AFRICA

The propinquity of the land of Israel to the African continent profoundly influenced the history of the Jewish people. Two of the patriarchs went down to egypt ; the sojourn of the children of Israel in that land left an indelible impression on the history of their descendants; and the Exodus from Egypt and the theophany at Sinai, in the desert between Africa and Asia, marked the beginning of the specific history of the Hebrew people. Later, in the time of the judges and the monarchy, Palestine was periodically occupied by the Egyptian pharaohs, especially after Thutmose III, in their attempts to extend their influence northward. Important Egyptian archaeological remains have been found throughout Ereẓ Israel, testifying to indubitable Egyptian influences in the background, literature, and language of the Bible. After the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. some of the survivors took refuge in Egypt and the Jewish military colony at elephantine ; ample records which survive from the Persian period seem to have originated at about this time. This settlement at Elephantine marked the beginning of the extension of Jewish influences toward the interior of the continent, and in all probability it was not the only colony of its kind. Intensive Jewish settlement in Africa began after the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. For the next hundred years or more, Ereẓ Israel was intermittently under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies, alternating with the Syrian Seleucids; the country naturally gravitated toward Africa economically as well as politically. Moreover, in the course of their periodic campaigns north of the Sinai Peninsula the Ptolemies deported some elements of the local population to the central provinces of their empire, or brought there prisoners of war as slaves. According to ancient tradition, Alexander had specifically invited Jews to settle in his newly founded city of alexandria , and it is certain that early in its history they formed a considerable proportion of its population. Before long, Alexandria became a great center of Jewish   africa africa \<!   \> \!main concentrations of jewish population on the african continent at different periods. Main concentrations of Jewish population on the African continent at different periods.   culture expressed in the Greek language and largely in terms of Greek civilization culminating in the septuagint translation of the Bible and in the allegorical writings of philo . It is significant that inscriptions found near Alexandria provide the earliest positive evidence of the existence of the synagogue as an institution. From Egypt the Jewish settlement spread westward along the North African coast reaching cyrene at least as early as the second century B.C.E. According to some scholars, Palestinian Hebrews had reached further west long before this, as early as the days of the First Temple, accompanying and helping the phoenicians in their expeditions and playing an important role in the establishment of the Punic colonies, including carthage itself. It is further suggested that these settlers had a considerable influence in the interior of Africa and were ultimately responsible for the vaguely Jewish ideas and practices that may still be discerned in certain areas. In any case, in the Roman imperial period there were Jewish settlements throughout the Roman provinces as far west as the Strait of Gibraltar. In some areas the Jewish colonies were of great numerical importance and were able to play an independent political role. In Egypt the friction between the Alexandrian Jewish colony and its neighbors was so marked that it developed into a perpetual problem and seems almost to have anticipated the 19th-century antisemitic movement. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E, zealot or Sicarii fugitives from the Palestinian campaigns fled to Egypt, where they instigated a widespread revolt among the Jewish population. The rebels succeeded in dominating large stretches of the countryside, though they were unable to capture the fortified cities. A similar revolt on a smaller scale, about which less information has survived, seems to have occurred simultaneously in Cyrene. Although swiftly subdued by the Romans, these outbursts were soon followed by the Great Revolt of 115–7 all along the North African coast, at least as far as Cyrene, as well as in Cyprus and Mesopotamia. This revolt, organized apparently by some directing spirit of real genius, momentarily achieved sweeping success, with the insurgents dominating Cyrene and large tracts of the Egyptian countryside. It was, however, bloodily suppressed, and the Jewish settlements in   the area of revolt never fully recovered from this blow. When Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, Judaism was at a further disadvantage. Force as well as blandishment was exerted against the Jews; there were bloody anti-Jewish riots in Alexandria, and the significance of North African Jewry for a time waned almost to vanishing point. When in the sixth century the Byzantines reoccupied the former Roman provinces of North Africa, organized Jewish life was systematically suppressed. On the other hand, Jewish influence during the preceding period had not been restricted to the coastal strip, or to persons of Jewish birth. There is some evidence that suggests conscious proselytizing efforts by the Jews in the African interior, or at least extensive imitation of Jewish rites and beliefs there. Traditions of Jewish origin and traces of Jewish practice are to be found among Berber tribes and black