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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Matalon, Ronit

(479 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Ronit Matalon (b. 1959), the sabra daughter of Egyptian parents, is Israel’s most prominent younger mizraḥi fiction writer and essayist. Her extraordinarily successful first novel Zeh ʿim ha-Panim Elenu (1995; in English, The One Facing Us, 1998), set both in North Africa and Israel, delicately probed her reflections on her family’s complex of identities. More broadly, by incorporating whole chapters from Jacqueline Kahanoff’s essays aggrandizing “Levantinism” in its most positive multi-ethnic sense, Matalon affirmed but also critiqued mizraḥi perspectives of generations…

Matan Baseter Barinyurt (Social Aid Society)

(337 words)

Author(s): Naim Güleryüz
Matan Baseter Barinyurt, a social aid society of the Turkish Jewish community, sponsors the Barinyurt shelterin Istanbul. The Matan Baseter society was founded in Edirne in the early twentieth century. Migrants from Edirne reestablished it in Istanbul in 1928 under the auspices of the Galata-Pera Congregation. In this early manifestation, the society provided charity in secret to those in need, the confidentiality of its philanthropy intended to obviate any discomfiture to recipients. In 1949 Daniel Behar reorganized Matan Baseter to coordinate its activities with Bikur Holim, …

Matmata

(428 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Matmata (Ar.-Berb. Māṭmāṭa), is the name of a Berber tribe and a mountainous region in southeastern Tunisia. It is also the name of a mountain town in the region that is distinguished by its underground (troglodyte) dwelling caves. The architecture of each house is the same: a large sunken courtyard in the center, surrounded by rooms opening into it (a Matmatan hotel of this type in nearby Tataouine was made famous as Luke Skywalker’s home in the motion picture Star Wars). The village of Matmata is situated in the hills at the eastern edge of the Sahara desert. After they o…

Mawwāl (Muwwāl, Mawāliya)

(560 words)

Author(s): Amnon Shiloah
According to the famous Iraqi poet and musician Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Ḥillī (1278–1349), the Arabic verse form known variously as mawwāl (Middle East), muwwāl (North Africa), and mawāliya is a connecting isthmus between classical and colloquial forms—it is in classical meter and lends itself to compositions in both inflected and uninflected language. Al-Ḥilli cites a legend about the term’s origin: short songs invented in Iraq during the Abbasid period were picked up by mawālī (non-Arab clients) who sung them to their masters with the refrain: O mawālīya (holders of power). Pierre Cachia i…

Mawzaʿ, Expulsion of

(1,071 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
Mawzaʿ is a small town located in the western arid strip of Yemen along the coast of the Red Sea (Tihāma) about 97 kilometers (63 miles) southwest of Taʿizz. It is connected with the tragic incident in the history of the Jews of Yemen known as the Expulsion of Mawzaʿ ( Galut Mawza‘), which took place in 1679, when Jews from villages and towns in many parts of the country were sent there in anticipation of being expelled from Yemen. The background of the incident actually goes back to 1538. On the advice of the doctors of the main religious schools in Yemen, the Shīʿī Zaydīs and the Sunnī Shāfiʿīs, Imām S…

Maymran (Mimran, Maimoran) Family

(373 words)

Author(s): Nicole Serfaty
The Maimran family originated in Spain, but settled in Meknes after the expulsion in 1492. Joseph Maimran and his son Abraham both served as adviser to the Alawid sultan Moulay Ismāʿīl (r. 1672–1727) and shaykh-al-yahūd (government-recognized head of the Jewish community; see nagid). The few sources that mention Joseph Maimran confirm that he had influence with the sultan, as can be seen from Germain Mouette’s Histoire des conquestes de Moulay Archy (Paris, 1683), or from a letter sent by Baron de Saint-Amans to  Louis XIV on June 26, 1682. On behalf of the sultan, Joseph rees…

