ELCHE , city on the east coast of Spain, near Alicante; important in the late Roman period. Greek inscriptions discovered in 1905 on a mosaic floor in Elche dating to some time between the third and fifth centuries are believed to refer to a synagogue. They seem to indicate that the community in Elche was organized along the same lines as other Jewish communities in Mediterranean countries. Nothing is known about the Jews in Elche under Muslim rule. After the capture of the city by James i of Aragon in 1263, Astruc *Bonsenyor of Barcelona served as interpreter. Alfonso x of Castile granted land to Don Isaac ibn Wakar, the physician of Don Juan Manuel, in the neighborhood of Elche. A Jewish scribe was in charge of the office registers and taxes of the Muslim community there in 1308. In a document from 1314 dealing with a case between Muslims of Elche and a local Christian, a scribe had to translate Catalan passages into Arabic. Abraham al-Behbehi, the Jewish scribe, wrote the text in Judeo-Arabic, that is, in Arabic written in Hebrew characters. Apart from its linguistic interest, the document has great historical significance. It sheds light on the role Jews, experts in Arabic, played in a multicultural and multilingual society. Abraham b. Baḥye farmed the taxes in Elche from 1381 to 1384. Nothing is known of the later fate of the community.
Baer, Spain, index; Cantera-Millás, Inscripciones, 406–10; Vernet, in: Sefarad, 12 (1952), 126, 140, 142; Frey, Corpus, 1 (1936), nos. 662–4; F. Cantera Burgos, Sinagogas Españolas (1955), 212–6. add. bibliography: D. Romano, in: Separad, 29 (1969), 313–18; J. Hinojosa Montalvo, in: Homenaje al Profesor Juan Torres Fontes, vol. i, (1987), 791–800; M. Guardia, in: M. Mentre (ed.), L'art juif au Moyen Age, (1988), 105–12.
[Haim Beinart /
Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]