EGYPT, country in N.E. Africa, centering along the banks of the River Nile from the Mediterranean coast southward beyond the first cataract at Aswan. The ancient Egyptians named their land "Kemi," the "Black Land," while the neighboring Asiatic peoples used the Semitic word "Miṣr" which is still the country's name in both Hebrew (Heb. מִצְרַיִם; Miẓrayim) and Arabic. Geographically Egypt consists of two areas, Lower Egypt, the northern part of the land, which contains the Delta, and Upper Egypt, the south, which comprises the narrow strip of cultivable land on both sides of the river as far south as Aswan.
Ancient Egyptian history can be divided into seven periods that correspond to the major dynastic ages of Pharaonic history:
PREDYNASTIC – EARLY DYNASTIC PERIOD
The Predynastic history of Egypt refers to the period before the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is the unification of the two kingdoms that heralds the national consciousness of Egypt; therefore, her history as a nation cannot start before the Early Dynastic Period. Egyptian tradition traced its historical beginnings to the time when King Menes of Upper Egypt (as recorded by Manetho, and transmitted with slight variations by Herodotus, Josephus, and Diodorus Siculus) conquered Lower Egypt and unified the two lands. By this action, he became the ruler of both Upper and Lower Egypt, thereby establishing the First Dynasty. Menes' unification came to symbolize the nation and its conception of itself. The earliest representation of the unification of Egypt is the Narmer Palette (+/–3150 B.C.E., now in the Cairo Museum). The legendary Pharaoh Narmer has been identified with Menes, and the Narmer Palette apparently represents the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt conquering Lower Egypt and subduing the enemy. The obverse of the palette shows the ruler wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, while the reverse has him wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. Throughout dynastic history the unification represented the potency of the land, a potency recalled in a variety of ways, from the titles of the kings, through the representations in the artistic canon.
The most important legacy of the Early Dynastic Period is the foundation of what we view as the civilization of ancient Egypt. The national economy, political ideology, and religious philosophy all developed in this period, and the administrative seat of Egyptian government moved north to Memphis. Much of the contact between Egypt and the Levant during the Early Dynastic Period was in the area of trade. Grain, timber for construction, precious and semi-precious materials, including lapis lazuli copper and turquoise, were imported to Egypt from Southwest Asia.
THE OLD KINGDOM
The Old Kingdom is also known as the Pyramid Age. During this period Egypt's power revolved around her resources, human and natural, and the Pharaoh's ability to utilize them. One of the results of the successful harnessing of resources was monumental architecture; the first complexes built from fully dressed stones are from this period. These large structures seem to represent the physical manifestation of the Pharaoh's godhead and authority. The strong centralized government of the god-king that had developed earlier underwent decentralization during the 5th dynasty and resulted in a new class of officials: The vizier no longer had to be a prince, and the nomarchs began to reside in the nome that they administered rather than in the royal residence or capital.
Foreign relations during the Old Kingdom were generally peaceful, and foreign expeditions were related either to defense or, more frequently, to trade. A 6th dynasty official named Weni inscribed his autobiography on a wall in his tomb-chapel. He reports that at the behest of the Pharaoh he led five expeditions into the Southern Levant to defend against the "Sand-dwellers" (Lichtheim 18ff.). At least two stone vessels bearing Old Kingdom royal names have been discovered at Tel Mardikhi, *Ebla, in central Syria. There is no certainty as to how the vessels got to Ebla (one, bearing Pepy I's name, is thought to have come through Byblos, and the other with Kephren's name may have come directly from Egypt), but their existence attests to far reaching diplomatic connections between Egypt and the Levant.
THE FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD
In Egyptian chronology, the term "Intermediate" refers to the periods when there was no strong centralized government unifying the Two Lands. During the first Intermediate Period there was dynastic rule both in the North (at Herakleopolis), and in the South (at Thebes). The attempts to reunify the land fostered sporadic internal conflicts and civil wars.
THE MIDDLE KINGDOM
The detailed origins of the Middle Kingdom are unknown, but in a political sense the Middle Kingdom may be said to begin when the ruler of Upper Egypt becomes the sole Pharaoh and the two lands are again united. During the 11th Dynasty the seat of rule remained at Thebes in the South, but the first Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty moved the capital North to a new capital called Itjtawy, "Grasper of the Two Lands"; the capital remained there for more than 300 years. The 12th Dynasty is the "Classical Period" in the art and the literature of Ancient Egypt.
The literature and the art of this period were used to promote the royal and elite values and interests. Many of the literary texts of this period have a propagandistic flavor and were circulated to the literati though the temples and schools. The monumental royal inscriptions on temples and other buildings were also used to address the public, to inspire loyalty, and to tell the people of the grandeur of their rulers.
For the most part Egypt's foreign relations remain peaceful during this period as witnessed by the famous tomb painting in the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hasan. Part of this painting depicts 37 Asiatics (men, women, and children) bringing eye-paint to Khnumhotep. But there is evidence of international strife during the Middle Kingdom in the Execration Texts. The Execration Texts were a class of formulas that functioned as destructive magic; they were designed to counteract negative influences, and they are attested from the Old Kingdom through the New Kingdom. The performance of execration rituals centered on objects inscribed to identify the target of the magical act; they were then destroyed or symbolically neutralized. These texts include figures made of unbaked clay and crudely formed into the shape of a bound prisoner. There are three lots of execration texts that deal with Western Asia containing standard formulae with the names of Asiatic chieftains and their related toponyms (place names), after which follows a comprehensive statement of curse along
THE SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD AND THE PERIOD OF THE HYKSOS
The Second Intermediate Period began toward the end of the 13th Dynasty when the centralized government began once again to falter, leading to the rise of local rulers in the eastern Nile Delta. The period reached its culmination when the *Hyksos invaded from Western Asia and usurped the throne. Originally these Near Easterners were referred to as "Shepherd kings" or "captive shepherds" by the scholarly community. These titles are based on an incorrect folk-etymology attested to as early as Josephus. The term Hyksos is the Greek rendering of the Egyptian appellation for these foreigners. But the Egyptian that underlies the Greek is best translated as "rulers of the foreign countries." In Egypt it became the official designation of the first three kings of the 15th Dynasty. The capital of the Hyksos was at Avaris, modern Tel ed-Dabʿa in the Delta, on the eastern most of the Delta branches. The population there seems to have been composed of Asiatics, especially those who spoke Amorite, a West Semitic dialect.
Much of the Hyksos's power resulted from good trade relations with Cyprus, Nubia, and the Levant, and it was during this period that the horse, and wool-bearing sheep were introduced into Egypt. The archaeological record indicates that the Hyksos were not the first Near Easterners to live in the Nile Delta, but it was under the Hyksos that Egypt became more involved with the eastern Mediterranean (Bietak).
The reign of the Hyksos ended when the Theban ruler Ahmose finally expelled them and reunited the Two Lands. After this expulsion the capital shifted south again to Thebes.
THE NEW KINGDOM
The New Kingdom is the period of Egyptian expansion and imperialism. In the earlier periods Egypt's contact with, and control over, foreign areas was limited to her desire for trade and resources; during the New Kingdom Egypt's foreign policy became more aggressive. The Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni became a threat to Egypt, and the New Kingdom rulers responded to Mitanni's rising power in the area. The 18th Dynasty ruler Thutmose I led a campaign into northern Syria. Later, Thutmose III led 14 campaigns into Western Asia (one of which included a seven-month siege at Megiddo), and eventually subdued the Levantine coast, increasing Egyptian hegemony into the interior of Syro-Palestine. Under Thutmose III the rulers of the conquered Asiatic city-states became vassals to Egypt who had to send tribute and swear an oath of loyalty to the Pharaoh. True peace was not realized until the reign of Thutmose IV, who married one of the Mitannian princesses (Murnane 2001).
The Egyptian Empire reached its height during the reign of another 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, Amenhotep III. By this time the empire was firmly established, so that Egypt was able to keep her troops in just a few areas and to send garrisons only to regions that threatened revolt. But this relative ease of imperialism was short lived, and the Empire began to falter under the reign of Amenhotep IV whose internal policies caused him to be labeled the "heretic king." Amenhotep IV devoted much of his energy to religious reform. Traditionally, the established cults of Egypt's gods were under the care of the Pharaoh. Amenhotep IV neglected the traditional gods of Egypt and showed strict devotion to a new conception of the sun god the "Aten" (solar orb); he eventually withdrew his patronage from the capital at Thebes (which was the "city of Amun"), he changed his name to reflect his religious preferences to Akhenaten (*Akhenaton; "effective on behalf of the orb"), and established a new capital city named Akhetaten ("horizon of the orb"). Akhenaten weakened the power of the royal family to such an extent that that even when the traditional cult was re-established in the land, the last kings of the 18th Dynasty (including Tutankhamun) had no real power. The entire balance of power in the Near East changed during this period when the Mitannians lost control of most of their vassals to the Hittites and Egypt lost control of her vassal Kadesh to these same Hittites. The resulting hostilities between Egypt and Hatti only increased when a Hittite prince died on his way to Egypt with the intent to marry Tutankhamun's widow. Egypt's borders continued to recede south for the next three generations.