peoples well into the continent and it may well be that the beta Israel of Ethiopia survive as testimony to a proselytizing activity that once attained considerable proportions. The curious tales told in the ninth century by the Jewish traveler eldad ha-Dani of independent Jewish tribes apparently in the African interior, may be a romanticization of what he had actually seen and experienced. The Arab invasions of the seventh century seem to have found only very small scattered Jewish communities along the African coast. The story of the "Jewish" Berber queen Dahiya al-Kahina seems to be largely legendary although it may be that at that time a woman ruled over a Judaizing Berber tribe. After the Arab conquest these communities were revived and probably reinforced by new immigrants, mainly from Asia, who accompanied the Arab conquerors, or who came to take advantage of the new economic opportunities. The new communities were completely Arabized in language and social life; hardly an echo or trace of the previous Greco-Roman Jewish culture can be discerned among them. The newly founded city of Fostat (Old cairo ) became the largest Jewish center in Egypt; further west kairouan in tunisia was of primary importance and, indeed, from the eighth to the 11th centuries was perhaps the greatest center of rabbinic culture outside Babylonia. The documents found in the Cairo Genizah make possible a reconstruction of the economic, social, and religious life of the Jews throughout this area in graphic detail. It is significant that in the ninth century saadiah gaon , who may be credited with the revitalization of Jewish scholarship in Mesopotamia, was born, and apparently educated, in the Fayyum district of Egypt. The work of the physician and philosopher isaac israeli , who lived in Kairouan, typified the contribution that the Jews of this area made to contemporary science.The condition of the Jews in Africa under Muslim rule was generally favorable, subject to the usual discriminatory provisions of the Islamic code, which were sporadically enforced; there was a surge of violent persecution in Egypt in the early 11th century, but it was an isolated episode. The triumph of the fanatical, unitarian almohad rulers in the 12th century proved disastrous to the Jews; the practice of Judaism was prohibited in morocco and the neighboring lands, and they were forcibly converted to Islam. The result was that for a long time Judaism could be observed only in clandestine circumstances. A considerable number of Jews, including the family of moses maimonides , migrated east, making Egypt a major center of Jewish cultural life. After the Almohad domination ended, Jewish life in northwest Africa recovered slowly, but on a restricted and culturally retrograde scale. The wave of massacres and expulsions in Spain and the Balearic Islands in 1391 resulted in a large migration across the Strait of Gibraltar; first there were refugees from these onslaughts and later, on a larger scale, those who had been baptized by force and now desired to revert to Judaism. Thus, especially in the coastal towns of what was later called algeria , alongside the old established, quasi-native "Berber" communities, fresh "Spanish" colonies with their own rites and traditions and of a far higher cultural standard arose. The number of Spanish (and later Portuguese) fugitives reaching Africa, primarily Morocco, again increased after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Their sufferings at the hands of marauders and rapacious local rulers were sometimes appalling. However, in the end they were able to adjust themselves, and henceforth a well-organized Spanish-speaking community, observing the religious regulations provided by "takkanot of Castile," dominated Jewish life as far east as Algiers. Further along the Mediterranean coast and in the interior (exceptin the largest towns), the Spanish element was less significant. The Jews generally continued to live under the universal Muslim code, in many places compulsorily confined to the Jewish quarter, their lives hemmed in by discriminatory regulations. They were often compelled to wear a distinctive garb, they had to show respect to Muslims in the street, and they were excluded from certain occupations. On the other hand they were at least allowed to reside at will, except in one or two "holy" cities such as Kairouan, and the periodic Christian incursions on the coastal towns frequently entailed disaster for them. In the ports especially, the Jews played an economic role of great importance, and, with their linguistic versatility, were the principal intermediaries for transactions with European merchants. Occasionally, Jews were dispatched as ambassadors or envoys to the European powers. Sometimes, a person of outstanding ability would become minister of finance or even vizier, wielding much influence until the disastrous fall which was generally in store for him, sometimes involving his coreligionists as a body. This description characterizes the history of the Jews almost throughout the Barbary States from the 16th century until well into the 19th. Conditions were somewhat but not conspicuously better in the areas farther east, particularly in Egypt, especially after the establishment of Turkish rule at the beginning of the 16th century. It was only with the introduction of European influences, beginning in Algeria in 1830 and culminating in Morocco and Tripolitania after 1912, that the North African Jews were relieved to a great extent of their medieval status. Nevertheless, except in Egypt and some coastal towns, the process of modernization within the