FAIYŪM


FAIYŪM (Fayyūm), district and city in Upper Egypt, south-west of *Cairo. In the early Middle Ages flourishing Jewish communities seem to have existed there, since *Saadiah Gaon was born there, in approximately 882, received his basic education in the city of Dilas of the Faiyūm district, and wrote his first two books there. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler, found 200 Jews there according to one of his manuscripts, and 20 Jews according to another. Since the former number appears in most of his writings, it would be possible to assume that the figure applies to the Jewish population of the entire district. In any case, the number of the Jews in the Faiyūm district declined in that period as the whole of its population decreased formidably; its depopulation was progressive. Jacob *Saphir, the 19th-century traveler, reported in his book (Even Sappir (1866), 259) that only a single Jew lived in Faiyūm, and that he was a newcomer to the town. In 1907 there were 43 Jews in the town and district, but the community later dissolved.

ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY:

E. Strauss (Ashtor), Toldot ha-Yehudim be-Mizrayim ve-Suriya, vol. I (1944), 31–32; N. Golb, "The Topography of the Jews in Medieval Egypt," in: JNES, 24 (1965), 125–26, 127–28; E. Ashtor, "The Number of Jews in Medieval Egypt," in: JJS, 18–19 (1967/8), 16–17; J.M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (1969), 8, 50, 255.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]


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