The Ramesside kings of the 19th and 20th Dynasties attempted to regain Egypt's past glory. These attempts met with varying levels of success. Ramesses II successfully defended Egypt against the invasions of the Sea Peoples, but his "victory" against the Hittites at Kadesh is not the unqualified "victory" portrayed on his temple walls. In addition, the balance of power achieved by Egypt in the south, and the Hittites in the north changed as Assyria emerged as a major force in Western Asia. Ramesses III was the strongest ruler of the 20th Dynasty, and he too defended Egypt against the Sea Peoples, and defeated two Libyan invasions. But the end of his reign is marked by a series of strikes by craftsmen who were working on the royal tombs at Thebes. These strikes were the beginning of the economic difficulties that helped bring about the end of the 20th Dynasty and Egypt's Empire period.
The New Kingdom saw Egypt rise to become an international superpower ruling territories from Nubia to Asia. But by the end of this period Egypt was a nation overwhelmed by internal troubles, which had lost control of all of her foreign territories; never again would Egypt regain her splendor.
For the biblical depiction of events in this period, see *History; *Exodus; *Pentateuch.
[Sharon Keller (2nd ed.)]
After the shortlived 21st Dynasty, the 22nd Dynasty, of Libyan origin, came to power in Egypt. Sheshonk I (the biblical *Shishak) gave refuge to the Israelite pretender *Jeroboam and, after the latter had returned to Israel, invaded first Judah, thoroughly ravaging and looting the country, and then Israel, treating it in like manner. Returning with vast plunder, and leaving a weakened Palestine behind him, Sheshonk retired to Egypt. Henceforth the Libyan rulers of Egypt, having shown their power, left West Asia alone.
By the end of the eighth century B.C.E. the Egyptianized Nubian rulers of *Cush had displaced the Libyans in control of Egypt, while the Assyrians under *Tiglath-Pileser III made their presence felt in Syria and Palestine. During the last revolt of Israel against Assyria (724–721 B.C.E.) Hosea wrote to So, the king of Egypt, for support against the Assyrians. This otherwise unknown king has been plausibly identified recently as Tefnakht, the ruler of Sais (So), a vassal of the Nubians. However, Egyptian support was to no avail; Tefnakht was repulsed and Samaria fell. Nevertheless Egypt still appeared to be powerful, and in the following decades *Hezekiah, king of Judah, again relied on Egypt. Although the biblical account names *Tirhakah (Taharka), king of Cush (Nubia; II Kings 19:35) as Jerusalem's ally, there are chronological problems involved, since the decisive battle of this campaign, that of Elteke, took place in 701, and Taharka's rule began only in 689.
*Sennacherib's successors subjugated Egypt, expelled the Cushites, and installed puppets who managed to regain Egyptian independence under the twenty-sixth Dynasty. The founder of this dynasty, Psammetichus I (c. 664–610 B.C.E.) strengthened Egypt by the widespread employment of foreigners – Greek and Jewish mercenary troops and Phoenician sailors and merchants. During his reign or that of Psammetichus II (c. 595–89 B.C.E.) the famous colony of Jewish mercenary soldiers was established at *Elephantine to protect the southern frontier of Egypt. After the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 B.C.E. to the Neo-Babylonians and Medes, the king of Egypt, Neco II, "went up against the Babylonians," but found his way barred by *Josiah, king of Judah, whom he defeated and killed at Megiddo in 609. Four years later, the Babylonians decisively defeated him at the battle of Carchemish. The subsequent Babylonian invasion of Egypt, preceded by the siege and sack of Ashkelon, was, however, beaten back, although Palestine remained under Babylonian control.
In 589 *Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, whose king, *Zedekiah, had rebelled at the instigation of the pharaoh Apries (*Hophra). The latter invaded Syria in an attempt to relieve Jerusalem, but again Egyptian support proved ineffectual, and in 587 Jerusalem fell. Most of the city's population was deported to Babylon; some, however, took refuge in Egypt, including the prophet *Jeremiah.
[Alan Richard Schulman]
Egyptian Literature in the Bible
Egypt has a long and full literary history and tradition, and as such, there is ample evidence of both literary and nonliterary genre of texts. These texts serve many functions and come in a variety of forms each with its own established conventions and styles. The technical aspects of Egyptian literary forms are not generally paralleled in biblical literature, yet it is well recognized that there is a commonalty in content between some biblical narrative motifs and those found in various Ancient Egyptian texts. Direct links in the prose literature are difficult to establish, but there is a scholarly consensus that relates the two bodies of literature. Wisdom texts fall in their own category; the consensus maintains that the biblical wisdom tradition is dependent, at least in part, upon the Egyptian. Questions of borrowing and/or primary derivation notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the Egyptian material antedates the biblical.
Egypt plays an important part in the narrative setting of the Torah. From the time that Joseph is sold into servitude through the Exodus and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the central location of the story is Egypt. It is in these stories, the ones set in Egypt, that the majority of narrative parallels are to be found. The most frequently cited example is the biblical tale of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Gen 39) and the New Kingdom Tale of Two Brothers. The Egyptian tale is the first known example in ancient literature of the Temptress motif. The details and purposes of each of the stories differ greatly, but there is no serious doubt that the structure of the motif is essentially the same. In such stories an older woman (or a woman of higher social status) develops an ill-advised passion for a younger man (or one of a lesser social status). This "temptress" makes her desires known to the young man (Gen 39:7) who refuses her advances on moral grounds (verses 8–9); thus spurned, the "temptress" accuses the young man of violating her, and the "wronged" husband then seeks retribution. The standard versions of this tale eventually vindicate the youth and punish the mendacious wife. In the biblical account Joseph is punished for his supposed actions by being imprisoned (verses 19–20). Eventually he is pardoned by Pharaoh and released from prison because, after interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph is rewarded and made viceroy of Egypt (41:14–45). The biblical version deviates from the pattern in two significant ways: First, the narrator never tells us that Joseph is ever publicly declared innocent. (He is pardoned not exonerated). Second, the fate of the temptress is not revealed. Potiphar's wife disappears from the story right after she accuses Joseph (Gen 39:18–19), because she is no longer important to the progress of the narrative.
Although the Tale of Two Brothers is the most frequently cited example of biblical and Egyptian narrative parallels, it is by no means the only one. Some literary tales present us with a picture of Syria-Palestine that is reminiscent of the description of the area in the Patriarchal Narratives of Genesis and also show some parallel values. The prime example is the Middle Kingdom Tale of Sinuhe, which depicts the environment of the Levant in detail and shows it much the same as described in the Torah narratives. Both the Hebrew and Egyptian sources describe pastoral nomadic clans who travel among the settled urban population centers. Sinuhe was an attendant to Princess Nefru, daughter of Amenemhet I and wife of Sesostris I. After Amenemhet I dies, Sinuhe overhears plans for a palace coup. Fearing that he will be caught up in the civil-war that will inevitably follow, he flees Egypt and wanders through the Nile Delta and throughout Canaan. Sinhue becomes very successful in Canaan, but always longs to return to his native land. Ultimately, he is reunited with Sesostris I and urged to return to Egypt. As with most Egyptian tales, this one ends happily
Narrative parallels are not limited to the Torah. One of Sinuhe's exploits has been compared to David's slaying of Goliath. "He came toward me while I waited, having placed myself near him. Every heart burned for me; the women jabbered. All hearts ached for me thinking: 'Is there another champion who could fight him?' He [raised] his battle-axe and shield, while his armful of missiles fell toward me. When I had made his weapons attack me, I let his arrows pass me by without effect, one following the other. Then, when he charged me, I shot him, my arrow sticking in his neck. He screamed; he fell on his nose; I slew him with his axe. I raised my war cry over his back, while every Asiatic shouted. I gave praise to Mont, while his people mourned him" (Lichtheim in COS) Both Sinuhe and David are underdog warriors who surprisingly vanquish the enemy champion with his own weapon (I Sam 17:51).
Scholarly consensus recognizes that the biblical Wisdom tradition, and much of the poetic and instructional literature related to that tradition, has very close associations with Egyptian Wisdom Literature. Within the Bible there is a conception of Egypt as a source of great wisdom (I Kings 4:30, "Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians"), but this "wisdom" is not that of the Wisdom Literature. Egyptian Wisdom Literature deals with "truth," "justice," and especially "order," the "cosmic order" as ordained by the gods. Biblical Wisdom focuses primarily upon Wisdom personified and the "fear of God" associated with it. So the larger conceptions that inform the genre are not identical, but the Egyptian material most certainly has influenced the biblical.
