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HAFSIDS (also known as Banu Hafs), *Berber dynasty of the 13th through 16th centuries in Ifriqiyah ( *Tunisia and eastern Algeria of today), founded by the *Almohad leader Abu Zakariyya Yahya in 1230. Under his rule local Berber tribal disputes and unrest were pacified and economic activity through trade accords with Spain and Italy brought on prosperity. One of his sons, al-Mustansir, assumed the title of caliph in the 1250s, increasing the power of the dynasty to its zenith. By then the Hafsids had extended their influence to the borders of northern Morocco and Spain. Hafsid unity was interrupted by dissension under several of al-Mustansir's successors but was largely restored under the leadership of Uthmān in the 1430s. The dynasty came to an end when the *Ottoman Turks occupied parts of *Algeria and transformed Tunis into a pașalik in 1574.

With minor exceptions, the Jews under Hafsid domination benefited from the prevalence of cultural and commercial florescence. They traded in the Mediterranean with their co-religionists, notably in Italy, as well as with local merchants who constituted part of the Christian minority. Ifriqiyah's Jewry had been reinforced in the late 15th and early 16th centuries by an influx of Jews who were expelled from Spain. The military incursion of the Spaniards and Portuguese – the former oppressors of the Jews – into Ifriqiyah in the mid-16th century sowed panic among the members of the Jewish community, prompting many of them to flee from the larger cities into the desert. Their anxieties were short-lived, however. The conquest of the region by the Ottoman Turks in the latter half of the 16th century significantly improved their socio-economic and political status once again.


H.Z. Hirschberg, A History of the Jews in North Africa, vol. I (Eng. tr., 1974); J.M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period (1987); D. Larguèche, "The Mahalla: The Origins of the Beylical Sovereignty in Ottoman Tunisia during the Early Modern Period," in: J. Clancy-Smith (ed.), North Africa, Islam and the Mediterranean World (2001).

[Michael M. Laskier (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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