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Tozeur

(363 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Tozeur (Ar. Tūzar) is an oasis town in southwestern Tunisia near the Algerian frontier and the great salt flat, the Shaṭṭ al-Jarīd. It is a fertile oasis well known for its palm trees and agricultural produce. Since ancient times, Tozeur has been a way station for caravans on the road from the Tunisian coast to the Sahara desert.The beginning of the Jewish community in Tozeuris not known, but there were Jews living in the region in ancient times, as well as in the early Islamic period, and some of the local Muslim population (the Awlād al-Hādif) claimed Jewish origin. Reference is also made to Jews in Tozeur in the late fourteenth century. Jews probably migrated there in the nineteenth century, but evidence of the modern Jewish community dates from the begin…

Sports, Jews in (Tunisia)

(498 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Jewish sports activities in Tunisia began during the French Protectorate period (1881–1956). For many Jews, athletic activities and organized sports were an expression of modernity and of assimilating European influence. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Tunisian Jewish athletes were at the pinnacle of achievement. They competed successfully not just in Tunisia, but throughout North Africa and in Europe.      The participation of Tunisian Jews in sports was the result of several influences. Most important, perhaps, the French protectorate regime, though its D…

Brami, Joseph

(278 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Joseph Brami was born in the Jewish quarter (Ar. ḥārat al-yahūd) of Tunis in 1888. He was an outstanding student at Solomon Dana’s yeshiva Ḥevrat Limmud ha-Talmud (Association for the Teaching of the Talmud), but at the same time attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and learned French. Thus, he was exposed to French culture and at the same time led a traditional Jewish life. Brami became a teacher of Hebrew in Tunis, giving lessons to groups or at the Zionist club, and tutoring privately outside Tunis. He was, in addition, a correspondent for

Djedeïda, Ferme-École de

(376 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Established by theAlliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in 1895, the Ferme-École de Djédeïda, 21 kilometers (13 miles) northwest of Tunis, was an agricultural school for boys. The goal of the school was to teach farming to Jewish urban youth from the Mediterranean countries, a venture embodying the AIU ideology that a “return to the soil” was central to the “regeneration” of the Jewish people. The AIU’s first agricultural school, Mikve Israel near Jaffa, was established in 1870. It had other farm s…

Maarek, Henri

(263 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Henri Maarek was born in Tunis in 1893. His father, Messod(1861–1941), was one of the best and most talented modern Hebrew scholars of the …

Cohen-Hadria, Victor

(361 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Victor Cohen-Hadria was born in Tunis in 1891. His father, a native Tunisian who worked as a bank clerk and later as an olive oil merchant, died in 1901. His mother was a French citizen born in Algeria. Cohen-Hadria was educated at the Lycée Carnot in Tunis and then went to France to study law in Aix-en-Provence. After graduation he was employed as a clerk in an attorney’s office, and worked nights at a newspaper to help support his family.Cohen-Hadria became a famous lawyer and very early in his career was made a judge ( juge de paix). He also taught at the Centre d’études de droit de Tunis, mai…

Ghez, Paul

(321 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Paul Ghez was born in Sousse, Tunisia, in 1898. At the age of eighteen, he was wounded while serving as a volunteer in a French artillery unit during World War I. After studying law in France, he became a lawyer and joined the group around La Justice , a newspaper that supported the assimilation of Tunisian Jews into French culture. He was also a member of the Jewish council and head of the veteran’s organization Les Anciens Combattants. Ghez volunteered again for the French army during World War II. From 1942 to 1943, when Tunisia was occupied by the Nazis, he was the chairman of the Comité de Recrutement de la Main-d'Oeuvre Juive, which was …

Cohen-Hadria, Elie

(414 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Elie Cohen-Hadria was born in Tunis in 1898, but in 1921 was granted French citizenship because his mother, although born in Algeria, was a French citizen. He was educated in France and studied medicine in Lyons, specializing in the treatment of skin diseases. In 1924 he returned to Tunisia where, in addition to practicing medicine, he joined the Freemasons and became politically active. Elected secretary-general of the Tunisian Fédération Socialiste (SFIO), he served the party from the 1920s until Tunisian independence in 1956. He was also a columnist for the journal Tunis Socialiste.…

Béja

(406 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Béja (Ar. Bāja) is a town in the north of Tunisia about 97 kilometers (60 miles) west of Tunis in the fertile Medjerda Valley.  In ancient times, it was the site of a Roman colony called Vaga, and was the central wheat-growing region and breadbasket of Tunisia; hence its appellation throughout the medieval period was Bājat al-Qamḥ (Ar. Béja of Grain).  In the modern period, the …

Gafsa

(913 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Gafsa(Ar. Qafsa) is a small town on the site of Roman Capsa in southwestern Tunisia. It is situated to the north of the seasonal salt lake Chott el-Djerid on the eastern edge of the Sahara Desert, 360 kilometers (224 miles) southwest of Tunis. Gafsa derived its importance from its strategic location as a stopping place for merchants and caravans …