Mazandaran

(755 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Mazandaran (Pers. Māzandarān) is an Iranian province, formerly known as Ṭabaristān, located east of Gīlān on the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea, with Sari as its capital. Not much is known of the Jews in the area in the pre-Islamic period. The earliest reference to Jews comes from Iskandar Beg Munshī’s ʽĀlamārā-yi Ἁbbāsi, which mentions that Shāh ʿAbbās I (r. 1587–1629) relocated a large number of non-Muslim captives from Georgia to Mazandaran and Faraḥabad in 1616 or 1617. In his Kitāb-i Anūsī , Bābāī ben Luṭf mentions Faraḥabad as a city built by the transferred Jews, but Moreen bel…

Meʿam Loʿez

(623 words)

Author(s): Matthias Lehmann
Meʿam Loʿez (Heb. From a people of strange speech; see Psalm 114:1) is a multivolume comprehensive commentary on the Pentateuch and other books of the Bible in Judeo-Spanish. The concept originated with Jacob Culi, who was only able to complete the first volume, on Genesis, published in Istanbul in 1730, and part of Exodus before his death in 1732. It was continued by a dozen other authors in the following century and a half. Culi’s unfinished commentary on Exodus was completed by Isaac Magriso (1746), who also did the volumes on Leviticus (1753), and Numbers (1764). The Meʿam Loʿez, conside…

Médéa

(510 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian city of Médéa (Ar. al-Madiya; Coll. Ar. Lamdiya), known in antiquity as Lambdia, is located 88 kilometers (55 miles) south of Algiers, at an altitude of 920 meters (3,018 feet) on the Tell Atlas, on a plateau dominating the north between the Blida Atlas and the Titteri Mountains. Jews may have lived in the area in ancient times, but the state of Médéa’s Jewish community, if any, during and after the Islamic conquest is unknown. The community was revived in the fifteenth century by Jewish settlers from Spain. When the French invaded Algeria in 1830, there were several hun…

Medenine

(336 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Built on the site of the ancient Phoenician city of Gightis, Medenine (Ar. Madanīn) is a city in southeastern Tunisia about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the sea. During the late Ottoman period, Medenine was an important market town for the Ouerghemma, a confederation of the three main Berber tribes in the region. Traders came from Algeria and Libya to deal in goods like dates, olives, and grain. The town is well known for its numerous ghurfas (granaries) so typical of Berbers in southern Tunisia. Jews owned some of the ghurfas and used them as warehouses. The Jewish community of Medenine …

Medina, Cefi (Jeffi)

(211 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Cefi (Jeffi) Medina was born on July 22, 1950 in Istanbul. He studied economics at Strasbourg University(France), and then attended and graduated from Istanbul University. In 1974 he began work as a television producer at Manavizyon, a sister company of the Manajans Thompson Advertising Company. In 1978 he was appointed president of Manavizyon, and in 1987, president of Manajans Thompson. In 1993 he left both companies and, together with Yavuz Turgul, established the Medina Turgul Advertising Agency. In 1995 it entered into a joint venture agreement with the DDB Worldwide Communica…

Medina, Samuel ben Moses de

(563 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Samuel de Medina (1505/6–1589), a major halakhic authority known by the acronym Maharashdam, was born and lived in Salonica. There are indications that his family came from Portugal, but the name connects it, perhaps at some earlier time, with Medina del Campo in Castile. De Medina had no recollection of his father, who died in his early childhood, and he was raised, and later supported, by his older brother. De Medina had as his masters two great scholars. One was Levi ibn Ḥabib, who departed for Jerusalem in 1522/23, when De Medina was only seventeen. The other was  Joseph Taitatzak (Taita…

