Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

Get access Subject: Jewish Studies
Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Halimi, Gisèle

(752 words)

Author(s): Jessica Hammerman
Gisèle Halimi (b. 1927) is a French lawyer, author, and activist. Born to observant Jewish parents in La Goulette, Tunisia, she grew up fearing God and with the understanding that her life was driven by fate. In her first memoir, translated into English as Milk for the Orange Tree, Halimi recalled that her parents urged her “not to ask questions” because “God decides” (p. 27). Her early rebellion against God’s authority began a life in which she constantly questioned the status quo, and as a teenager she became concerned about women’s rights,…

Ḥalimi, Sidi Fredj

(417 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Rabbi  Sidi Fredj ben Abraham Ḥalimi was born in Constantine in 1876 and died there in 1957. He was a dayyan (judge) of the rabbinical court of Constantine during the last generation of the Algerian Jewish community prior to the mass exodus (see Bet Din and Dayyanim). His fellow judges were Simeon Doukhan (Dukhan, 1875–1948) and Joseph ben David Renassia (1879–1962). Ḥalimi possessed a clear talmudic orientation. He became a dayyan at the tender age of eighteen and was head of the rabbinical court in Constantine by the time he turned thirty. He was respected by the community’s o…

Ḥaliwa, Solomon

(567 words)

Author(s): Yossef Chetrit
Solomon Ḥaliwa was born in Meknes, Morocco, and died there toward the end of the eighteenth century when he was around sixty years old. The three qinot (elegies) he wrote on the death of the famous Hebrew poet David ben Aharon Hassin (1728-1792), who also lived in Meknes, indicate that Ḥaliwa was the younger of the two. They show that Haliwa admired Ḥassin’s work and used it as a model but was more innovative. Although Ḥaliwa wrote hundreds of poems, addressing a great diversity of themes and displaying a unique richness of language, his writings did not spread across…


(2,007 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Hamadan (Pers. Hamadhān; Ar. and archaic Pers. Hamadhān; ancient Agbatana or Ekbatana) is a city in western Iran situated on the eastern slope of the Alvand massif, and the capital of a province by the same name. One of the oldest cities in Iran and the capital of the ancient Medes, its name appears in inscriptions as Hamgmatāna, meaning “place of gathering.” An ancient Pahlavi text attributes the building of the city to the Jewish queen Shūshāndukht, the daughter of an exilarch, who became the wife of the Sasanian king Yazdigird I (r. 399–420 c.e.) and the mother of Bahrām Gūr (420–438). The Bi…

Ḥamawī Family

(628 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The roots of the Ḥamawī family lead to the city of Ḥama, situated midway between Damascus and Aleppo. Some members of the family left Ḥama and settled in Aleppo. Many members of the family were famous rabbinical scholars. Abraham Shalom Ḥay ben Raphael Ḥamawī was born and raised in Aleppo in the mid-nineteenth century; the date of his death is unknown. After studying in the yeshiva, he left Aleppo and journeyed across North Africa, Western Europe, Baghdad, India, and Palestine. Wherever he wandered he sought libraries and ancient m…

Hamdānī , Rabīʽ Mushfiq

(314 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Rabīʽ Mushfiq Hamadānī was born in 1912 in Hamadan and attended both the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and the elite Dār el-Funūn school. He translated two works of philosophy into Persian before the age of twenty. Hamadānī studied to be a French high-school teacher and completed his higher education in two years of philosophical and cultural studies, during which time he also served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not long after, he was appointed head of the Pars news agency. Hamadānī’s journalistic career began at the Iranian newspapers Mehr and Mehrgān. On the eve of th…

Ha-Mevasser, Istanbul, 1909-11

(614 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Ha-Mevasser (The Herald [of Good Tidings]), a Hebrew weekly published in Istanbul from December 21, 1909 to December 3, 1911,  was founded by a group of Zionist leaders that included Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, Victor Jacobson, and Nahum Sokolow. The paper was managed and edited by Sami Hochberg with the assistance of Aharon Ḥermoni, who largely set the editorial tone. During its two-year life, Ha-Mevasser was Istanbul’s only entirely-Hebrew periodical. The scarcity of printers of Hebrew in Istanbul at the time rendered printing an expensive venture, and indeed Ha-Mevasser suffer…