Saadoun, Yaakov

(238 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Yaakov Saadoun, the son of a shoemaker, was born in 1928 in the Tunisian city of Sfax, where his family lived in Picvill, a new quarter built by the French. Saadoun attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school until World War II, then went on to a French commercial school and became a clerk in a shipping company. Deeply affected by the German occupation of Sfax (November 1942 to April 1943), he joined  …

Brami, Felix

(186 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Born in Tunis on September 9, 1940, Felix Said Brami became a renowned boxer. Between 1956 and 1961, with Joe Guez as his coach, he won all thirty of his amateur matches and the bantamweight championship (1959) of Tunisia. He left Tunisia for France in 1961 and began his professional career there, training with coach Gaston Charles Raymond and wearing a Magen David with…

Borgel Family

(502 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
The Borgel (Bordjel, Bourgel) family of Tunisia (so named from Col. Ar. bū rjel, man on foot) was famous for its many rabbis and communal leaders. The first member of the family was Nathan, who became grand rabbi and president of the rabbinical tribunal ( bet din) in 1774. A famous kabbalist, he  was the author of Ḥoq Natan (Heb. The Law He Gave; or punning, The Law of Nathan), a commentary on the Talmud (Livorno, 1776–78). He left Tunisia for Palestine in 1778 and died in Jerusalem in 1791.Nathan’s son, Elijah Ḥay I, was the author of a two-part work, Migdanot Natan (Precious Gifts He Gave; Liv…

Sebag, Paul

(357 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Paul Sebag was a Communist activist, sociologist, and historian of Tunisia. Born into a bourgeois family in Tunis in 1919, he was educated in Paris. On his return to Tunis, he joined the Communist Party in 1936 and was one of its leaders from 1939 to 1943. He was arrested at the beginning of 1941 and sentenced to life at hard labor but was released in late 1942. After the liberation of Tunisia from German occupation in May 1943, he became a member of the editorial board of the underground communist newspaper L’Avenir Social.Sebag was professor of philosophy at the prestigious Lycée Carn…

Gabes

(1,359 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Gabes (Ar. Qābis)is the last major port city in southern Tunisia before the Libyan frontier. It is situated on the Gulf of Gabes (the Little Syrte) 404 kilometers (251 miles) south of Tunis and 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Gafsa. The present city of Gabes is actually a conglomeration of four smaller towns: two ancient oases, Menzel and Djara; New Djara, dating from the era of the Arab conquest; and the port itself, El-Bihar. The development of the port area was a pet project of the French protectorate (1881–1956).Like Qayrawān, Gabes was an important Jewish center during the Middle Ages. The town was a way-station on the caravan route, and letters from Jewish merchants in the Cairo Geniza mention stopping there. The Jewish community prospered from the eighth to the twelfth century.Hay Gaon(d. 1038), the head of the Pumbedita yeshiva, was in direct correspondence with the rabbis of Gabes. One of his letters to them, dated 1015, declares that letters of instruction from merchants to their correspondents were to be accepted as evidence in court wit…

Sfax

(1,226 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Sfax (Ar. Safāqus) is an important port city on the Gulf of Gabès on the east-central coast of Tunisia. It is situated in the wide Tunisian central plain and is subject to influences both from the modern north and the more traditional south. Sfax was built in 849 on the ruins of the Roman cities of Taparura and Thaenae. Its economic basis lies in olive trees and olive oil, maritime industries (fish, sea sponges, shipbuilding, fishing nets), textiles, and phosphate and sulfur mining in nearby Gafsa.The origins of the Jewish community of Sfax are unknown. Cairo Geniza documents attest to a Jewish presence in the town, which was on the caravan route from Morocco to Egypt. Sfaxi Jews were engaged in commercial activities throughout the Mediterranean. A wealthy Sfaxi Jewish merchant, Salāma ibn Mūsā ibn Isaac, bought a house in Mazara, Sicily, around 1064 and was apparently not welcomed by the local Jewish community, which regarded him as undesirable competition (Dropsie 389v, ll. 36–44). Sfaxi Jewish merchants invested in and exported olive oil and imported textiles. While evidence suggests that Sfax was a destination for Jewish refugees from Spain in the fourteenth and…

Bizerte (Banzart, Bizerta)

(480 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Located on the site of the ancient town of Hippo Diarrhytus, Bizerte (Ar. Banzart) is the northernmost port town in Tunisia, situated at a strategic point on the Mediterranean coast and dominating the narrow passage between Europe and Africa. The two lakes near the town are connected to the harbor through a channel from Lake Bizerte. In periods prior to the French protectorate, established in 1881, the town served as an outpost for privateers plying the strategic Strait of Sicily. In 1895, the French restored and rebuilt the harbor, and Bizerte became one of their most impor…

Haddad de Paz, Charles

(276 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Charles Haddad de Paz was the last president of the Tunisian Jewish community. Born in 1910, he studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Tunis and became a teacher there in 1928. He was also a lawyer and a member of the Chamber of Advocates. He was very active in Jewish communal institutions from the late 1930s, wa…

Medenine

(331 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 …
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