of the Moors. They were accustomed to 
wear Hnen drawers and vests, over which they put a 
loose garment called a Ganephe, which differed only in 
colour from the Mandilion or Albornoz, which the 
Moors bestowed upon the Christians when they were 
redeemed from slavery. " This Ganephe is a black 
square piece of course Hair-stuff, closed at the cross 
corners, and all round, it is a large Thrum, which at 
first sight looks hke their Religious Fringes. ..." 
Addison affords a very interesting chapter on the 
marriage customs of the Jews of Morocco, together 
with extracts from the Marriage Service, and descrip- 
tions of many quaint ceremonies prevalent in the last 
quarter of the seventeenth century, but it is observed, 
that as a rule, no Christians were admitted to these 
celebrations, " unless such are their slaves ", 

A curious account of South-West Barbary was 
published in the year 1713, by Simon Ockley, professor 
of " Arabick " in the University of Cambridge. Ockley 
does not claim to be the author of the work, but main- 
tains that the manuscript came accidentally into his 
hands some years before the book was printed. The 
author does not appear to have had much sympathy 
with the Jewish race, whose members he accuses of 
insulting the founder of Christianity, in their syna- 
gogues at Easter or Passover. This custom, he main- 
tains, is not confined to the Jews of Barbary, " but 


The Jews of Africa 

even in Amsterdam, they are arrived at this height of 
Insolence against Heaven as to Practise it frequently 
there ". According to his account, in the " Mellah " 
or Ghetto of the town of Morocco, although the ordinary 
houses were small and low, many of the residences were 
magnificent, and several princes and ambassadors 
chose to live there. The Jews were the chief traders 
in the country, " and ... by their associates supply 
the Moors with all necessaries ... so that the Moors 
have their dependence on the Jews, as most of them 
have theirs upon the Christian Merchants, who supply 
them with Goods, whereby they are enabled to Pay 
those exorbitant Taxes that are imposed on them ".^ 
It is observed that although there is little trade in their 
town and villages, the Jewish Sabbath is easily dis- 
tinguished from other days of the week, " for then all 
the Tents of the Shops both of Moors and Jews are 
shut up . . . and it were well if the Christians were as 
strict in the observance of their Day of Religious 
worship. But alas ! their merchants constantly on 
Sundays have a Market or Fair in their Houses from 
Morning 'till Night ; where abundance of Jews and 
Moors meet together to weigh Wax, Copper, Hides, 
&c., and to buy Nails, Iron, Linnen, Tobacco, 
Brimstone, Cochenal, and other sorts of dyes ". The 
writer charges the Jews with living meanly and being 

* Account of S.W. Barbary. 

Morocco (continued) 

addicted to drinking — a charge rarely brought against 
them elsewhere. He states that although they are 
just as adverse to work as the Moors, they are more 
ingenious, " and exceed them in all their Cruelty and 
Malice to the Christians ". 

According to Windus, in his Journey to Mequinez, 
the Jews of Morocco were charged with preferring their 
own people to all others. He suggests that they 
believed that " they might cheat . . . with a safe 
conscience ", all the rest of mankind, " provided they 
give some part of the gain to raise the Fortune of such 
of their own as are fallen to decay, and to keep their 
Poor from begging : in this particular, their Charity is 
wonderfuU ".^ Chenier, who was French Consul for a 
considerable period in Morocco about the last quarter 
of the eighteenth century, remarks of the Jews that 
they were not allowed to possess land or estates, or to 
cultivate gardens. They had to wear black clothes 
and to walk barefoot when passing mosques or sanc- 
tuaries. The law of the country was nearly always 
strained in favour of the Mohammedans. "Not- 
withstanding this state of oppression, the Jews have 
many advantages over the Moors : they better under- 
stand the spirit of trade ; they act as agents and 
brokers, and they profit by their own cunning and the 
ignorance .of the Moors. In their commercial bargains 

* Journey to Mequinez. 