Hamon, Aaron

(385 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Aaron ben Isaac Hamon, who lived in Istanbul and Edirne (Adrianople) in the first half of the eighteenth century, was a poet, composer, and physician. He was a descendant of the famous Hamon family, which produced many court physicians and diplomats in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Unlike his forefathers, Aaron was more famous as a musician, and in the world of Turkish music he was better known as Yahudi Harun (Aaron the Jew). He was one of many renowned composers produced by Ottoman Jewry from the seventeenth century…

Hamon Family

(374 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
The Hamons were the most prominent Ottoman Jewish family of physician-diplomats. The family was originally from Spain, where Isaac Hamon had been a physician at the court of ʿAbd Allāh (Boabdil), the last Nasrid amīr of Granada (r. 1482–1484, 1487–1492), but they settled in Turkey after the 1492 expulsion. As was true for many other Jewish families, medicine was the hereditary profession of the Hamons. This was an era when marranos and professing Jews who had studied at the universities of Christian Europe were bringing their expertise to the Ottoman …

Hamon, Joseph

(246 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Joseph Hamon (d. 1517/18), born and raised in Granada, was the founder of the Hamon family in the Ottoman Empire. He settled in Istanbul after the 1492 expulsion, and as a son of the famous Andalusian court physician Isaac Hamon, he became a physician at the imperial court (see Court Jews). It is unknown where he received his medical education, but various sources suggest that he studied medicine either in al-Andalus or Christian Europe. Sultan Bayazid II (r. 1481–1512) is said to have urged him to embrace Islam, but it appears that he preferred to remain Jewish. Some Italian sources accuse…

Hamon, Moses

(878 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Moses Hamon (d. 1554) was the most influential of the Ottoman Jewish court physicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Born around 1490 in Granada, he was the chief Jewish physician of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566) as well as a medical scholar, patron of Hebrew learning, and a leader of the Jewish community. His father,  Joseph Hamon, and other members of his family also served as court physicians. Historical sources imply that Moses became one of the team of court physicians right after the death of his father in 1518, but the earliest…

Ḥananel ben Ḥushiel

(1,192 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Ḥananel ben Ḥushiel was resh be rabbanan and dayyan in Qayrawān in the first half of the eleventh century. Other than the statement of Abraham Ibn Da’ud in his Sefer ha-Qabbala (sec. 7, beg.) that Ḥananel was born in Qayrawān sometime after his father was redeemed from captivity, having been captured at sea by the Umayyad commander Ibn Rumāḥiṣ, there is no definitive information about the place and date of his birth. On the other hand, insofar as Ḥananel and Ḥushiel’s son Elhanan are taken to be the same person (on which see below), it is clear that Ḥananel was already at least thirty years old …
Date: 2015-09-03

Ḥananel ben Samuel

(838 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Ḥananel ben Samuel, the most prominent member of the Ibn al-Amshāṭī family of Egypt during the Middle Ages, was a halakhic scholar, jurist ( dayyan), merchant, and, apparently for a short time, nagid of Egyptian Jewry who lived from the last quarter of the twelfth century (he is referred to as a “distinguished scholar” (Heb. ḥakham nehdar) in a letter written in 1211) to the mid-thirteenth century (see below). A native of Fustat , Ḥananel made his living there as a perfumer (like his father) and merchant. His role as a dayyan—and perhaps even av bet din (chief judge) under the nagid Abraha…
Date: 2015-09-03

