PALTIEL (d. 975), astrologer, physician, and statesman at the court of the *Fatimid caliph al-Muʿizz. Paltiel is referred to in two Hebrew sources. Ahimaaz, his relative, lists him in his genealogy (Megillat Aḥima'aẓ, ed. B. Klar (1944), 35–45), indicating that in 962, with al-Muʿizz's conquest of the south Italian city of Oria, which was Paltiel's birthplace, the caliph was taken with Paltiel's astrological skills and appointed him as his chief aide. The Sefer Ḥasidim of *Judah b. Samuel of Regensburg notes that Paltiel was captured during the conquest of Oria, and that he became the physician of the Fatimid ruler. Ahimaaz describes how during the conquest of *Egypt by the caliph (969), Paltiel was charged with provisioning the army. It appears that Paltiel was Wāsiṭa (somewhat lower than vizier). He appears to have served as state secretary, or in some similar position, and in connection with this office he handled matters of military administration. Ahimaaz refers to him by the title *nagid on three occasions. For this reason, J. *Mann and others presume that he was the first to bear this title in Egypt. However, it has already been shown that his public office had no connection with duties performed for his coreligionists, as was the case with a nagid at a later date (S.D. Goitein and M.R. Cohen). M. Ben-Sasson thinks that this story in the Ahimaaz scroll was written under the impression of the existence of the heads of the Jews (negidim) in North Africa. The author of the Ahimaaz scroll gives Paltiel the title nagid, a title that was relevant in the same period to *Kairouan. He considers Paltiel the first courtier in the Fatimid court, and a leader who worried about the Jewish population.
It seems quite clear to Robert *Bonfil that the story of Paltiel as we find it in Sefer Ḥasidim displays more than three consecutive stages of mythologization. But on the other hand it does not seem possible to say exactly how many stages there were, nor to determine exactly when and where they took place.
Other scholars have tried to identify Paltiel with well-known personalities of his generation. M.J. de Goeje (in: ZDMG, 52 (1898), 75–80) stated that Paltiel was none other than al-Jawhar, a well-known Fatimid military leader. Thus, he concluded that Jawhar must have been a Jew. D. Kaufmann and W.J. Fischel sought to identify him with a Jewish convert to Islam, Yaʿqūb *Ibn Killis, the first of the Fatimid viziers of Egypt. A. *Marx maintains the view of de Goeje on the basis of the Sefer Ḥasidim reference. It has been established, however, that neither of these identifications is correct. B. *Lewis identified him with Mūsā ibn Eleazar, who was captured during the Fatimid conquest of Oria, and of whom it is known that he became the physician of the caliph al-Muʿizz, and was with him during his conquest of Egypt. A number of Mūsā's medical writings are extant, and he was also a friend of Yaʿqūb ibn Killis. Moshe Gil suggests identifying Paltiel with Faiṣal ben Ṣāliḥ, a Fatimid statesman and military commander. R Bonfil prefers this identification, and thinks that this identification would indeed quite reasonably explain many details that remain obscure in Lewis' hypotheses, but as Gil is well aware, he does find a proper answer to numerous other details. There are opinions of some historians that the story about Paltiel is a legend invented by his family members.
According to the Ahimaaz scroll Paltiel donated large sums for the academy sages and for the mourners of the sanctuary in Jerusalem, for the academy of the geonim in Babylon and for the poor and needy of the various communities. He also brought the remains of his parents in caskets to Jerusalem. This scroll also tells that after Paltiel's death, the office of court physician to the Fatimid caliphate was filled for four generations by Paltiel's descendants.
Marx, in: JQR, 1 (1910/11), 78–85; Mann, Egypt, index; Fischel, Islam, 65–68; Neustadt, in: Zion, 4 (1939), 135–43; Hirschberg, ibid., 23–24 (1958/59), 166f.; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 152–4; Lewis, in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 30 (1967), 177–81. ADD BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Gil, Ereẓ Yisrael ba-Tekufah ha-Muselemit ha-Rishonah, 634–1099, 1 (1983), 299–302; R. Bonfil, in: M. Fishbane (ed.), The Midrashic Imagination–Jewish Exegesis Thought and History (1993), 228–54; M. Ben-Sasson, Ẓemiḥat ha-Kehillah ha-Yehudit be-Arẓot ha-Islam, Kayrawan 800–1057 (1996), 39, 355–57; M. Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt (1980), 5, 12–27; M. Gil, Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (2004), index.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.