Psalm 104 is frequently viewed in light of "The Great Hymn to the Aten." Both texts venerate the solar aspects of the deity and use similar language in so doing. Song of Songs is widely recognized as having significant parallels to Egyptian love poetry (Fox) There are parallels of phraseology: In the Song of Songs "sister" is used as a term of intimacy between the two lovers (4:9, 10–12, "…my sister, my bride…"; also 5:1, 2), and in the Egyptian Love Songs both "sister" and "brother" are used as terms of love and intimacy. In both literatures there is an alternation between the speech of the girl and that of the boy, but with a difference; In the Bible the lovers engage in dialogues, whereas in the Love Songs from Egypt the lovers are given alternating soliloquies. Another common feature is found in the so-called "Praise Song," where the physical beauty of the beloved body is described limb by limb. (4:1–7; 5:10–16; 7:2–10a).
Even more striking parallels are to be found in instructional literature; these connections were first recognized in the early 20th century, and are regularly noted in modern commentaries. The prime example is the "Instruction of Amenemope." Proverbs 22:17–24:22 and Jeremiah 17:5–8 are both thought to be inspired by "Amenemope." Of particular interest is Proverbs 22:20 and the difficulty surrounding the Hebrew word traditionally written both shlshwm (ketiv) and shlyshym (qere) and vocalized to mean either "officers" or "the day before yesterday." Neither makes any sense in the context of the pericope. Accordingly, many scholars vocalize this word as sheloshim, "thirty" ("Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and wisdom") especially since there are 30 chapters in the "Instruction of Amenemope" and that text ends "Look to these thirty chapters, They inform, they educate …."
The points of contact between biblical and Egyptian literature go beyond content, and include linguistic borrowings as well. There are close to six dozen agreed upon Egyptian loan words in the Bible, not including personal names and toponyms (place names); some of these words are Hebraized, whereas others are used in forms that are close to their Egyptian form. Understandably, there is a remarkable clustering of these loan words in the biblical accounts relating to Egypt. We have come to expect Egyptian words used to describe the natural environment of Egypt, so the biblical words for "reeds" (Ex. 13:18, 15:4, 22, 23:31; passim), "Nile" (Gen. 41:1–3; passim), "papyrus" (Ex. 2:3; Isa. 18:2, 35:7; Job 8:11), and "marsh grass" (Gen. 41:2, 18; Job 8:11) all are Egyptian loans. The same goes for specifically Egyptian offices like the hartumim typically translated as "magicians" (Gen. 41:8, 24; Ex. 7:11, 22, 8:3, 14–15, 9:11; Dan. 1:20, 2:2, 10, 27, 4:4, 6, 5:11). Pharaoh is a royal title (literally "big house" / "palace") used in the Bible both as a royal title with a specific royal name following (Pharaoh RN – II Kings 23:29, 33–35; Jer. 46:2), or alone as a virtual royal name or specific appellative (this usage is consistent in the Torah text). Attempts have been made to date biblical passages according to the usage of the word "Pharaoh," but such arguments are speculative at best, and ignore the literary aspects of the text.
[Sharon Keller (2nd ed.)]
The Hellenistic Period
THE PTOLEMAIC PERIOD
Egyptian Jewry traced its history back to the time of Jeremiah (Letter of Aristeas, 35), but it was not until the conquest of *Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E. that the second great wave of Jewish emigration to Egypt began. Alexander's successors in Egypt, the Ptolemid dynasty, attracted many Jews early in their reign to settle in Egypt as tradesmen, farmers, mercenaries, and government officials. During their reign Egyptian Jewry enjoyed both tolerance and prosperity. They became significant in culture and literature, and by the first century C.E., accounted for an eighth of the population of Egypt. The majority of the Jews of Egypt lived,
as the Greeks, in *Alexandria, but there were also very many in the ehora, the provincial districts outside Alexandria.
*Ptolemy I Soter (323–283) took a large number of Jewish prisoners of war in Palestine and forcibly settled them as mercenaries in Egypt to hold down the native Egyptians (ibid., 36).
On Ptolemy I's retreat from Palestine many Jews fled with him to Egypt, where they found a haven of tolerance. *Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283–44) emancipated the Jews taken captive by his father and settled them on the land as cleruchs or in "Jew-Camps" as Jewish military units. He was remembered by the Jews of Egypt as having instigated the translation of the Septuagint (see Letter of *Aristeas; *Bible: Greek translation). Since *Manetho's antisemitic work was written in his reign there must have been a fair number of Jews already in Egypt.
*Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–221) was said to have been favorably disposed toward the Jews and to have respected their religion. Two facts confirm this. One is the number of Jews who settled in the nome of Arsinoe (*Faiyum) in his reign, and the other is the synagogue inscription dedicated to him, declaring that he granted the rights of asylum to the synagogues (Frey, Corpus 2 pp. 374–6). There is also a synagogue inscription from Schedia, which was also probably dedicated to him (Reinach in REJ, 14 (1902), 161–4).
*Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–203) attempted to institute a massacre of the Jews of Alexandria in 217 B.C.E., but was later reconciled with them (III Macc. 5–6). During the reign of *Ptolemy VI Philometor (181–145) a marked change took place. Ptolemy VI won Jewish favor by opening up the whole of Egypt to the Jews, on whom he relied, as well as by receiving Jewish exiles from Palestine such as *Onias IV, to whom he granted land to build a temple at Leontopolis (c. 161 B.C.E.; Jos., Wars 1:33). The Jewish philosopher *Aristobulus of Paneas was said to have advised him on Jewish affairs, and he appointed two Jews, Onias and Dositheos, to high military posts (Jos., Apion, 2:49). During the struggles of Cleopatra *III (116–101) with her son *Ptolemy IX Lathyros (116–80) the Jews of Egypt sided with the Queen, thus earning her esteem but alienating the Greek population from them (Ant. 13:287). She appointed two Jewish brothers, *Ananias and Helkias, as commanders of her army.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS
Most of the Jews who settled in the chora were either farmers or artisans. The
(a) the army, where, as other nationalities in Egypt, they were allowed to lease plots of land from the king (called cleruchies), and were granted tax reductions;
(b) the police force, in which Jews reached high ranks (cf. the Jewish district chief of police in Frey, Corpus, 2, p. 370); and
(c) tax collecting (a government executive job) and sometimes in the chora, tax farming (a government administrative post; see Tcherikover, Corpus nos. 107, 109, 110).
Others were managers in the royal banks or administrators (ibid., nos. 99–103, from middle of second century B.C.E.). In Alexandria there was a greater diversity of occupations and some Jews prospered in trade and commerce.
Early in the third century B.C.E. synagogues were founded in Egypt. They are known to have existed at Alexandria, Schedia (third century B.C.E.), Alexandrou Nesou (third century B.C.E.), Crocodilopolis-Arsinoe (three: third century B.C.E., second century B.C.E., and second century C.E.), Xenephyris (second century B.C.E.), Athribis (two: third or second century B.C.E.), and Nitriae (second century B.C.E.). They were usually called προσευχή or εὐχεῖον (from the Greek euche = prayer), and tablets were often erected dedicating the synagogue to the king and the royal family.
At first the Jewish immigrants spoke only Aramaic, and documents from the third century and the first half of the second century B.C.E. show a widespread knowledge of Aramaic and Hebrew (cf. Frey, Corpus 2, pp. 356, 365). But from the second century on there was a rapid Hellenization. Documents were written in Greek, the Pentateuch was read in the synagogue with the Septuagint translation, and even such a writer as *Philo probably knew no or little Hebrew. At first the Egyptian Jews transliterated their names into Greek, or adopted Greek names that sounded like Hebrew ones (e.g., Alcimus for Eliakim, or Jason for Joshua), but later they often adopted Greek equivalents of Hebrew names (e.g., Dositheos for Jonathan, Theodoras for Jehonathan). Gradually Egyptian Jewry adopted any Greek name (even those of foreign gods), and among the *Zeno Letters only 25% of the names are Hebrew.
In the chora the Hellenization was not so strong, but there the Jews were influenced by the native Egyptians. Documents testify to Egyptian names among the Jews, and sometimes to an ignorance of Greek (presumably these Jews spoke Egyptian). However, the chora Jews were more observant of the Sabbath and dietary laws than those of Alexandria.
The relations between Greek and Jew was on the whole good under the Ptolemies. The Jews often sought to explain Judaism to the Greeks (cf. Aristobulus of Paneas, Philo, and others). They tried to enter the Greek gymnasium which was a sign of the cultured Greek. Cases of actual apostasy were rare; that of Dositheos, son of Drimylos, who renounced Judaism to enter court, was exceptional (III Macc. 1:3).
