NISIBIS (Neşibin, Nezibin), the modern townlet Nesib in S. Anatolia. Over a long period (under the Roman rule, until 363; and under the rule of Persia and the Arabs) Nisibis was a flourishing trading station on the commercial route from the Far East to the western countries. During the 13th century, as a result of the *Mongol conquests, the town was destroyed; the Maghrebian traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, who visited it during the first half of the 14th century, relates that most of the town was in ruins.
The first evidence of a Jewish settlement in the town was related by Josephus during the first century C.E.; he says that in Nisibis and *Nehardea the Jews of Babylonia consecrated their half shekels and their vows and donations to the Temple in Jerusalem; they traveled from Nisibis to the Holy City. The community appears to have been well founded because it also absorbed the Jews of Seleucia and Ctesipon who fled the vengeance of their neighbors as a result of the acts of *Anilaeus and Asinaeus (see *Nehardea). The town is known to have been a Torah center during the second century, when Judah b. Bathyra II attracted students from as far away as Palestine. During the third century, as a result of the rising influence of the Christians, which surpassed that of their Jewish neighbors, there was a cooling down of Nisibis' relations with Palestine and its scholars.
During the period of Islamic rule the Jewish settlement in the town prospered. At the time of the great emigration of the Jews of Babylonia to the lands which bordered on the Mediterranean Sea during the tenth century, however, Jews also left Nisibis. In a document of 989, for example, Netira b. Tobiah ha-Kohen of Nisibis is mentioned as an inhabitant of the town *Damietta in Egypt. During the second half of the 12th century the traveler *Benjamin of Tudela nevertheless found about 1,000 Jews there; his contemporary Pethahiah of Regensburg mentions a large community, the synagogue of the tanna R. Judah b. Bathyra II, and two synagogues which were built, according to tradition, by Ezra the Scribe. After the campaigns of the Mongols the Jewish settlement of the town was also impoverished. R. Moses Basola, who visited the Oriental countries between 1521 and 1523, met a Jew in Beirut from the environs of Nisibis who told him of the pillar of cloud which appears on the 18th of Sivan and at Pentecost over the tomb of the tanna Ben Bathyra in Nisibis and also that pilgrimages to his tomb took place from the surrounding areas. Under Ottoman rule the decline of the community continued and its members even turned to the Jews of Cochin with requests for support (D.S. Sassoon, Ohel David, 2 (1931), 995). At the close of the 19th century, according to Obermayer, there were approximately 200 miserable clay houses in the town, half of which belonged to Jews. Apparently no Jews resided in Nisibis at the outset of the 21st century.
Neubauer, Géogr, 350; Jos., Ant., 18:312; J. Obermayer, Landschaft Babylonien… (1929), 128–30; J.B. Segal, in: J.M. Grintz and J. Liver (eds.), Sefer… M.H. Segal (1964), 38–39; Neusner, Babylonia, 3 (1968), index.
[Eliyahu Ashtor and
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.