The Jews of Africa 

many of them buy up the commodities of the country 
to sell again. Some have European correspondents, 
others are mechanics, such as goldsmiths, tailors, 
gunsmiths, millers and masons. More industrious and 
artful, and better informed than the Moors, the Jews 
are employed by the Emperor in receiving the customs, 
in coining money, and in all affairs and intercourse 
which the monarch has with the European merchants, 
as well as in all his negotiations with the various 
European governments ".^ 

Some of the most curious, if unreliable, statements 
about Morocco in recent times, are to be found in a 
volume written by a Rabbi who was a native of the 
country in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. 
The author tells us in a footnote that the information 
he affords is not generally known, as " all communica- 
tions by printing is entirely and rigorously pro- 
hibited ". He gives some account of a town named 
Dubdo, which he calls a " peculiar and a very great 
wonder in the kingdom of Morocco ". This place, he 
contends, '* has a fine climate and a beautiful air, and 
there are a great many fine gardens. The town is 
built on a very high mountain ". In his time (circa 
1830) he says, there were 700 Jewish families residing 
there, all Cohanim (priests), together with a few (mere) 
IsraeHtes who are very rich. The place was evidently 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. ix, p. 24. 

Morocco {continued) 

under the same conditions as apply to other districts in 
the Atlas Mountains -a kind of feudal arrangement by 
which the Jews are protected by one or more chiefs or 
individuals. It is remarked that *' the Jews' 
masters, if anything wrong happens to any of them, 
makes a complaint to the master of the one injured, and 
he satisfies him. They would sooner kill twenty men 
than one Jew ". The Jews have to make their masters 
presents two or three times a year, but " by that they 
have great protection, and live very happily together 
in that town ", where none of the inhabitants pays 
any duty or contribution to the government.^ The 
arrangement between the Jews and their protectors in 
the towns and districts in and abutting on the Atlas 
range, is also noted by Davidson, and Mr. Walter B. 
Harris, but neither mentions the town of Dubdu, 
although it is quite possible that the place alluded to as 
Coubba, or Cobba, by Davidson, is the same. The 
latter wrote about the same period as Edrehi, and 
Coubba had then between 3,000 and 4,000 people, and 
allowing five persons to a family, this would bring 
Edrehi's 700 families to 3,500 inhabitants. Davidson 
greatly regretted that he could not get to Coubba 
owing to heavy falls of snow. Another writer speaks of 
Dubdu lying on an eastern affluent of the Moluya river, 
and states that above the town rises a vertical bluff 

1 Edrehi, Historical Account oj the Ten Tribes. 

The Jews of Africa 

crowned' with a minaret and a dismantled fortress. 
" The place consists (circa 1899) of about four hundred 
earthen houses ", and is the only town in the Moroccan 
empire " where the Jews are in a majority. All are 
engaged in trade, their commercial relation extending 
eastwards to Tlemsen in Algeria, westwards to Fez ".^ 
It is not very easy to follow Edrehi's remarks, as the 
writer is always rambling from one subject to another, 
but according to his statement, in certain towns in 
Morocco, Levites were not allowed. Whether this was 
the case in Dubdo (or Dubdu according to Buffa's 
Map 2), is not very clear, but Edrehi is very emphatic 
about the prohibition against them in Tlemcen (or 
Telmsan, as he calls it). As a matter of fact he 
remarks, ''it is very extraordinary, that in that town 
the Levites are not permitted to remain twenty-four 
hours ; if one should remain, the climate kills him 
directly, and nobody knows the reason how that is ". 
According to this writer the Jewish population of 
Mequinez at this period (circa 1830) was thirty-five 
thousand families, but as the total population is given 
as one hundred thousand inhabitants, there is evidently 
some confusion in the good Rabbi's figures and 
estimates. The Jews, he says, have a town of their 

1 Reclus, Universal Geography, vol. ii. ■ Dubdu is marked on 
this map as on the borders of the Atlas Mountains nearly one 
hdndred miles from the Coast, or over one hundred and fifty from 
Ceuta to the north-west. 


Morocco {continued) 

own, irregularly fortified and guarded by a strong force 
under the direction of an Alcaid, who is styled the 
" Governor of the Jews ". Edrehi paints the position 
of the Jews in Morocco very differently from the 
picture of other writers, and he asserts that " they are 
esteemed and beloved by the whole nation ", and " are 
employed for the principal offices ". He remarks that 
in the new city of Fez " they have the whole town for 
themselves ; no other nations live among them, only 
consuls and some European merchants, and through 
business and intercourse of language, etc., they are 
sociable together ". In the old town, it is said, the 
house of Maimonides still exists, but it is shut up, and 
nobody is allowed to dwell in it. " They can see it, 
and all the articles inside, but nobody can come near 
it, for a particular reason ", etc. 