It used to be thought that the Jews were given equal rights with the Greeks by Alexander the Great, and that they called themselves Macedonians (Wars, 2:487–88). This has been disproved by papyri where it appears that only Jews or Jewish military units, who were incorporated into Macedonian units, were termed "Macedonians" (compare Tcherikover, Corpus nos. 142 line 3 with no. 143). Since the population registered its name and racial origin, each nationality in Egypt formed a separate group through the Ptolemid period. The Jews, unlike the Greeks, were not granted a politeia (rights of free citizenship), but received a politeuma (a constitution by which they had the right to observe their ancestral laws). Individual Jews were granted citizenship occasionally by the polis or the king, or by managing to register in a gymnasium. These, however, were exceptions. From the papyri of Faiyum and Oxyrhynchus it seems that the majority of Jews did not use the right of recourse to Jewish courts, but attended Greek ones even in cases of marriage or divorce. The head of the Jewish community in Alexandria was the *ethnarch, while in the chora elders held sway.
Toward the end of the Ptolemid period Jewish-Greek relations steadily worsened. The Greeks, supported by the Egyptians, were struggling to strengthen the power of the polis, while the Jews supported the Ptolemids, first Cleopatra III (see above), and then *Ptolemy XIII and *Gabinius in 55 B.C.E. Papyri of 58 B.C.E. recorded some unrest in Egypt of an antisemitic nature (e.g., Tcherikover, Corpus no. 141). Josephus records that *Julius Caesar was aided by Jewish cleruchs in Egypt when *Antipater brought reinforcements from Palestine. In return for this Caesar is said to have reaffirmed the citizenship of the Alexandrian Jews in 47 B.C.E. (Ant., 14:131, 188–96).
EARLY ROMAN EMPIRE
The new administration under *Augustus at first was grateful to the Jews for their support (cf. the stele of their rights set up in Alexandria; Jos., Ant. 14:188), but generally it relied on the Greeks of Alexandria for help, which fact caused a great rift between the Jews and the rest of the population early in their rule. Augustus disbanded the Ptolemaic army and abolished the tax-collection system about 30 B.C.E. Both of these acts caused great economic hardships for the Jews. Few of them joined or were permitted to join the Roman army in Egypt (an exception being a centurion of 116 C.E., in Tcherikover, Corpus no. 229). Jewish tax collectors were mostly replaced by Greek government officials. The cursus honorum was closed to Jews unless they renounced their religion, which most refused to do (an exception being *Tiberius Julius Alexander, prefect of Egypt). Jewish civil rights (politeuma) were endangered by Augustus' revision of the constitution of Egypt. Three classes were created:
(a) the upper class of Romans, priests, Greek citizens of Alexandria, Naucratis, and Ptolemais, and those who had registered in the gymnasium;
(b) Egyptians, the lowest class, who paid a burdensome poll tax; and
(c) the middle class metropolitae (i.e., half-Greeks who lived in the chora), who paid the poll tax at a reduced rate.
Augustus placed the Jew in the lowest class, forced to pay the tax. This was a blow to Jewish pride, for besides those few individual Jewish families who had received the distinction of Greek citizenship, the vast majority of Jews could no longer register in the gymnasia and had to pay the poll tax.
From that time began a long struggle by the Alexandrian Jews to confirm their rights. The works of writers such as Josephus (Contra Apionem) and Philo (Vita Moysis 1:34) contain a defense of Alexandrian Jews' rights. The Greeks in turn approached Augustus suggesting that they would keep all non-Greeks out of the gymnasia, if he, in turn, would abolish the privileges of the Jews. Augustus refused and confirmed the Jewish ancestral rights, to the intense anger of the Greeks. Augustus abolished the post of ethnarch of Alexandria in 10–12 C.E., replacing it by a gerusia of elders.
The Greeks of Alexandria seized their opportunity with the rise of the pro-Hellenic emperor, Caius *Caligula in 37 C.E. The following year they stormed the synagogues, polluted them, and set up statues of the emperor within. The prefect, Valerius *Flaccus, was embarrassed and dared not remove the images of Caesar. The Jews were shut up in a ghetto and their houses plundered. Philo, who wrote In Flaccum and De Legatione on the affair, headed a Jewish delegation to Caligula to complain, but was dismissed with derision. On the assassination of Caligula in 41 C.E. the Jews of Alexandria took vengeance by instigating a massacre of the Greeks.
The new emperor, *Claudius, issued an edict in favor of the Jews in 41 C.E., abolishing the restrictions imposed at the time of the pogrom of 38 C.E., but he banned the Jews from entering the gymnasia, and refused them Greek citizenship. Much antisemitic material was written at this period in Egypt, e.g., *Apion's works, and the Acts of the *Alexandrian Martyrs.
Consequently the Jews closed their ranks and became more self-conscious of their Jewish heritage. Such works were written as III *Maccabees and the Wisdom of *Solomon. The Jews also tended to live closer together, though no ghettos were imposed.
In 66 C.E. the Alexandrians, in debating about a delegation to be sent to Nero, presumably to complain about the Jews, discovered several Jewish spies among themselves. Three were caught and burnt alive. The Jews rose in revolt and tried to burn the Greeks in their amphitheater, and Tiberius Julius Alexander, the prefect, crushed them mercilessly, killing more than were slain in the pogrom of 38 C.E. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E. Onias' Temple at *Leontopolis was destroyed and the *fiscus judaicus imposed. However, the Egyptian Jews had to pay more than other Jews, because the Egyptian calendar provided that they pay in the first year of the fiscus (71 C.E.), two years in arrears instead of one year, as other Jews. It is estimated that they paid that year 27 million Egyptian drachmae in taxes.
In 115 the great revolt of the Jews of Egypt, Cyrene, and Cyprus occurred (see *Trajan). The revolt was immediately crushed in Alexandria, by Marcus Rutilius Lupus, but it continued in the chora with the help of the Jews of *Cyrene (in centers as Thebes, Faiyum, and Athribis). Marcius Turbo was sent by the emperor to deal with the situation, and crushed the revolt in 117. Much of Alexandria was destroyed and the revolt resulted in the virtual annihilation of Egyptian Jewry. From that time on Jews almost vanish from the chora. In Alexandria the great synagogue was destroyed, large tracts of Jewish-owned land in Heracleapolis and Oxyrhynchus were confiscated, and Jewish courts were suspended. The causes of the revolt suggested are the antisemitism of the local Greeks, and the "messianic" movement centered around *Lucuas of Cyrene. The revolt spelled the end of Jewish life in Egypt for a long time. From 117 to 300 only a few Jewish names occur among the peasants in the chora.
From the End of the Second Temple Period to the Muslim Conquest
The defeat suffered by the Jews, both in Ereẓ Israel under Bar Kokhba and in the quelling of the rebellion in Egypt during the years 116–117 C.E. almost crushed the Jewish communities in Egypt, especially in Alexandria. The evidence from the papyri of the presence of a large, cohesive community in Egypt, found rather abundantly before 70 C.E, diminishes, until after the year 200 C.E. it becomes almost negligible. The territory of Egypt was still a marked battleground for imperial ambitions and rebellions during this later period of the Roman Empire. The revolt of the Βουκολοι (herdsmen) and its aftermath, finally settled by the emperor Septimus Severus (194 C.E.), left the country with its agriculture almost ruined and burdened with heavy taxes. During the latter half of the third century Egypt was again racked with internal dispute. Finally, Diocletian brought a period of relative peace to the land, reorganizing the territory into three, and later four, provinces. The later history of Egypt under the Byzantine emperors is closely tied up with the growth and predominance there of hitherto persecuted Christianity.
Centered as it was in Alexandria, Christianity in Egypt inherited some of the classical antisemitism of the city. Clement of Alexandria mentions (Stromata, 3:63; 2:45.5) the fact that there existed in the primitive church there two "Gospels," an "Egyptian Gospel" and a "Hebrew Gospel" – evidence of the dichotomy in the early church between gentile and Jewish Christianity, the latter being characterized in Egypt by a Gnostic tendency. By 150 C.E., however, both Orthodox and Gnostic Christianity found themselves allied with regard to the Jews. Basilides, an Alexandrian Gnostic at the end of the second century, tried to stress in Gnostic terms that Christianity is to be completely dissociated from its Jewish ancestry. An early work called the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 135 C.E.) argued for the abrogation by God of the Old Covenant (Old
Some of the knowledge of the Jews in these times is derived from Christian sources. The martyrologies of the time, as a matter of style, brought in the Jews as the accusers. Generally though, as Baron reports (Social2, 2 (1952), 188), the early Christians got along with their Jewish neighbors. Indeed, toward 300 C.E., Jewish names begin to appear more frequently in the papyri, giving witness to a renewal of activity. There are even some Hebrew fragments found at Oxyrhynchus which speak of rashei ("heads"), benei ("members"), and ziknei ("elders") of the keneset ("the community"; Cowley, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 2 (1915), 209ff.). An interesting feature of the Greek papyri of this period is the appearance of the name "Sambathion" among both Jews and non-Jews, giving testimony to the great respect given the Sabbath among the Egyptians (for a fuller discussion cf. Tcherikover, Corpus, 3 (1964), 43–56). It is true that the Jews did support the Arians in their disputes with orthodox Christianity, and patristic literature placed the Jews together with the heretics and pagans as the hated enemies of the church. This attitude later became codified into law by the Codices of the emperors Theodosius and Justinian. A pogrom and expulsion of the Jews from Alexandria by the patriarch Cyril occurred in 415 C.E. Whether or not this expulsion was fully carried out is still a moot point, since later Christian literature points to the fact that Jews were still living there (M. Chaine, in Mélanges de la Faculté orientale de l'Université Saint-Joseph, Beyrouth, 6 (1913), 493ff.). The Persian conquest seemed to be especially helpful to the Jews in Egypt, since they were able to receive those Jews persecuted in Syria by the emperor Heraclius. The Arab conquest in 632 saw the beginning of a new regime.
