TRANSOXIANA, ancient region of central Asia, between the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers, known to the Arabs as Ma-Waran-Nahr ("beyond the river"). In the medieval period it was divided into several provinces, one being Khwarizm, with its two capitals Khiva and Urgench, and another Soghd, with the two capitals *Samarkand and *Bukhara. These four cities have been connected in various periods with Jewish settlements, mostly consisting of Persian Jews who had penetrated into these remote regions from the central provinces of Persia and *Khursan. According to an ancient Pahlavi tradition, Khwarizm was built by Narses (fifth century), the son of Yezdegerd I and his Jewish wife Shushan Dokt, daughter of the exilarch. That Jews lived in this region in early Islamic times can be inferred from the work of the ninth-century Arab historian, al-Ṭabarī (II, 1238); recounting that the shah of Khwarizm assembled the leaders of the various communities of his domain, he mentions the "Habar," a term usually applied to Jews. The 13th-century Muslim historian al-Umari mentions expressly in his Masālik al-Absār that there were in Khwarizm 100 Jewish families and the same number of Christian and that they were not permitted to exceed this total.
Khiva (see *Khorezm), a large city on the bank of the Oxus which was a central meeting place for merchants, had, according to one manuscript version of the travels of *Benjamin of Tudela (ed. A. Asher, 1 (1840), 128; 2 (1840), 168–9), a community of 8,000 Jews. *Solomon b. Samuel, the author of a Hebrew-Persian dictionary of the Bible, known as Sefer ha-Meliẓah (c. 1339), lived in Urgench in the 14th century.
E.N. Adler, Jews in Many Lands (1905), 196ff.; A. Yaari, Sifrei Yehudei Bukharah (1942); idem, in: Moznayim, 6 (1937/38), 496–503; W.J. Fischel, in: HJ, 7 (1945), 42ff.; I. Ben-Zvi, The Exiled and the Redeemed (19612), 56–58, 205–13.
[Walter Joseph Fischel]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.