Early in the nineteenth century John Buff a, a doctor 
of medicine, resided for a time in Morocco, and his 
volume of travels in that country affords a lively ac- 
count of the Empire at this period. In March, 1806, 
he visited Tetuan and, on landing, wasjeceived by the 
British vice-consul, an opulent native Jew. He was 
conducted to the Jewish quarter and spent the evening 
with some Barbary Jews, and the next morning on his 
visit to the Governor, " v/as not a' little surprised to 
see our Vice-consul pull off his sUppers as we passed 
the mosques, and walk bare-footed. I soon learned, 

179 N 

The Jews of Africa 

that the Jews are compelled to pay this tribute of 
respect ". It did not follow, however, that this 
practice was " compelled " by law, as in some cases 
these customs were exacted by the mob, notwithstand- 
ing any legislation to the contrary. " For example the 
sultan Sulaiman (1795-1822), decreed that the Jews of 
Fez might wear shoes ; but so many Jews were killed 
in broad daylight in the streets of that city that they 
themselves asked the sultan to repeal the edict ". 
Twenty thousand Jews resided in Tetuan. They 
were " tolerably civilized in their manners but dread- 
fully oppressed by the Moors. Seldom a day passed 
but some gross outrage or violence is offered to the 
Jewish women, the generality of whom are very 
handsome, though their dress is by no means calculated 
to set off, but rather to detract from their beauty ". 
The costume of the ladies was stated to be rich in 
material, but so heavy, that it appeared awkward and 
unbecoming, and the use of enormous ear-rings did not 
add to its attractiveness. They rarely went out, but 
spent their leisure on the roofs of the houses, which 
were often very dirty. The Jews are said to have 
married very young ; "it is not at all unusual to see a 
married couple, whose united ages do not exceed 
twenty-two or twenty-three years ".^ 

Jackson, who wrote an account of the city of 

^ Bufia, The Empire of Morocco. 

Morocco {continued) 

Morocco in 1817, remarks that the Jews of the town 
were governed by an Alcaid to whom they applied for 
protection against insult and injury. Only two 
thousand families continued to reside in the city, as 
large numbers of them had fled to the mountains where 
they were less oppressed. It is stated that " the Jew 
can neither shift his place of residence, nor ride a horse, 
nor wear a sword without special permission. Yet 
under all these vexations and degrading circumstances, 
a Jew renegado is scarcely known • they are allowed the 
free exercise of their religion, and it would seem as if 
this indulgence were considered a compensation for all 
their sufferings".^ Davidson, who visited the city 
some eighteen years later, remarks on the filthy state 
of the Jewish quarter, in which he estimated there were 
about 5,000 Jews and Jewesses, exclusive of the 
children, who were very numerous. The traveller was 
supposed to live at the Sultan's expense, but this 
arrangement resulted in everything costing him about 
four times as much as if he had had to buy everything 
himself. The Sheik of the Jews had been instructed 
to receive the orders for everything required, and the 
money spent was to be deducted from the Jewish tax 
" which is only 1,000 dollars a year ".2 Among other 
places Davidson visited was a town or village named 
Trasermoot, in the Atlas Mountains. He describes it 

1 Jackson, Algiers. ^ John Davidson, Travels in Africa. 

The Jews of Africa 

as a kind of Gibraltar in miniature. " I went in the 
evening ", he says, " to dine with the Jews — here 
called the sons of Yehudi : they are a most extra- 
ordinary people. I never met with such hospitahty, 
or such freedom of manners in any Jews. They had 
dancing and music, and the ladies mixed in society 
without the least restraint. . . . These are the Jews 
who have each a Berber master ". 

Many writers have given accounts of the peculiar 
position of the Jews in the Atlas Mountains, who in 
some respects appear to be in a similar condition to 
the people who lived under the feudal system in the 
Middle Ages. In some cases they are under the 
direct protection of the local sheikh, in others, of 
private individuals, for whom they have to do various 
services and who can sell the right of these services to 
others. " They may not marry or remove their 
families till they have received permission from their 
so-called protectors ; and without this protection they 
would not be safe for a day. ... On the other hand, 
outsiders are permitted to do them no injury, which 
would be considered as inflicted upon their protector 
(" kasi "), who makes the duty of avenging such injury 
a point of honour. ... In travelling it is sufficient for 
the protege to insure his safety, to bear some article 
belonging to his master, written documents being 
scarce, with few to understand them. . . . Centuries 