[Evasio de Marcellis]
There is little information available concerning the condition of the Jews from the Arab conquest in 640 until the end of the tenth century. In Fostat, founded by the conqueror of Egypt, ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, a relatively large community was established, while the Jewish population probably also grew in other Egyptian cities. Ahmad ibn Ṭūlūn (ninth century), the first independent ruler of Egypt under the Muslims, seems to have favored the Jews. The historian al-Masʿūdī relates that he had a Jewish physician. Documents found in the Cairo *Genizah of Fostat give evidence of the commercial ties between the Jews of Egypt and those of *Kairouan (Tunisia) during the second half of the tenth century. The Jews of Egypt also renewed their relations with the major academies of Babylonia. It is significant for the high standard of Jewish learning in Egypt itself that *Saadiah Gaon (born in Faiyum in 882) acquired his widespread culture there. At that time many Babylonian Jews settled in the principal Egyptian cities and established communities with their own synagogue and bet din. They also maintained a close relationship with the academies in their country of origin. Students traveled there to study, and religious and judicial queries were addressed to the heads of the Babylonian academies. The Palestinian and Syrian Jews who settled in Egypt acted in the same manner. They established Palestinian communities and synagogues, and they recognized the heads of the Palestinian academies, to whom they gave their material support, as their spiritual leaders. The activities of Saadiah Gaon prove the presence of large numbers of *Karaites in Egypt at the time. It seems that during the ninth and tenth centuries, there was still a variety of sects in Egypt. The work Kitāb al-Anwār wa-al-Marāqib ("The Book of Lights and Watch Towers") by al-*Kirkisānī, in 936 (L. Nemoy (ed.), 1 (1939), 12), mentions a sect which observed Sunday as a day of rest instead of Saturday. Members of this sect lived on the bank of the Nile, some 20 miles from Fostat (Bacher, in: JQR, 7 (1894/95) 704).
*FATIMIDS. A change in the condition of the Jews occurred with the conquest of the country by the Fatimids in 969. After the conquest by this dynasty of Shiʿites which was in rivalry with the *Abbasīd caliphs, Egypt became the center of a vast and powerful kingdom, which, at the end of the tenth century, included almost all of North Africa, *Syria, and *Palestine. The union of all these countries brought a period of prosperity in industry and commerce from which the Jews also benefited. Of even greater importance was the characteristically tolerant attitude adopted by the Fatimids toward non-Muslim communities. They did not insist on the observance of the decrees of discrimination, such as the wearing of a distinctive sign on the garments; they permitted the construction and repair of non-Muslim houses of prayer, and they even accorded financial support to the academies in Palestine. In the court of al-Muʿizz (d. 975) and his son al-ʿAzīz (975–996), a Jew converted to Islam, Yaʿqūb *Ibn Killis, occupied an important position and was finally appointed vizier. He was the first to hold this post under the reign of the Fatimids in Egypt. There were also Jewish physicians in the service of al-Muʿizz. The third Fatimid caliph, al-Ḥākim (996–1020), founder of the *Druze sect and a controversial personality, departed from the policy of tolerance toward non-Muslims, which was characteristic of his dynasty, during the second half of his reign. At first, he ordered that the Christians and Jews mark their clothes with the ghiyār ("distinctive sign"; see Jewish *Badge); later, he issued orders for the destruction of their houses of prayer. He also prohibited Christians and Jews from riding horses and purchasing slaves and maidservants. Many Christians and Jews converted to Islam in order to escape these degrading decrees, while others emigrated to different countries, such as Yemen and *Byzantium. However, after some time, al-Ḥākim revoked his decrees and authorized the converts to return to their former religion.
In 1036 the grandson of al-Ḥākim, al-Mustanṣir, ascended to the throne. A Jewish merchant, who had previously sold al-Mustanṣir's mother to the caliph al-Ẓāhir, then wielded much influence in the court. This merchant Abu Saʿd (in Hebrew, Abraham b. Yashar) was also named "al-Tustari" after his city of origin in Persia. He and his brother, Abu Naṣr Ḥesed, endeavored to protect their coreligionists by all available means. According to one opinion, Abu Saʿd and his brother were Rabbanites, while according to another they were *Karaites. In 1047 Abu Saʿd was killed, as was his brother, Abu Naṣr, some time later. The economic stratification of Egyptian Jewry during the Fatimid period was very diversified. According to the lists of taxpayers and of charitable donators (such as the one published by E. Strauss in Zion, 7 (1941/42), 142ff.), the majority were engaged in various trades and a minority in commerce. At that time, the transit trade of products from India and the Far East became an important source of income in Egypt and the Jews played an active role in this commerce. The Fatimid government encouraged these commercial ties with India and protected the seaways and overland routes. The friendly attitude of the Fatimids was also expressed by the granting of a large degree of autonomy to the merchants.
At the beginning of their rule, the office of *nagid was established. The first nagid seems to have been a physician in the service of the caliph al-Muʿizz. In later generations, the office of nagid was also filled by men employed in the court, especially as court physicians. The Fatimid dynasty began to weaken at the end of the 11th century, but the condition of the Jews did not worsen. A Jewish family which during several generations produced scholars and physicians held high positions at the royal court at that time. Judah b. Saadiah was probably court physician and from 1065 acted as nagid. He was followed by his younger brother *Mevorakh, who was also court physician and nagid from 1079–1110. During his period of office *David b. Daniel b. Azariah, a scion of a family of Babylonian exilarchs, arrived in Egypt. David made an effort to secure the leadership of the Jewish population and succeeded in deposing Mevorakh for a short while. Moses, the elder son of Mevorakh, was nagid from 1110–1140. At that period a Christian favorite of the regent al-Afḍal endeavored to remove the Jews from government service (see Neubauer, in JQR, 9 (1896/97), 29–30). Fragments from the *Genizah mention another enemy who plotted against the Jews until Yakhin b. Nethanel, who was influential in the royal court, succeeded in saving them. On the other hand, *Abu al-Munajjā, one of the Jewish courtiers, was responsible for the administration of the "Eastern" province. In the middle of the 12th century *Samuel b. Hananiah was court physician. He was a distinguished scholar and also acted as nagid from 1142 to 1159. His poems in honor of his guest, *Judah Halevi, are well known.
During this period the Jews of Egypt prospered in every sphere. *Benjamin of Tudela, who was in Egypt in c. 1171, gives much information concerning the prevailing conditions in the communities he visited. On the basis of his information and other relevant data, the number of Jews in Egypt at that time has been estimated at between 12,000 and 20,000 (see Neustadt-Ayalon in Zion, 2 (1937), 221; Ashtor, in JQR, 50 (1959/60), 60 and JJS, 18 (1967), 9–42; 19 (1968), 1–22). After the death of Samuel b. Hananiah, there was a crisis within the Jewish community of Egypt. An ambitious individual named *Zuta, who succeeded in being appointed nagid for a short while during the lifetime of Samuel b. Hananiah, exploited his connections to secure the office for a second time, after Samuel's death, and later a third time. As a result of Zuta's activities, the prestige attached to the office of nagid declined and for a long time there was no new appointment. At that time the heads of the Fostat academy became the leading authorities of Egyptian Jewry; an academy had existed in Fostat from at least the end of the tenth century. During the reign of al-Ḥākim the academy in the Egyptian capital was headed by *Shemariah b. Elhanan, who had studied in Babylonia in his youth. He was succeeded by his son, *Elhanan b. Shemariah. During the first half of the 12th century, *Maẓli'aḥ b. Solomon Ha-Kohen, a member of the family of the Palestinian academy heads, arrived in Egypt. He founded an academy in Fostat, whose leaders were referred to as geonim. They appointed dayyanim and gave authority to their activities. The authority of these geonim was recognized even outside Egypt, especially in South Arabia and *Aden. In the early 1150s Abu Saʿīd Joshua b. Dosa headed the academy in Fostat.