communities was slow. On the other hand, in the upper classes the outward occidentalization   of the Jews in language and social life became very marked, while the French administration in Algeria formally recognized the Jews as a European element, the Crémieux decree in 1870 giving Algerian Jews French nationality. Meanwhile occidental Jews had established themselves in areas of European settlement at the southernmost tip of the African continent. Isolated settlers are recorded here in the early 19th century; a community largely of English origin was founded in cape town in 1841, spreading from there to other places. The Kimberley diamond field, which opened in the 1860s, was a considerable stimulus to new settlement. With the discovery of gold in Transvaal in the 1880s many Jews emigrated there from Eastern Europe, founding important communities in and around johannesburg . After World War i, immigration, especially from Lithuania, assumed relatively large proportions, and the south african Jewish community of some 100,000 was among the most affluent in the world. From South Africa the Jewish settlement spread northward into Rhodesia (zimbabwe ), as soon as that territory was opened up in the 1890s. During the period between World War I and World War II there was a Sephardi influx as well, mainly from Rhodes, which spread to the Belgian Congo. There were also small European Jewish colonies in the British East African territories, joined by immigrants from Egypt and even Yemen. The Vichy regime in France during World War II brought a temporary setback in Jewish status in the French-dominated areas of North Africa and the revocation of the Crémieux decree. The subsequent Nazi military occupation had distressing, although not enduring, consequences. The European withdrawal from Africa after World War II, coupled with economic changes in that continent, profoundly affected the Jewish communities, all the more so with the wave of anti-Jewish feeling that spread throughout the Arab world after the foundation of the State of Israel. A large portion of the Jewish community of Tunis and almost the whole Jewish community of Algeria left (mostly for France) when the French period of domination ended. The changed circumstances resulted in the migration also of the Jews of Egypt and Cyrenaica, in great part to Israel. Aliyah to Israel, immigration to France, and other countries also reduced the Jewish settlement in Morocco, numerically the largest in Africa, to one-fifth of its former number, approximately 50,000 in 1969; political conditions there did not deteriorate formally. The only part of the continent in which the Jewish communities did not initially diminish was South Africa, although gradually with the end of apartheid the community dropped significantly in numbers. By 2005 the community had fallen to about 75,000 with some 1,800 Jews a year emigrating to other countries largely because of the dramatic rise in violent crime. The most remarkable example of Black Judaizing movements is to be found in South Africa and Zimbabwe among the lemba tribe, and there are similar movements throughout the continent which range from movements which depend on perceived shared origins – sometimes invoking the myth of the ten lost tribes of Israel – to movements of conversion such as the bayudaya in Uganda. The establishment of the State of Israel brought a renewal of the movement to bring the beta Israel of Ethiopia into closer relations with world Jewry. The State of Israel also established cordial relations with the emergent African states, entering into diplomatic relations with them and sending economic, military, and agricultural experts to assist them in solving their problems (see israel , Historical Survey, Internal Aid and Cooperation). However, under pressure from the Arabs after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, 29 African countries broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, though in the course of the years, starting with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1982, most reestablished relations. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bibliographies will be found under the individual countries. The following general works will be found useful: A. Cahen, Les Juifs dans l'Afrique septentrionale (1867); D. Cazès, Essai sur l'histoire des Israélites de Tunisie (1888); J. Chalom, Les Israélites de la Tunisie (1908); S. Mendelssohn, Jews of Africa (1920); N. Slouschz, Judéo-Hélénes et Judéo-Berbéres (1909); idem, Travels in North Africa (1927); G. Saron and L. Hotz, Jews in South Africa (1955); L. Herrmann, History of the Jews in South Africa (1930); J.J. Williams, Hebrewisms of West Africa: From Nile to Niger with the Jews (1930); M. Eisenbeth, Les Juifs de l'Afrique du Nord (1936); idem, Les Juifs au Maroc (1948); C. Martin, Les Israèlites Algériens de 1830 à 1902 (1936); A.N. Chouraqui, Between East and West (1968); Institut far Yidishe Inyonim, Di Yidishe Yeshuvim in di Arabishe Lender (1957); H.Z. Hirschberg, Me-EreMevo ha-Shemesh (1957); Hirschberg, Afrikah, 2 vols. (1965); idem, in: Journal of African History, 4 (1963), 313–39; M. Simon, Recherches d'histoire Judéo-Chrétienne (1962), 30–100; Monteil, in: Hesperis, 38 (1951), 265–98; M. Krein in, Israel and Africa: A Study in Technical Co-operation (1964); S.W. Baron, et al., in: JSOS, 24 (1962), 67–107. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (2002); idem, Journey to the Vanished City – The Search for a Lost Tribe of Israel (1999). (Cecil Roth)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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