Morocco (continued) 

of this oppression have naturally had a very deleterious 
effect upon the characters of the victims, who are 
cringing, cowardly creatures, never daring to answer 
back, and seldom even standing erect— a people 
demanding the utmost pity ".^ Davidson, in describ- 
ing this system, remarks that at Trasermoot (Mount 
Atlas) every Jew has his master, but in Wari-Kah, 
there appeared to be one chief, while " on the m.oun- 
tain there are two ; in other places there are three and 
so on. The annual tax is a ducat for the head of each 
family ; but they have to entertain and provide for 
all who come in the Sultan's name : they are the most 
intelligent I have met with ". At Tafilet, Davidson 
was greatly mystified, and remarked, " The Jews here 
puzzle me sadly : they have an air of freedom and 
defiance ". 

Writing about sixty years later than Davidson, Mr. 
Walter B. Harris found practically the same conditions 
existing among the Jews of Dads and Tafilet. He 
remarks, " the families of Jews here too live in a feudal 
state, each being dependent upon some Shleh family 
for immunity from ill-treatment and robbery : in 
return for this they pay a small yearly tribute to their 
protectors. As a rule they are the skilled workmen of 
the place, being particularly renowned at Dads for 
their guns, which are often gorgeously decorated in 

* Jewish Encyclopedia, vol, ix, p. 28. 


The Jews of Africa 

silver ". In Tafilet ** each Jew family lives under the 
protection of some Moslem, be he Arab or Berber . . . 
any injury suffered by the Jew is revenged by the 
protecting Berber as though it had been committed to 
a member of his own family. In this manner the 
Israelites are able to live in tolerable security from 
murder and theft ". At Mogador, Davidson found the 
Jewish population nearly equal to that of Morocco 
city. The Jews were better housed and in better 
circumstances. The Jewish women were very beauti- 
ful, and the men, as a rule, dressed in European costume, 
and many of them spoke English. The writer was 
invited to dine in the Mellah, and was hospitably 
entertained, learning much about the cabbaHstsand 
their conversations with the Almighty and the angels, 
etc., etc. During Davidson's residence in Mogador he 
wrote a letter to the Duke of Sussex giving a most 
extraordinary account of the Jews of Coubba or Cobba, 
a place he intended to visit, although he could never 
carry out his project.^ 

At Madnoon there was a small Jewish colony " who 
are the working classes and manufacture good guns, 
daggers, ornaments in silver, brass, etc. They are 
also the tailors, and do the iron work". Davidson 
speaks somewhat enthusiastically of the beauty of the 
Jewish women, and remarks " the Jewesses bear away 

1 5g«Note I, p. 187. 


Morocco {continued) 

the palm of beauty, and dirty as they proverbially are, 
they are cleanliness itself, as compared with the Arab 
ladies, whose filth, dirt, and misery are dreadfuU ".^ 
Mr. Walter B. Harris, who rarely mentions the Jews 
without a jeer or a sneer, is very insistent on the dirt 
of the Jews, which he emphasizes in such a manner 
that readers of his works must almost come to the 
conclusion that dirt is their monopoly in Morocco, as 
well as their " deity ", as he maintains. He admits, 
however, that the other inhabitants do not excel in 
cleanliness, and remarks " wash the Bedouin lady, 
undo the tangles of her hair, give her clean clothes . . . 
and all her beauty is gone " . ^ Of all the biassed writers 
against the Jews of Morocco, Mr. Harris is probably 
the most bitter and unjust, and he even grudges them 
the protection they receive from the foreign consuls, 
although he is good enough to say that he does not 
'' desire to totally aboUsh the only safeguard the Jews 
have from the hands of the Moorish government ". He 
was, he admits, at first shocked at the treatment the 
Jews received at Morocco, " but it soon passed off, and 
I have come to recognize, through intimate knowledge, 
that there is no tribe of men more degraded ... or 
more ready to rob and plunder, than the Moorish Jew ". 
It certainly is well that the bias of this anti-Semite 

1 Travels in Africa, p. 192. * Harris, Land of an African 
Sultan, p. 285. 


The Jews of Africa 

exceeds his influence, although he does not carry his 
criticisms of the Moorish Jews beyond " their love of 
swindHng, their vice and drunken habits, the utter 
filth in which they live, their bemeaning and cringing 
ways " — beyond these somewhat deprecatory remarks, 
he admits that " there is little more to say about 
them ". 