With the end of the Fatimid dynasty, orthodox Islam again became the official religion in Egypt. Saladin (Salāḥal-Dīn) and his successors made their religiosity conspicuous and, among other actions, Saladin renewed the discriminatory decrees against the non-Muslim communities. However, both he and his successors were by no means fanatical and they did not persecute non-Muslims. His successors, the *Ayyubids, who reigned in Egypt until 1250, followed the same policy. Communal life was well organized and cultural activities were maintained. During this period a number of scholars from Christian countries settled in Egypt and took an active part in the communal life. They included *Anatoli b. Joseph and Joseph b. Gershon from France, who became dayyanim in Alexandria. Moses *Maimonides spent most of his life in Cairo, where he played a leading role in the life of the community. His son, *Abraham b. Moses, acted officially as nagid after the death of his father in 1205 until his own death in 1237. He had an independent mind and was also a halakhic authority, as can be seen from the numerous legal questions which were addressed to him.
In the middle of the 13th century the *Mamluks came to power in Egypt. The entire political regime was changed and a decisive change in the condition of the Jews also took place. These rulers were the leaders of the foreign Turkish soldiery of which the army was exclusively composed, and they tried to enhance their position and to curry favor with the Muslim native population by emphasizing their piety and by introducing a series of measures directed against the
In 1301 there was a large-scale persecution. The Christians were compelled to cover their turbans with a blue cloth, the Jews with a yellow one, and the Samaritans with a red one. The authorities renewed the prohibition of riding horses and also forbade the building of houses higher than those of the Muslims. On this occasion the Jewish and Christian houses of prayer in *Cairo were closed down. In 1354 there was an even graver persecution. The cause for it was again attributed by Arab historians to the haughtiness of the Christian officials. There were attacks on non-Muslims in the streets of Cairo and the government instituted a severe control over the habits of Muslim converts. At that time the economic situation of the Jews took a turn for the worse; under the Mamluks the system of monopolies was consolidated. Private industry was generally ruined and the commerce of spices, the most important part of Egypt's external trade, was taken over by the monopolized "Kārimī" merchant company in which only a few members were Jews. During this period the Jewish population was led by negidim of Maimonides' family. Maimonides' grandson, R. *David b. Abraham, was nagid from 1238 to 1300. In various documents the negidim are referred to as heads of academies but the exact nature of the academy is in question. During the second half of the 13th century, the literary activities of Egyptian Jewry continued to flourish, as in the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods. *Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi, the well-known Bible commentator, and his son *Joseph, a competent Hebrew poet, lived in Egypt at this time.
At the end of the 14th century, a second dynasty of the Mamluks, the Cherkess, came to power. The Mamluk rule then increased in violence and the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian decrees grew in frequency. The oppression and extortions of the sultans were severer than in former times. There often were internal conflicts within this Mamluk faction, and as a result the soldiers, unrestrained, rioted in the streets and attacked the citizens. In order to appease the embittered people, the sultans issued a multitude of decrees against the non-Muslims. While the first sultan of the Cherkess Mamluks, Barqūq (1382–1399), as well as his son and successor Faraj (1399–1412), acted leniently toward the non-Muslims, the third sultan, al-Muʾayyad Sheikh, oppressed the non-Muslims by various means. The discriminatory decrees were renewed, and there were searches for wine in the non-Muslim quarters. During the reign of the Cherkess Mamluks the autonomous organization of the communities in Egypt remained unharmed and as previously, they were led as before by the negidim. The last of Maimonides' descendants to act as nagid was R. *David b. Joshua. For reasons that are not known R. David was compelled to leave Egypt in the 1370s. He was replaced by a man named *Amram. At the end of the Mamluk period, Egyptian Jewry was led by the negidim R. Nathan *Sholal and his relative R. Isaac *Sholal, who emigrated to Palestine after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottomans.
The travelers Meshullam of Volterra, who arrived in Egypt in 1481, and R. Obadiah of *Bertinoro, who came there seven years later, provided information about the size of the communities in the descriptions of their travels. The numbers which are found in their writings emphasize the decrease in the Jewish population, which was concomitant with the general depopulation and was partly a result of the oppression under Mamluk rule. According to Meshullam there were 650 families, as well as 150 Karaite and 50 Samaritan families, in Cairo, 50 families in Alexandria, 50 in Bilbeis, and 20 in al-Khānqā. Obadiah mentions 500 families in Cairo, besides 150 Karaite and 50 Samaritan families, 25 families in Alexandria, and 30 in Bilbeis. From this it can be deduced that there was probably a total of 5,000 persons in all the communities visited by the two travelers. By then the immigration of Spanish Jewry to the oriental countries had begun. Even before the expulsion, groups of forced converts arrived in Egypt. Immediately after the expulsion, the Jews who had not converted arrived and the Jewish population in Egypt increased. In those centers where an important number of newcomers settled separate communities were established. The arrival of the Spanish immigrants had a beneficial effect on the cultural life of Egyptian Jewry. Their numbers included scholars of renown who engaged in educational activities and who were appointed as dayyanim. Among the scholars who arrived in Egypt during the first generation after the Spanish expulsion were R. *Samuel ibn Sid, who was a member of the bet din of the nagid in 1509, R. Jacob *Berab, who is mentioned in a document of 1513 as a dayyan of this same bet din, and R. Samuel ha-Levi *Ḥakim, who was a prominent halakhic authority and acted as dayyan at the beginning of the 16th century in Cairo. The negidim welcomed the Spanish refugees.
THE OTTOMAN TURKS
When Egypt was conquered by the Ottomans in 1517, there was a decisive turn in the history of the country and the Jews living there. A wide choice of commercial possibilities was offered to the Jewish merchants, as well as an introduction to a variety of other trades. At the height of their power, the Ottomans were very tolerant and the Jews
In 1545 the governor Dāʾud Pasha ordered the closure of the central synagogue of Cairo. All the efforts to obtain its reopening were in vain; the synagogue remained closed until 1584. After the conquest of Egypt by the Turks, Jews of Constantinople were sent to Egypt to act as negidim. The first of them was R. Tājir, who was followed by R. *Jacob b. Ḥayyim Talmid. When this nagid came to Egypt, a dispute broke out between him and R. Bezalel Ashkenazi, who was then the leading rabbi in Egypt. As a result of this dispute, the office of nagid came to an end in about 1560. From then onward the Jewish finance minister in the service of the governor was recognized as the leader of the Jewish community in Egypt. He was referred to by the Turkish title of chelebi (çelebi = "gentleman"). Many of these Jewish ministers were executed by despotic governors. Masiah Pasha, who was appointed in 1575, chose Solomon *Alashkar, a well-known philanthropist whose efforts were directed toward the amelioration of Jewish education among the Jews of Egypt, as chelebi. His activities continued for many years, until Karīm Hussein Pasha executed him in 1603.
The standard of Jewish learning improved with the arrival of the expelled Spanish Jews. During the first generation of the Turkish rule, the leading rabbi in Egypt was R. *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra. He instituted several regulations in the Jewish communal life, and, among others, he abolished the system of dating documents according to the Seleucid era, which was still in practice in Egypt. In the 1520s the renowned halakhic authority R. Moses b. Isaac *Alashkar also lived in Egypt, where he acted as dayyan. However, he emigrated to Palestine and died in Jerusalem in 1542. Later David b. Solomon Abi Zimra also emigrated to Palestine and Bezalel Ashkenazi became the spiritual leader of Egypt's Jewish communities. During the second half of the 16th century, R. Jacob *Castro was the most prominent Egyptian rabbi. These rabbis acted as dayyanim, gave responsa, and educated distinguished pupils. R. Isaac *Luria, the famous kabbalist, was one of Bezalel Ashkenazi's pupils.
