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GABÈS (Ar. Qābis; the ancient Tacapae), maritime town in *Tunisia, situated in a luxuriant palm forest. Gabès was an important commercial and industrial center. Under Arab rule the Jews were farmers and manufacturers, who wove silk and exported – mainly precious cloth; they gained considerable wealth as a result of their trade with Sicily, the Orient, and the interior of Africa. Some of them were merchants of worldwide importance. In Gabès many Jews devoted themselves to poetry and music, and their intellectual leaders, such as the Ibn Jamaʿ family, succeeded in converting their academy into a religious center whose importance was comparable to that of *Kairouan. These rabbinical scholars maintained contact with *Sura and *Pumbedita, where the gaon Abraham al-Qābisi (i.e., of Gabès) had already settled at the beginning of the ninth century. During the 12th century they frequently communicated with the Jews of *Spain; Abraham *Ibn Ezra stayed in Gabès. After incursions by the Normans of *Sicily (1117, 1147) the community was destroyed by the *Almohads in 1159. Once reconstituted, the community did not return to its former importance. During the following centuries, the Jews of Gabès generally lived in peace. Many of them were engaged in commerce. The weaving of cloth and the wood and jewelry trades were principally Jewish crafts. The community, which numbered about 3,200 before World War II, suffered extensively under the German occupation of 1942–43. From 1948 its members immigrated to France and Israel. Only about 200 families of wealthy Jewish landowners still lived in Gabès in 1970.


R. Brunschwig, La Berbériè orientale sous les Hafsides, 2 vols. (1940–47), index; Hirschberg, Afrikah, index; S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, 1 (1967), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Ben-Sasson, "The Jewish Community of Gabès in the 11th Century, Economic and Residential Patterns," in: M. Abitbol (ed.), Communautes juives des marges sahariennes du magrhreb (1982), 265–84; D. Vitalis, Juifs du Sud, note du voyages (April 1950); "Gabès," in: I. Abramski-Bligh, Pinkas ha-Kehillot (1997), 306–18.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.