That some small portion of these charges against the 
Moroccan Jews may be true is quite possible, con- 
sidering the conditions under which they have lived in 
the country ever since they first accepted the pro- 
tection so grudgingly granted. With regard to the 
protection afforded by the foreign consuls, a late 
authority writes as follows : " Nowhere in Morocco 
without such protection does the Jew receive common 
justice. From the cradle to the grave he is despised 
and vituperated, an apology being necessary even for 
an allusion to him in polite society. Every possible 
indignity is heaped upon him, and he enjoys neither 
social nor civil equality with his neighbours ; they 
tolerate him because he renders himself indispensable 
and knows how, under the most unfavourable of 
circumstances, to amass wealth which he is always 
ready to put out at exorbitant interest, and of 
which he may be ultimately despoiled by powerful 
oflicials ".1 

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, vol, ix, p. 28. 

Morocco {continued) 

I. Letter from John Davidson to H.R.H. the Duke of 

" MoGADOR, March i8tk, 1836. 
" Sir, 

" After a fruitless attempt to cross the 
western branch of Mount Atlas, owing to the unusual 
quantity of snow, I have been obliged to come to this 
place, which affords me another opportunity of taking 
advantage of your Royal Highness' s condescension in 
permitting me to address you. Having received the 
Sultan's consent to cross the mountains for the purpose 
of visiting the Jews, I left Morocco for Mesfywa, and 
taking the route by Trasemoot, reached an elevation 
of 5,000 feet ; but here the loose character of the snow, 
and the uncertainty of the track, obliged me to abandon 
my project. I was accompanied in this journey by a 
Rabbi, from the district of Coubba or Cobba, to which 
place it was my intention to have proceeded. From 
this man I received much curious information, and 
have yet great hopes of reaching the people of whom 
he spoke, and to whom he belongs, before I return to 
England. He informed me that in this place, nearly as 
extensive as that in which the city of Morocco is 
situated, there are not less than 3,000 or 4,000 Jews 
living in perfect freedom, and following every variety 
of occupation ; that they have mines and quarries 


The Jews of Africa 

which they work, possess large gardens and extensive 
vineyards, and cultivate more com than they can 
possibly consume ; that they have a form of govern- 
ment, and have possessed this soil from the time of 
Solomon ; in proof of which he stated (that) they 
possess a record bearing the signet and sign of Joab, 
who came to collect tribute from them in the time of 
the son of David ; that the tradition of their arrival 
here runs thus : ' Crossing the Great Sea to avoid the 
land of Egypt, they came to a head of land with a 
river ; that here they landed, and following the course 
of this leading westward, but going towards the south, 
they came to a spot where they found twelve wells and 
seventy palm-trees. This at first led them to suppose 
that they had by some means got to EUm ; but finding 
the mountains on the west, they were satisfied that 
they had reached a new country : finding a passage 
over the mountains, they crossed and took up their 
dwelling in this valley, first in caves, which exist in 
great numbers, then in others which they excavated, 
and after this began to build towns ; that at a distant 
period, they were driven across the mountains by a 
people that would not acknowledge them, and that 
some remained at Diminet, Mesfywa, and other places 
on the western side of the range '. Looking at the 
map, and following this man's observations, it is 
perfectly easy to trace them. They must have reached 


Morocco {continued) 

the gulf of Tremesen, and taking the river Muluwia, or 
Mahala, have reached Tafilelt, where, to this day, are 
twelve wells planted round with seventy palm-trees 
and which many of the Jews call EHm ; and from this 
day they (must) have taken the pass to which I at- 
tempted to get. I^nowing the interest your Royal 
Highness takes in all that refers to the history of the 
Jews, I have offered this man fifty dollars to obtain a 
copy of the record upon a skin of the same size and 
pattern as that which contains it, and ten dollars for 
the copy of two tombstones to which the Jews make 
their pilgrimages, and these he promises to send to the 
Jew agent in Morocco in six months, provided I do not 
in the meantime visit Coubba. On asking him, if at 
any period they had a great accession to their number, 
or if he knew anything of the breaking off of the tribes, 
he seemed anxious to drop the subject, and told me 
that the more learned men whom I should see at 
Coubba could better inform me ; that from time to 
time, Jews came to them, but that these tombs and the 
writings they possess contain all their history. This 
man returned with me. I was most anxious to know 
the meaning of the names of some of the towns : he 
told me what the Moors call Mesfywa is Oom Siwa, the 
Mother of Siwa, one of their families which crossed (the 
mountains) ; that Ourika of the Moors, distant thirty 
miles, was Rebka, founded by one of their daughters, 