The Jews of Cairo and Alexandria were at that time divided into three communities – the Mustaʿrabim (Arabic-speaking i.e., indigenous Jews), the Spanish (immigrants), and the Mograbim (settlers of North African, Maghreb origin). There were occasional disputes between the communities and the rabbis and communal leaders exerted themselves to restore peace.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ottoman government became harsher and the upper class of wealthy Jews, who were employed by the governors and ministers, suffered especially. About 1610 the position of chelebi was filled by Abba Iscandari, a physician and philanthropist. In 1620 with the arrival of a new governor, the Albanian ("Arnaut") Husain, the Muslim enemies of the chelebi, jealous of his wealth, slandered him before the governor and he was executed. Jacob Tivoli replaced him as chelebi until he was executed by Khalīl Pasha. In 1650, when Silihdar Ahmad Pasha was appointed governor of Egypt, he brought with him Ḥayyim Perez, a Jew, whom he appointed chelebi. In the same year natural catastrophes and a plague occurred in Egypt; the sultan summoned the commissioner and the chelebi to Constantinople and had them both executed. A year later another governor, Muhammad Ghāzī Pasha, was sent to Egypt. He appointed Jacob Bibas as chelebi, but after a time became jealous of his wealth, killed him with his own hands and buried him in the garden of his palace. In 1661 the governor Ibrāhīm Pasha appointed the exceedingly wealthy Raphael b. Joseph Hin as his chelebi. The latter actively supported *Shabbetai Ẓevi, the pseudo-messiah, who had visited Cairo twice. In 1669 Karākūsh Ali Pasha was appointed governor of Egypt, became jealous of Raphael Hin's wealth, accused him of various crimes, and had him publicly executed. The title of chelebi was then abolished and the Jewish agent of the Egyptian governor, who stood at the head of his community, was henceforth known as bazīrkān (from Persian bāzargān "merchant"). In 1734–35, a serious popular riot killed many of Cairo's Jewish community which, as a result, became much less effective in Egypt's administration and economy. The severity of Ottoman rule and the economic decline lowered the cultural level of Egyptian Jewry. During this period the community ceased to be led by renowned rabbis, as in the 16th century, even though some of them were excellent talmudic scholars such as Abraham Iscandari, Samuel *Vital, the son of R. Ḥayyim *Vital, *Mordecai ha-Levi, and his son Abraham during the 17th century, and Solomon Algazi during the 18th century. Nevertheless, the Shabbatean movement brought some activity to the stagnant community. In 1703 the Shabbatean propagandist Abraham Michael *Cardoso settled in Egypt, where he became physician to the Turkish governor
The transition from an Ottoman province to a virtually independent unity was accompanied by a difficult struggle during which Jews also suffered considerably. In 1768 when Turkey became embroiled in war with Russia, Ali Bey, the governor of Cairo, proclaimed himself the independent governor of Egypt. He also made an effort to impose his authority on Palestine, Syria, and the Arabian Peninsula. In order to provide for the tremendous expenses of his wars, he levied a heavy contribution on the Jews, which they were compelled to pay within a short period (see Ben-Ze'ev in Zion (1939), 237–49). The reforms of *Muhammad (Mehmet) Ali (1805–1848) and later the opening of the Suez Canal (1863) brought a new prosperity to commerce and the other branches of the Egyptian economy. As a result of the changes in all spheres of life, the Jewish population grew. Jews from European countries settled in Egypt and schools where education was dispensed along modern lines were introduced. Alexandria again became a commercial center and its Jewish community expanded until it was equal to that of Cairo. The census of 1897 showed that there were 25,200 Jews in the country. Of these, 8,819 (including approximately 1,000 Karaites) lived in Cairo, 9,831 in Alexandria, 2,883 in *Tanta, 400 in Port Said, and 508 in al-*Manṣūra. There were also small communities in other provincial towns, numbering a total of 4,600 Jews. The immigrants from European countries founded their own communities, even though they recognized the authority of the rabbis of the existing ones. Thus, in the middle of the 19th century there were communities of Italian and Eastern European Jews in Alexandria, while in Cairo the immigrants from Italy and Turkey united in one community. The relations between Muslims and Jews were normal and there were only rare cases of disturbances resulting from religious hate. In 1844 there was a blood libel against the Jews of Cairo and this was repeated in 1881 and in 1901–1902. In 1840, after the blood libel of *Damascus, Moses *Montefiore and Adolphe *Crémieux came to Egypt and established Jewish schools in cooperation with R. Moses *Algazi. In Alexandria, rabbis who distinguished themselves by their western education were appointed, and social activities were encouraged in the community. The numerical increase, the improvement of cultural standards, and the development of social activities continued throughout the first half of the 20th century.
After World War I Sephardi Jews from *Salonika and other Ottoman towns, as well as Jews from other countries, settled in Egypt. According to the census of 1917 there were 59,581 Jews in Egypt, of which 29,207 lived in Cairo, and in 1937 their numbers reached 63,550, of which 34,103 lived in greater Cairo and 24,829 in Greater Alexandria. With the improvements in the economic and intellectual standards, the Jews took an active part in public life. Some financiers were appointed as members of Parliament and ministers. Joseph *Cattaui was a member of parliament in 1915 and minister of finances and communications in 1923 (the year Egypt became officially independent), and Aslan Cattaui was a member of the Senate during the 1930s. Some, such as Yaʿqūb (James) *Ṣanūʿ, had even been associated with the Egyptian nationalist movement. On the other hand, Zionist organizations were created at the end of the 19th century in the larger towns such as Cairo, Alexandria, Manṣūra, *Suez, *Damanhūr, and al-Maḥalla al-Kubrā. As a result of the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinian Jews to Egypt during World War I, the attachment of Egyptian Jewry to the Palestinian population and to the national movement strengthened. The reinforcement of Jewish consciousness found expression in the publication of Jewish newspapers in various languages. In 1880, a Jewish weekly in Arabic, al-Ḥaqīqa ("The Truth"), began to appear in Alexandria. In 1903, a weekly in Ladino, Miẓrayim, was founded in Cairo. From 1908 to 1941 a French weekly, L'Aurore, appeared in Cairo, and in 1919 another weekly, Israël, was founded in Cairo. This newspaper was amalgamated in 1939 with the Alexandria weekly La Tribune Juive, which was first published in 1936. It appeared until 1948, as did the Arabic weekly al-Shams ("The Sun"), founded in 1934.
According to the Egyptian census of 1947, 65,600 Jews lived in Egypt, 64% of them in Cairo, 32% in Alexandria, and the rest in other towns. Egyptian Jewry was thus among the most urban of the Jewish communities of Asia and Africa. In 1947 most Egyptian Jews (59%) were merchants, and the rest were employed in industry (18%), administration, and public services (11%). The economic situation of Egyptian Jewry was relatively good; there were several multi-millionaires, a phenomenon unusual in other Jewish communities of the Middle East.
Most Egyptian Jews received some form of education, and there were fewer illiterates among them than in any other Oriental community in Egypt then. This was due to the fact that Jews were concentrated in the two great cities with all kinds of educational facilities. There were no restrictions on accepting Jews in government or foreign schools. In November 1945 riots, organized by the "Young Egypt" group led by Aḥmad Ḥusayn, ended in attacks on the Cairo Jewish quarter. A synagogue, a Jewish quarter hospital, and an old-age home were burned down and many Jews injured or killed. This was the first disturbance of its kind in the history of independent Egypt.
The year 1947 was the beginning of the end of the Egyptian Jewish community, for in that year the Companies' Law was instituted, which required that not less than 75% of employees of companies in Egypt must be Egyptian citizens. The law affected Jews most of all, since only about 20% of them were Egyptian citizens. The rest, although in many cases born in Egypt and living there for generations, were aliens or stateless persons. After the State of Israel was established, persecution
of Jews began became more severe. On May 15, 1948, emergency law was declared, and a royal decree forbade Egyptian citizens to leave the country without a special permit. This was applied to Jews. Hundreds of Jews were arrested and many had their property confiscated. In June through August 1948, bombs were planted in Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish businesses looted. About 250 Jews were killed or wounded by the bombs. In 1949, when the consular law courts which tried foreign citizens were abolished, many Jews were affected. The condition of the Jews gradually worsened until, in July 1949, the new government headed by Ḥusayn Sirrī Pasha began to release detainees and return some of the frozen Jewish assets which had been confiscated, also allowing some Jews to leave Egypt, In January 1950, when the Wafd government under Nuqrāshī Pasha was overthrown, all Jewish detainees were released and the rest of their property restored to them. The condition of the Jews slightly improved, although they were forced to donate large sums of money to the soldiers' fund, and leaders of the community were coerced into publishing a declaration against the State of Israel. During the anti-British riots on Black Saturday (January 26, 1952), many foreign citizens were injured, and the loss of Jewish property on that daywas estimated at EL9,000,000 ($25,000,000). About 25,000 Jews left Egypt between 1948 and 1950, some 14,000 of them settling in Israel. When persecution lessened, Jewish emigration decreased.
After the deposition of King Farouk in July 1952, the new government headed by General Muhammad Naguib was favorably inclined toward Jews, but when Naguib was overthrown and *Nasser seized power in February 1954 there was a change for the worse. Nasser immediately arrested many Jews who were tried on various charges, mainly for Zionist and communist activities. In 1954 about 100 Jews were arrested, but most attention was attracted by the trial of the 13 charged with being members of an Israel intelligence network. Two of those charged died, and Moses Leo *Marzuk, a Karaite surgeon and Samuel Bekhor Azar, a teacher, were sentenced to death, while the rest were condemned to various terms of imprisonment (see. *Cairo Trial).
Arrests of Jews continued. They were also forced to donate money to arm the military forces, Chief Rabbi Haim *Nahoum explaining that it was a national duty. In addition, strict supervision of Jewish enterprises was introduced; some were confiscated and others forcibly sold to the government.