Handali, Esther

(321 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Esther Kira Ḥandali (Esther Kyra), the wife of Elijah Ḥandali, was one of the best-known Jewish women to bear the title kira (Turk. dame, lady). These women exercised political influence through her contacts with women in the harems of four Ottoman sultans: Süleyman I the Magnificent (r. 1520– 1566), Selim II (r. 1566– 1574), Murat III (r. 1574–1595), and Mehmet III (r. 1595–1603). Esther was regularly admitted to the harem to sell jewelry, perfumes, and other items, and she also ran errands or performed services for the women outside the palace. Thanks…

Ḥanina Mizrahi

(209 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Ḥanina Mizraḥi was born in Tehran in 1886. His father was Rabbi Ḥayyim Eleazar Mizraḥi, the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Tehran. The family emigrated to Palestine in 1895, and there Ḥanina Mizraḥi attended the Lemel school in Jerusalem, the Mizraḥi seminary for teachers, and Yeshiva Tiferet Yerushalayim. A teacher, educator, and public figure,  Mizraḥi wrote the first  works about the folklore and customs of the Jews of Iran. His books are   Ba-Yeshishim Ḥokhma: Arba'im S ippure ʿA m mi-pi Yehude Iran-Paras (Wisdom Is Among the Elderly: Forty Folktales from the J…

Hanin, Roger

(495 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
Roger Hanin (born Roger Lévy), French actor, film director, playwright and novelist, was born in Algiers on October 20, 1925.  His father was a postal worker and his maternal grandfather a rabbi.  Hanin was a student in lycée when the Vichy regime’s anti-Semitic laws (see Anti-Judaism/Antisemitism/Anti-Zionism) were put into effect, and he poignantly describes in his autobiography the day he and the other Jewish students in his class were called by name and told to leave:  “I got up.  Within me there was a pain made of humiliation, of f…
Date: 2016-10-14

Hanoch ben Moses

(426 words)

Author(s): M.J. Cano
Hanoch ben Moses (d. 1014) was a rabbi and talmudist in early eleventh-century al-Andalus. He was the son of Moses ben Hanoch, who came to Iberia probably from southern Italy and was one of the scholars mentioned in the story of the Four Captives related by Abraham ibn Daʾud in his Book of Tradition. Benefiting from the patronage of the nasi of the Jewish community in Cordova and  court physician of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān III (r. 912–961), Ḥasday ibn Shapruṭ, Hanoch’s father became the city’s rabbi and dayyan. When his father died sometime around 965, Hanoch succeeded him as rabbi and dayyan despite …

Hanoun, Marcel

(881 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
The film director Marcel Hanoun was born in Tunisia on October 26, 1929, moved to France just after World War II, and died in Créteil, France, on September 22, 2012. In the 1950s in Paris, he was fascinated by photography, cinema, and theater, and studied aeronautical engineering. Working as a photographer and journalist, he was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Eurovision in Cannes in 1959 for his first feature-length movie, Une Simple Histoire. Jean-Luc Godard, who admired Hanoun’s revolutionary aesthetic choices, often sponsored his low-budget productions. After completing Le Huitième…

Ḥara Kebira

(533 words)

Author(s): Jacques Taïeb
Ḥara Kebira (Ar. ḥāra kabīra, the large quarter) is the larger of the two Jewish villages on the island of Jerba in Tunisia. Until the mid-twentieth century, about three-quarters of the island’s Jewish population lived there. The time of its founded is unknown; its buildings date back to the seventeenth century, but the town already existed in the sixteenth century, as can be inferred from an Italian map of 1587. At that time, there were two villages on the island, one of which, called Zadaica, was located in the same place as Ḥara Kebira. It is possible, if not probable, that …

Ḥāra of Tunis

(735 words)

Author(s): Margaux Fitoussi
From the thirteenth century, the Jews of Tunis lived in their own neighborhood, which like many other Jewish quarters in the Arabic-speaking lands was called the Ḥāra, the “neighborhood” in the northeast of the medina. In Arabic, ḥāra simply signifies neighborhood, but in Tunisia the word refers exclusively to the Jewish quarter. The neighborhood was enclosed but also porous and structurally indistinguishable from other areas in the medina. The streets of the Jewish quarter connected to a wider …
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