The Jews of Africa 

and that most of these places had originally Hebrew 
names. At Ourika he left me. I continued for eight 
days to visit the towns inhabited by the Jews, to the 
number of the above one hundred, and I should say 
that on this side, there are more Jews dwelling with the 
Berbers in the mountains than resident in Morocco. 
They have all the same account of Coubba, and have a 
great belief in the Caballists, who they say still exist, 
and who receive direct communication from Heaven. 
I here send your Royal Highness a few of the names of 
the principal towns, but having lost my Rabbi in- 
terpreter, cannot procure the meaning of them : 
Argum, Roosempt, Towra, Towright, Ai Tat tab, 
Tamazert, Zowisiderhald, Tedeeli, Tisgin (very large, 
two hundred families), A Mismish (one hundred and 
fifty families), Sefehnal, to the town on the Wad el 
Fis "... 



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what is most remarkable in the Territories of the King of Fez 

and Morocco. Written by a Person who had been a Slave 

there a considerable time ; and published from his Authentick 

Manuscript. London. i2mo. 1713. 
Ogilby, John. — Africa : being an accurate description of the 

Regions of Egypt, Barbary, Lybia and Billedulgerid, the 

land of Negroes, Guinea, Ethiopia, and the Abyssinies. Lon- 
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Plowden, Walter Chichele. — Travels in Abyssinia and the Galla 

Country, with an account of a Mission to Ras Ali in 1848. 

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French Conquest. From the German of Dr. Wagner and other 

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Tripoli in Barbary to the City of Kairwan. London. 8vo. 1877. 
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of that Country. London. Quarto. 1814. 
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The whole collected and Historically digested by F. Balthazar 
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lishment, till the year 1828. Edinburgh. 2 vols. Minimo. 
Vansleb, F. — The Present State of Egypt ; or, a new Relation of a 
late voyage into thai Kingdom. Performed in the years 1672, 
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WiNDUs, John. — A Journey to Mequinez, the Residence of the pre- 
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Tunis. 2 vols. London. 8vo. 1868. 



A., MoNS., cited, 168-170 
Abd-al Mu'min, Persecution by, 

Abraham, Rabbi, of Tunis, 86 
Abrahams, Dr. Israel, cited, 53 
Abreha, King of Abyssinia, 9 
Abyssinia, 4-32 
Achmed Pasha, Viceroy of 

Egypt, 37-38 

Adamis Segued, King of Abys- 
sinia, 18 

Addison, Rev. Lancelot, cited, 

Adier, Mr. E. N., cited, 54 

Aizor, King of Abyssinia, 1 2 

Al-Butji, 44 

Alexandria, 35, 36, 42-43, 44, 45 

Algeria, 105-14 1 

Algiers, 107, 108, 112, 113-114, 
115, 117, 119. 134. 138. 139 

Amdo, claimant to the throne of 
Abyssinia, 18, 19 

Amossech, Joshua ben, 167 

Amr ibn al Asi, 43 

Aranda, Emanuel d', 125-127 

Atlas, Jews of the, 182-183 

Atzbeha, King of Abyssinia, 9 

Augustus, Emperor, 35 

Barbarossa, 85-86, 95-96, 109 
Barfat, Isaac ben Sheshat, 107 
Basnage, cited, 16, 25-26, 38-39, 

51-52, 152, 170 
Baude, Baron, cited, 139 
Beechey, Capt. F. W. and 

Beechey, H. W., cited, 73-75 
Ben Smia, voyage of, 3, 107, 120- 

Benghazi 74, 75 

Benjamin II, cited, 66-67, 68-69 

75-76. 89, 99, 100, 131. 133, 

134. 136, 159 
Benjamin of Tudela, 36, 44, 58, 

Berber Jews, 64 
Berbers, Jews among the, 82, 

142, 143, 145, 190 
Biskrah, 117, 136 
Bona, 133-134, 140-141 
Borion (Borium), 161 
Bruce, James, cited, 8, 9, 15, 25 
Buffa, John, cited, 179-180 
Bugie, 119 
Byzantines, Jews under the, 52< 