Immediately after the Sinai Campaign (November 1956), hundreds of Jews were arrested. About 3,000 were interned without charge in four detention camps. At the same time, the government served notice on thousands of Jews to leave the country within a few days, and they were not allowed to sell their property, nor to take any capital with them. The deportees were made to sign statements agreeing not to return to Egypt and transferring their property to the administration of the government. The International Red Cross helped about 8,000 stateless Jews to leave the country, taking most of them to Italy and Greece in chartered boats. Most of the Jews of Port Said (about 100) were smuggled to Israel by Israel agents. The system of deportation continued into 1957. Other Jews left voluntarily, after their livelihoods had been taken from them, until only 8,561 were registered in the 1957 census. Most of them lived in Cairo (65.3%) and Alexandria (32.2%). The Jewish exodus continued until there were about 3,000 in 1967 of whom only about 50 were Ashkenazim, since most members of this community had left or been deported.
With the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967 the few remaining Jewish officials holding public posts were discharged and hundreds of Jews were arrested. They were beaten, tortured, and abused. Some were released following intervention by foreign states, especially Spain, and were permitted to leave the country. Among the detainees were the chief rabbi of Egypt, R. Ḥayyim Duwayk, and the rabbi of Alexandria, who were held for seven months. Several dozen Jews were held in detention until July 1970. Less than 1,000 Jews still lived in Egypt in 1970, when they were given permission to leave Egypt but without their possessions. Subsequently, only some four hundred Jews (1971) remained in Egypt. Thirty-five thousand Egyptian Jews live in Israel and there are about 15,000 in Brazil, 10,000 in France, 9,000 in the United States, 9,000 in Argentina, and 4,000 in Great Britain.
Egypt was the only Arab country in which the Zionist shekel was clandestinely distributed for the Zionist Congress of 1951 after the establishment of the State of Israel. There was a well-developed Zionist underground movement in Egypt, and some of its members were arrested. After the mass exodus from Egypt, most of the synagogues, social welfare organizations and Jewish schools were closed; the Jewish newspaper, La Menora (published in French and edited by Jacques Maleh from February 1950 to May 1953), was closed down after Maleh had been deported. The Jewish representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives (Aslan *Cattaui and his brother René) lost their seats. The Cairo and Alexandrian communities had official committees, but there was no
The peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt brought some information and a certain renewed activity with regard to the small Jewish community remaining in Cairo. The total number of Jews in Egypt was approximately 400, and it was an aging community.
There was only one synagogue in Cairo, the 70-year-old Shaarei Ha-Shamayim synagogue, normally attended by a handful of old men and women. There was no rabbi, the last having left in 1972. In December 1977 over 120 persons, Israeli citizens and Jewish journalists who had come to cover the peace talks in Cairo, attended the services. The members of the Israeli delegation were unable to attend, but they attended the services the following Friday night. There was also a synagogue in Alexandria, the Eliyahu Ha-Navi synagogue. With only 150 Jews remaining in the city they succeeded with difficulty in holding services on Sabbaths and Festivals only.
In May 1977, at the request of Lord Segal of Wytham, 11 scrolls of the Torah from the Great Synagogue of Alexandria – of the 50 in the synagogue – were sent to Great Britain through the good offices of President Anwar *Sadat.
Jewish rights were restored in 1979 after the Camp David Peace Accords. Only then was the community allowed to establish ties with Israel and World Jewry. However, these ties remained weak, despite Israeli tourism to Egypt, because the community is almost extinct.
Egypt was one of the Arab countries that invaded Israel upon its establishment in May 1948. After the defeat of the Egyptian forces, an Armistice Agreement was signed between the two states at Rhodes on Feb. 24, 1949; however, Egypt still regarded itself as at war with Israel, and there was no improvement in the relations after the Egyptian officers' 1952 revolution and the accession to power first of Muhammad Naguib and, later, of Gamal Abdel *Nasser. Egypt participated in the Arab economic *boycott of Israel, did not permit passage of Israel shipping and cargoes to and from Israel through the Suez Canal, and obstructed the passage of Israel shipping and cargoes to and from Israel through the Straits of *Tiran. It occupied the *Gaza Strip after the 1948 war and encouraged an increase in armed infiltration and sabotage against Israel beginning in 1955, which led to the Sinai Campaign (October–November 1956). After the Sinai Campaign and the stationing of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh, there was an almost complete cessation of fedayeen activity on the Gaza Strip-Sinai border and no interference with shipping to the port of Eilat until the withdrawal of the UNEF at Egyptian demand in May 1967, which was one of the factors that precipitated the Six-Day War (June 1967). Throughout the period that followed the Israel War of Independence, Egypt was the leading force in Arab opposition to Israel and the threat to its existence. It attacked Israel again in October 1973 ("the Yom Kippur War") and, although defeated, President Anwar Sādāt felt the war's results were honorable enough for Egypt to initiate a peace process. The Camp David Peace Accords of November 1978 normalized relations between Israel and Egypt.
For subsequent political developments, see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey; *Arab World.
[Hayyim J. Cohen /
Jacob M. Landau (2nd ed.)]
ANCIENT EGYPT: A.H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961); J.A. Wilson, The Burden of Egypt (1951 = The Culture of Ancient Egypt, 1958); J. Wilson (tr.), in: Pritchard, Texts, passim. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol. 1 (1973); J. Baines and J. Malek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt (1980); D.B. Redford, "Egypt and Western Asia in the Old Kingdom," in: JARCE, 23 (1986), 125–143; N. Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt (1992); K. Kitchen, "Egypt, History of (Chronology)," in: ABD, vol. 2 (1992), 321–31; D.B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (1992); D. Franke, "The Middle Kingdom in Egypt," in: J.M. Sasson (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vol. 2 (1995), 735–38; W.J. Murnane, in: ibid., 691ff; J. Assman, The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs, trans. Andrew Jenkins (1996); M. Bietak, "Hyksos," in: D.B. Redford (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, vol. 2 (2001), 136–43; W.J. Murnane, "New Kingdom: An Overview," in: ibid., 519–25. HELLENISTIC PERIOD: Frey, Corpus 2, 356–445; Tcherikover, Corpus; idem, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1961), index S.V. Egypt: E.R. Bevan, The Legacy of Israel (1953), 29–67; idem, House of Ptolemy (1969); M. Radin, The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans (1915), index S.V. Egypt; Baron, Social2, index S.V. Egypt, Alexandria; J. Lindsay, Daily Life in Roman Egypt (1968). FROM END OF SECOND TEMPLE TO MUSLIM CONQUEST: Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), index; Graetz, Gesch 3 (1905–65), index, S.V. Alexandrien, 4 (1908), index, S.V. Alexandrien. JEWS IN EGYPT FROM ARAB AND OTTOMAN CONQUEST: Mann, Egypt; Mann, Texts; idem, in: HUCA, 3 (1926), 257–308; Rosanes, Togarmah; Zimmels, in: Bericht des juedisch-theologischen Seminars, Breslau (1932), 1–60; Neustadt, in: Zion, 2 (1937), 216–55; S. Assaf, ibid., 121–4; idem, Be-Oholei Ya'akov (1943), 81–98; Noury Farhi, La Communauté juive d'Alexandrie (1946); Ashtor, Toledot; idem, in: HUCA, 27 (1956), 305–26; idem, in: Zion, 30 (1965), 61–78, 128–157; idem, in: JJS, 18 (1967), 9–42; 19 (1968), 1–22; S.D. Goitein, in: JQR, 53 (1962/63), 93–119; idem, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (1966), 255–95, 329–60; idem, A Mediterranean Society, 1–6 (1967–1993), passim; Lewis, in: Eretz Israel, 7 (1964), 70–75 (Eng. pt.); idem, in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 30 (1967), 177–81; Abrahamson, Merkazim, passim; J.M. Landau, Ha-Yehudim be-Miẓrayim (1967, Eng., Jews in Nineteenth Century Egypt, 1969); S. Shamir (ed.), The Jews of Egypt: a Mediterranean Society in Modern Times, (1987); N. Robinson, in: J. Fried (ed.), Jews in the Modern World, 1 (1962), 50–90; J.M. Landau, "Abū Naḍḍāra an Egyptian Jewish Nationalist," in: JJS,3 (1952), 30–44; 5 (1954), 179–180; idem, "Ritual Murder Accusations in Nineteenth-Century Egypt," in: A. Dundes (ed.), The Blood Libel Legend, 197–232; idem (ed.), Ha-Yehudim be-Miẓrayim ha-ʿOthmanit 1517–1914 (1988); CONTEMPORARY PERIOD: D. Peretz, Egyptian Jewry Today (1956). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Hassoun, Juifs du Nil (1981); idem, Juifs d'Egypte; images et textes (1984); G. Kraemer, Minderheit, Millet Nation? Die Jueden in Aegypten, 1914–1952 (1982) T. Mayer, Egypt and the Palestine Question, 1936–1945 (1983); M.M. Laskier, The Jews of Egypt, 1920–1970 (1992); V.D. Sanua, A Guide to Egyptian Jewry in the Mid-Twentieth Century (2005).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.