views updated May 08 2018


MOSUL , city in N. *Iraq, on the Tigris river. Jews settled in Mosul, or rather in ancient *Nineveh (a suburb of which probably stood on the site of the present Mosul), on the left bank of the Tigris, when Shalmaneser, king of *Assyria (730–712 b.c.e.), conquered *Samaria.

In the middle of the seventh century c.e. there was a Jewish community in Mosul living in a special quarter called Mahallat al-Yahūd ("the Jewish Quarter"; according to Ibn al-Faqīh, bga v 129; Balādhuri, Futuḥ, 1907, 340). In the middle of the 10th century the Jewish philosopher Ibn Abi Saʿīd ibn Uthmān Saʿīd al-Mawṣilī lived in Mosul and through another Jew asked a contemporary Arab-Christian philosopher to settle several philosophical questions (S. Pines, in: paajr, 34 (1966), 103–36). During the first half of the 12th century the Jewish community of Mosul increased when a Muslim principality was established there. It was ruled by Atabeg Zangī (1127–46) and his sons who sought to unite all the small kingdoms in the vicinity of Mosul, to expand his domain up to *Syria, and later to make a joint attack on the Crusaders. Many Jews who had suffered from the Crusaders in Ereḥ Israel came to the town and placed themselves under the protection of the Muslim rulers, who did not harm them. The traveler *Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Mosul before 1170, found "approximately 7,000 Jews headed by R. Zakkai (b. Azariah b. Solomon), the nasi who claimed to be from the Davidic line, and R. Joseph, who is called Burhan al-Falak [Ar. "Globe"] who is the [astrologer] to the king Zein al-Dīn" (Benjamin, Travels, p. 94). R. *Pethahiah of Regensburg, who visited Mosul about ten years later, found more than 6,000 Jews and two nesi'im: David and Samuel, two cousins who were of the Davidic line. The nesi'im had the authority to imprison transgressors. Every Jew paid a tax, one dīnār per year, half of which was for the authorities and half for the nesi'im. They had fields and vineyards.

In 1289 the head of the flourishing community was the exilarch *David b. Daniel. He, together with 11 members of the local rabbinical college, signed a letter threatening Solomon Petit of Acre, the opponent of *Maimonides, with excommunication (Graetz, Gesch, 7 (c. 1900), 166).

After a brief period of prosperity at the beginning of the Il-Khan rule, at the time of the vizier *Saʿd al-Dawla in the second half of the 13th century, there followed a swift decline and harsh setbacks which impoverished the community. Tamerlane, who captured the city at the end of the 14th century, caused great harm to its inhabitants. Nevertheless, there was a great yeshivah in the city at the beginning of the 16th century, which sent one of its students to the Adoni family to serve as rabbi of the *Baghdad community (A. Ben-Yaacob, Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1961), 34–36).

In 1848 the traveler Benjamin ii found 450 Jewish families there (Benjamin ii, Mas'ei Yisrael (1859), 34). In the 20th century, there was no improvement in the situation of the Jews of Mosul. The figure of 3,000 Jews in the city remained more of less stable until the beginning of the 20th century. The decline of Mosul's economic standing seems to have contributed to the departure of the Jews for Baghdad. According to the census of 1947 there were in the city 5,688 Jews. The Jewish community of Mosul remained enclosed in its neighborhood, most of them poor and ignorant, a few of them merchants. Schools established by the *Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1906 (for boys) and in 1912 (for girls) were closed at the outbreak of World War i. In about 1930 schools for boys and girls were established by the philanthropist Eliezer *Kadoorie, but there was no Jewish high school. A few children attended government schools and a very small number attained a higher education.

Probably because of their lowly position, the Jews of Mosul did not arouse the envy of their neighbors and were not persecuted. Nevertheless, they lived in great fear throughout this entire period. The rabbis of the community were not highly regarded. During World War i the chief rabbi of the community was R. Elijah Barazani, and from the 1920s, his son R. Solomon Barazani (d. 1960), who remained in this position until he immigrated to Israel in 1951. In the years 1950–55 all the Jews of Mosul immigrated to Israel.


D.S. Sassoon, History of the Jews in Baghdad (1949), index; A. Ben-Yaacob, Yehudei Bavel (1965), index; idem. Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1961), index. add. bibliography: E. Laniado, Yehudei Mosul mi-Galut Shomron ad Mivẓa Ezra ve-Nehemiah (1981); Enẓiklopedya shel Yehudei Kurdistan (1993).

[Abraham Ben-Yaacob,

Paul Borchardt, and

Hayyim J. Cohen /

Nissim Kazzaz (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 14 2018


city in northern iraq (mesopotamia).

Mosul (also spelled Mawsil) is located on the west bank of the Tigris river opposite the ancient city of Nineveh. It was a significant center during the early Islamic period with a sizable Christian population. Destroyed by the Mongols, Mosul regained importance under the Ottoman Turks. Some of the older mosques and churches survived.

Located on the trade routes that led to eastern Anatolia and thence to the Black Sea, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran to the south, goods from Mosul were shipped by raft down the Tigris to Baghdad or overland to Aleppo and Damascus or points north. The city was a center for regional and international trade: Grain export, the manufacture of cotton thread and fabric (whence the term muslin ), and trafficking in sheep hides and wool were important activities.

The government at Istanbul regained administrative control of the city from local rulers in 1834; in 1879 it became a separate Ottoman province that included Kirkuk, Arbil, and Sulaymaniya, but real power remained in the hands of local familiesMustafa Çelebi Sabunci was virtual dictator from 1895 to 1911. The population of the mud-brick-walled city in the later nineteenth century was estimated at forty thousand, including seven thousand Christians and fifteen hundred Jews. By World War I the population of Mosul had risen to seventy thousand, and the city became the economic and administrative capital of the Ottoman province of Mosul, one of three (Baghdad, Basra, Mosul) that would make up modern Iraq.

With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and the consequent protracted negotiations between Britain and Turkey for sovereignty over the city, Mosul became part of Iraq rather than Turkey. Though its stature as a center of trade waned as Baghdad became Iraq's capital, the city continued to expand. During the 1940s and 1950s many of the traditional families came to own much of the land and were instrumental, together with local Arab nationalists, in fomenting a rebellion against Abd al-Karim Qasim in 1959. With the discovery of oil nearby and the construction of a refinery, Mosul has retained its importance. It has rail links to Baghdad, Syria, and Turkey, a university, an airport, and a religiously diverse population. The population (estimated at 1,846,500 in 2004) is mainly Kurdish with a significant Christian minority and a Yazidi population that lives in the Sinjar mountains to the west of Mosul.

see also qasim, abd al-karim.


Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of Its Communists, Baʿthists, and Free Officers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978.

reeva s. simon