Cairo, 34, 37, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 

49. 50-51 

Cairo Purim, 39 

Canary Islands, i 

Cansino, Jacob, 1 1 1 

Cardoso, Miguel, 62 

Carsines, Aaron, 168 

Castro, Abraham de, 37, 38, 46 

Carthage, 80-81, 90-91 

Charles V, 85-86, 96, no, m 

Chelebri. The, 37, 48 

Chenier, French Consul, 175 

Constantine, 117 

Costume of the Jews in Algeria, 
123, 130, 135, 137 ; Egypt, 52- 
53; Morocco, 162, 169, 172-173, 
175. 180; Tripoli, 72, 76; 
Tunisia, 97, 100, loi, 102, 104 

Coubba (Cobba), 177, 184, 187 

Cremieux, Adolphe, 41 

Customs of Jews of Tripoli, 67 
et seq. 



Dads, 183 

Daggatuns (Daggatouns), 142 

Damietta, 44 

Davidson, John, cited, 142-143, 

181-182, 183-185, 187-190 
Derna, 59 
Dhu Nuwas, King of Yemen, 9- 

10, 22 
Djado, 59, 65, 66 
Djebel Nefoussi, 59, 60, 64, 65, 

66, 78 
Dubdo, 176, 177 
Duran (Durand) family, 107 

Edrehi, Moses, cited, 23, 176- 
177, 178-179 

Egypt. 33-55 
Elijah-ha-Levi, 157-158 
Ethiopia, 4-32 

Faitlovitch, Dr. Jacques, 30, 
Ferdinand, King of Spain, 60 
Fez, 146, 147, 149, 154. 157. 

162, 179, 180 
Fisher, Marcus, cited, 161 
Flaccus, 36 
Fossa to, 66 
Fostat. 43, 45, 54. 55 
Frfejus, Sieur Roland, 167, 168 
French Conquest of Algeria, 116 
Fromentius, Bishop of Abys- 
sinia, 9 
Funeral customs, 131-133, 139- 

Geonim, The, 93 

Geshen, King of the Falashas, 18 

Gibbon, Edward, cited, 79 

Gibraltar, 158 

Gideon, King of the Falashas, 

18, 19 
Gobat, Samuel, cited, 26-27 
" Gorneyim ", 112, 113 
Graetz, cited, 39-46 
Gramaye, Jean Baptiste, cited, 


Ha-Cohen, Joseph, 86 
Haedo, cited, 112 
Hakluyt, cited, 125 
Ha Levi, Judah, 36 

Hal6vy, cited, 10 
Hamilton, James, cited, 75 
Harris, Mr. Walter B., 177, 183, 

Hascen, Prince, 85, 86 
Hattar (Attar), Moses ben, 155- 

Herbert, Lady, cited, 137-138 
Hesse-Wartegg, cited, 85, 97, 103 
Hudia, 73-74. 79 

Ibn-Khaldoun, cited, 56, 59 
Icon-Amlac, King of Shoa, 14 
Idris, Imam, 92, 93, i6i 
Iffren, Jews of, 67 
Isa ben Samuel, 168 

Jaahar, vizier, 43 
Jackson, cited, 180-181 
Jerba, 59, 60, 64, 91, 92, 94, 104 
Joseph, the Patriarch, 49-50 
Josephus, cited, 34 
Jost, cited, II, 22 
Judith, Queen of Abyssinia, 12- 

Kahinah, The, 145 

Kairwan, 82, 83, 92, 93, 95, 102 

Lalibala, Prince of Abyssinia, 

Laomedon, 34 

Le Bruyn, Corneille, cited, 52, 53 
Leo Africanus, 46, 47, 109, 163 
Lord, Perceval Barton, cited, 

115, 120, 129, 131-133 
Ludolphus, cited, 24-25 
Lyon, Captain, cited, 72, 73 

Madnoon, 184 
Mahalla (Mahallat), 44 
Maimaran, 155 
Maimonides, 36, 43-44, 64, 94 
Maltzan, cited, 103 
Marranos, i 
Mauretania, 81, 142 
Mequinez, 157, 178-179 
Memaran, 155 

