ALI (or Eli) BEN ZECHARIAH (13th century), gaon and head of the Pumbedita academy. Ali was born in the town of Erbil (now Iraq), and lived in Baghdad. From Arab sources it appears that while daniel b. samuel ha-Kohen ibn Abi-Rabīa was the gaon of the academy, Ali made a claim for the post. The dispute came before the vizier, who in 1250 decided in favor of Ali and appointed him gaon (chief judge, as the office is designated in Arab sources). The poet eleazar b. jacob ha-bavli composed a poem in Ali's honor. Although Baghdad was captured by the Mongols in 1258, during Ali's gaonate, the office continued to exist. Of Ali's sons, two are known: Zechariah, who was deputy head of the academy, and Isaac, referred to as "prince." -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mann, Texts, 1 (1931), 225–7, 299, 301–2; Fischel, Islam, 131–3; idem, in: MGWJ, 79 (1935), 315–8; A. Ben-Jacob, Yehudei Bavel (1965), 33–34; Eleazar b. Jacob ha-Bavli, Divan, ed. by H. Brody (1935), nos. 55, 182, 221; S. Poznański, Babylonische Geonim im nachgaonischen Zeitalter (1914), 49–52. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Gil, Be-Malkhut Ishmael, 1 (1997), 463–64, 511. (Abraham David)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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