AHWAZ, capital of the Persian province of Khuzistan. Ahwaz was called Be-Ḥozai in the Talmud (Ta'an. 23; Pes. 50; Gitt. 89; Ḥull 95). Several amoraim originated from the city, including R. Aḥa, R. Ḥanina, and R. Avram Ḥoza'ah. As a junction between Babylonia and Persia, Ahwaz was an important medieval center for the eastern trade, with a flourishing Jewish population. Two Jews in the service of Caliph al-Muqtadir, Joseph b. Phinehas and Aaron b. Amram, were tax farmers for the province, owning real estate and a bazaar there which yielded a considerable income. They rose to the position of court bankers. The revenue from Ahwaz province is mentioned as security for a large loan they advanced to the government. Ahwaz remained a center of Jewish commercial activities throughout the Middle Ages, as attested by correspondence between Jewish merchants in Ahwaz with associates in *Fez and *Cairo. One of the earliest indications that Jewish merchants in Khuzistan used the Persian language is a Judeo-Persian law report, dated around 1021, found near Ahwaz.
As in *Abadan, Ahwaz became one of the first centers of Zionist activitiy in Iran beginning with the occupation of the southern region by the British Army (Sept. 1941). During this period there were 300 Jews in Ahwaz, constituting 70 families, many of them immigrants from Iraq and from other cities like *Isfahan, *Shiraz, *Kashan, Arak, and *Kermanshah. The majority were merchants, mainly in the textile trade. There were five wealthy families in Ahwaz; the rest belonged to the middle class. There were two synagogues, one belonging to Jews of Iraqi origin and the other to Persian-speaking Jews. After 1948, many Jews immigrated to Israel and to *Teheran. The majority of the Jews of Ahwaz left the city after the Islamic Revolution (1979). At the beginning of the 21st century, there were fewer than five families living there.
Fischel, Islam, index; S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, 1 (1967), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Alam-e Yahud, 16 (Nov. 20, 1945), 285; ibid., 22 (Jan. 15, 1946), 379; B.-Z. Eshel, Yishuvei ha-Yehudim be-Babel be-Tekufat ha-Talmud (1979), 58–59; A. Netzer, "Yahudiyānei Iran dar avāset-e qarn-e bistom," in: Shofar, 244 (June 2001), 23.
[Walter Joseph Fischel /
Amnon Netzer (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.