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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in the Ottoman Empire 06: Occupation of Mid East

Ottoman rule for Tabriz, Baghdad, and Persia - persecution of the Jews in Baghdad and exodus - Yemen occupation not complete

from: Ottoman Empire; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)




[1534: Occupation of Tabriz under Ibrahim Pasha - occupation of Baghdad - Jews liberated from Persian rule - community life]

In 1534 Suleiman captured *Tabriz, the capital of Persia, through the efforts of the vizier Ibrahim Pasha. From there he sent the vizier to take Baghdad from the Persians. It fell on Dec. 31, 1534. The Jews of *Baghdad, who suffered under Persian rule, helped the Turks in (col. 1536)

this victory. Baghdad remained in Turkish hands for almost 90 years. In the 16th century it had a large Jewish population, including wealthy men and great scholars. There was another community in Ana, which had strong ties with the Aleppo community and contained "Ma'raviyyim" (Westerners) and "Mizrahiyyim" (Easterners) congregations. The economic situation of the two communities in Baghdad and in Ana was good. David Thabit was the hakham [[wise man]] in both communities. A tradition relates that at the beginning of the 16th century there was a large yeshivah [[religious Torah school]] in Mosul, headed by Asenat *Barazani, wife of the rabbi Jacob b. Judah Mizrahi. She was a daughter of Samuel Adani (Barazani). At the request of the local Jews, she sent her son Samuel to Baghdad, where he established a yeshivah.


[1638: Baghdad occupied again - with Jewish help - persecution of the Jews after Gabbai's death - Jewish exodus to neighbor countries]

*Murad IV (1623-40) captured Baghdad from the Persians. Among his 15,000 troops were 10,000 Jews - as a result of their great suffering in the period of Persian rule the Jews helped the Turks conquer the city. After its capture, Murad rewarded the Jews accordingly. They considered the capture of the city a miracle from heaven and named the 16th of Tevet, 1638, as the day of the miracle.

For a period of 280 years (until 1917), Baghdad remained in Turkish hands. The sultans appointed valis and the condition of the Jews depended upon their favors. Baghdad had wealthy Jews, among them the banker Ezekiel *Gabbai, who was from a philanthropic and charitable family that supported talmud torahs, yeshivot [[religious Torah school]], the printing of books, etc. The sultan Mahmud II (1808-39) appointed him chief banker and money changer (sarraf bashi) and a member of his government. The Jewish community in Constantinople appointed him as their nasi (chief).

After Gabbai's death, the pasha of Baghdad severely persecuted the Jews, and as a result of his actions, many left the city and fled to neighboring countries, including Syria and Egypt. He was followed by two more oppressive rulers.

The *Nasi in  Babylon. It was customary for the pasha to appoint a wealthy and respected Jew as his banker and also as  nasi of his community. This functionary acted as an intermediary between the community and the government, and his influence extended beyond Babylon to Persia and Yemen. As in Baghdad he had complete authority over the communities in the other towns of the country.


[Turkish occupation without real domination of the country - imams and sheikhs - Jews helping the Turks are in danger]

Yemen was conquered by the Turks in 1546. In the days of Suleiman I the Turks ruled over *San'a and part of Yemen: their sovereignty continued until 1628. There are only a few extant details on the situation of the Jews at the time of their rule, except for *Zechariah al-Dahiri's introduction to his Sefer ha-Musar.

The imam al-Mutahhar drove the Turks from San'a in 1569. After his victory he falsely accused the Jews of assisting the Turks in their conquest and expelled them to Mowza'. The Jews, who wished to redeem themselves from oppressive rule, hoped for the Turks and helped them in their conquests. Jews were imprisoned, among them al-Dahiri.

The Turks, who nominally ruled in Yemen, were unable to dominate the country. They held part of Hodeida but the road to San'a and the district were under the influence of the local sheikhs. In 1872 the Turks conquered Yemen again. During the period of their rule - up to World War I - the Jews generally experienced a certain degree of well-being in the district towns.> (col. 1537)

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