Menas, King of Abyssinia, 18 
Menasseh ben Israel, cited, 46, 



Menelik, Jewish King of Abys- 
sinia, 5, 6, 8 

Mogador, 157, 184 

Monomotapa, i 

Montefiore, Sir Moses, 41, 159 

Morceaux, cited, 58 

Morell, J. R., cited, 124, 134-136 

Morgan, I., cited, 126, 144, 149 

Morocco, 142-190 

Mouette, Sieur, cited, 171 

Msellata, 59 

Muley Arxid (Reshid), 151-154, 
167, 168, 172 

Muley Ismail, 154 

Muley Mohamed, 157 

Muley Solyman, 158 

Muley Yazed, 157-158 

Nagid, The, 37 

Naples, Deportation to, 60 

Nataf, Solomon, 88 

Napoleon III, 89 

Nandi, Dr., cited, 114 

Nefoussi Tribe, The, 56, 59 

Noah, Mordecai Manuel, 98 

Obadiah di Bertinoro, 44-45 
Ockley, Simon, cited, 173-175 
Ogilby, John, cited, 24, 49, 124- 

Omar, Ordinances of, 83, 92, 146 
Oran, 107, 108, no, 114, 117, 

119. 139 
Oviedo, Patriarch of Ethiopia, 15 

Palachwe, Samuel, 149-150 
Palachwe (Palache), Moses, 150, 

Pariente, Jacob, 167-168 
Pessato, 66 
Phineas, King of Abyssinia, g- 

10, 22 
Plowden, Walter Chichele, cited, 

Portugal, Persecutions in, 147 
Pory, John, cited, 16-17 
Ptolemy I, 34-35 
Ptolemy Soter, 79 
Purim al Mizriyim, 39 
Purim Borghel, 62 
Purim, Cairo, 39 

Purim Kidehuni, 62 
Purim Sherif, 62 

Rae, Mr Edward, cited, '](>-']'], 

Raphael Joseph, 39, 40-41 
Reclus, Elisee, cited, 178 
Reshid (Rosetta), 44 
Romans, Jews under the, 81-82, 

Rosetta, 44 

Sabbathai Zevi, 39, 40-41, 62, 

150-151, 171 
Samen, Jewish Kings of, 14-15, 

Samen, Jews of, 2,11 
Sandys, George, cited, 46 
Sanuto, geographer, 16, 17 
Sartsa Denghel, King of Abys- 
sinia, 18 
Sasportas, Jacob, 151, 1 70-1 71 
Sefitah, 44 

Segued, King of Abyssinia, 18 
Sehm I, Sultan, 36-37 
Selim II, 87 
Sheba, the Queen of, 5, 7, 8, 

Sheshet, Rabbi Isaac ben, 122 
Sholal, Isaac Cohen, 37 
Simeon ben Labi, 61, 66, 71 
Sinan Rais, 96 
Slousch, M., cited, 65-66, 78 
Solomon, King, 5, 7 
Solyman, the Magnificent, 37, 

38, 62 
Spain, immigration from, 106, 

108, 119, 120 
Spain, massacres of Jews in, 119, 

Spanish invasion of Tripoli, 60 
Spanish Protection, 10 1 
Stern, Henr>'^ A., cited, 27-30 
Strabo, cited, 43 
Sus, 151, 170 
Susneus, King of Abyssinia, 19, 


Tafilet, 183-184 

Tangiers, 157 

Tellez, Balthazar, cited, 5, 23, 24 



Tetuan, 157, 180 

Thevenot, John de, cited, 47-48 

Tlemcen, 109, in, 137, 178 

Toledani, Joseph, 154 

Toledano, Daniel, 154 

Toledano, Hyam, 154 

Trasermoot, 1 81-182, 183 

Tripoli, 56-79 

Troglodyte Jews, 64 

Tshlehi, The, 37, 48 

TuUy, cited, 70, 71 

Tunis, 82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 89, 95, 

99, 103, 115 
Tunisia, 80-104 

Vandals, Jews under the, 82, 

105, 144 
Vansleb, cited, 50-51 
Volterra, MeshuUam ben Men- 

achem, 44-45 

WiNDUS, cited, 156, 175 
Wingfield, Lewis, 100-102, 136 

XiMENES, Cardinal, no 

Zaraf Bassa {Bashi), 37, 46, 48 

Zarfati, Samuel, 1 70 

Zeliten, 73 

Zimra, David ibn Abi, 37 


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