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Palermo and Sicily

(2,301 words)

Author(s): Nadia Zeldes
Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, was conquered from the Byzantines by the Aghlabid dynasty of Ifrīqiya (medieval Tunisia) during the ninth and tenth centuries, and it remained under Muslim rule until the end of the eleventh century. The dynasties that ruled Ifrīqiya also ruled Sicily, at least nominally. As a political unit in this period, Sicily included Malta, Gozo, and Pantelleria, as well as the nearby smaller islands. Jewish settlement in Sicily and Palermo preceded the Muslim conquest. The earliest testimony about Sicilian Jews under Muslim r…

Southern Italy and Bari

(889 words)

Author(s): Nadia Zeldes
The earliest evidence for  Jewish settlement in southern Italy dates from the fourth century C.E. Despite occasional episodes of persecution, the communities of Bari, Oria, Taranto, and Otranto flourished under Byzantine rule, which extended from the sixth to the tenth century. Their high level of learning is reflected in the saying of Rabbenu Tam(12th century): “From Bari shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Otranto.” Most of the information on Jews in the pre-Islamic period is gleaned from tomb inscriptions and Byzantine legislation. After the Muslims gained a pe…