Megillat Aḥimaʿaṣ

(603 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Megillat Aḥimaʿaṣ  (The Scroll of Ahimaaz) was written by Ahimaaz ben Paltiel, a Jew who lived in the southern Italian city of Capua in the eleventh century. By his own account, it was written over a period of four months in the year 1054. The work recounts the history of his family down to his own time, starting with the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of Palestinian Jews to Italy in the first century C.E. Ahimaaz almost certainly had other goals as an author beyond the historical. He obviously enjoyed writing and found it a source of amusement. His chronicle is written in…

Megillat Evyatar (Scroll of Abiathar)

(717 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Megillat Evyatar (Scroll of Abiathar) was written by Abiathar Gaon ben Elijah ha-Kohen in 1094. It mirrors the turmoil and internal conflict in the Jewish communities of the eastern portion of the Mediterranean basin at the end of the eleventh century. In particular, it contains direct reverberations of the disasters that befell the Jewish community in Palestine, and especially in Jerusalem, in the wake of a series of political and military vicissitudes that included the Seljuk invasion and the events leading up to the First Crusade. Abiathar was apparently born in the fourth dec…

Megillat Zuṭṭa

(437 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
In the period after the death of  the nagid (Ar. rāʾis al-yahūd) Samuel ben Hananiah, an individual called Zuṭṭa (Aram. Little Man), whose real name was Yaḥya, although he also referred to himself as Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace), exploited the chaotic situation attendant on the conquest of Fatimid Egypt by Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn the Ayyubid (Saladin) to claim the leadership of Egyptian Jewry. The only source for this complicated series of events is a work entitled Megillat Zuṭṭa (Heb. The Scroll of Zuṭṭa). Since its author, Abraham ben Hillel, was one of Zuṭṭa’s opponents, there i…

Megorashim

(7 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Toshavim Norman A. Stillman

Mehdī, Āghā Jān Mullāh

(220 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Āghā Jān Mullāh Mehdī [Mashiaḥ], the head of the Jewish community of Mashhad, Iran, in the 1830s, was nicknamed Vāqʿ nigār (Pers. one who keeps an eye on/records/takes advantage of contemporary events) because of his ability to use his connections with the British. A well-established merchant in Khurasan who accumulated great wealth, Mehdī regularly provided the British with information about events in Iran, Afghanistan, and Bukhārā. During the British-Afghan war (1831–1839), he often accompanied the supply caravans of the British army. In 1839, when the Jews of Mashhad were for…

Meimon, Robert

(359 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Tunisian Communist and labor activist Robert Meimon was born in Tunis on November 11, 1916. A bank employee from the 1930s until his retirement, he was active in the union of bank employees and a member of the Tunisian Communist Party, and was elected to its Central Committee at the Congress of Ariana (May 20–21, 1939). After the dissolution of the Communist Party, he became a member of its underground leadership. He was arrested as a suspected Communist on November 28, 1941, and sent to an internment camp in Kef (northwestern Tunisia). Denounc…

Meknes

(2,215 words)

Author(s): Roy Mittelman
The city of Meknes (Ar. Miknās) is situated in north-central Morocco 145 kilometers (90 miles) east of Rabat. Lying on the caravan route that joined Algeria and lands farther east with the plains of northern Morocco, Meknes has at times been described as a border town between Arabs and Berbers. Archaeological evidence, including a Hebrew epitaph dating from the third century and the remains of a synagogue at nearby Volubilis, suggest that Jews have been present in the Meknes area since late Antiquity, while traditions situate their arrival in the years following …

Melamed, Ezra Zion

(617 words)

Author(s): David Yeroushalmi
Ezra Zion Melamed (1903–1994) was a talmudic scholar, philologist, educator, and rabbi. Born in the Jewish community of Shiraz, he was taken to Ottoman Palestine by his father, Rabbi Raḥamim Melammed ha-Kohen, at the age of two. He grew up in one of the first new neighborhoods built outside and west of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where many of the neighbors were hard-pressed, struggling Jews from Iran. Melamed received his early education from his learned father, and later attended a religious elementary school, completing his high school studies in a r…
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