Alroy, David

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ALROY, DAVID

ALROY, DAVID (Menahem ; 12th century), leader of a messianic movement in *Kurdistan. Alroy was born in Amadiya, east of Mosul. His personal name was Menahem b. Solomon, but he called himself David as befitted his claim to be king of the Jews. "Alroy" (אַלְרוֹאִי) and "al-Rūḥī" (אַל־רוֹחִי) are evidently corruptions of al-Dūjī, his family name in Arabic. The available information about the movement and its initiators is contradictory and tendentious. The movement probably started among the "mountain Jews" of northeast Caucasus before 1121, although some sources and historians place its beginnings in the second half of the century. It gathered momentum from the ferment that accompanied the struggle waged between Christendom and Islam in the wake of the First Crusade, and during the wars preceding the second. The tribulations of the period and massacres in which they were the victims appeared to many Jews as the pangs heralding the advent of the Messiah. The principal leader of the movement was initially Solomon, Alroy's father, who claimed to be the prophet Elijah. An important role was played by one Ephraim b. Azariah, called "the Jerusalemite." The young Menahem was declared the Messiah, a claim assisted by his personal charm. He was of fine appearance, had excelled in his studies in the Baghdad academy, was acquainted with Muslim customs, learned in Jewish mysticism, and skilled in sorcery. To announce their intentions, the leaders of the movement addressed a missive "to all Jews dwelling nearby or far-off and in all the surrounding countries" announcing that "the time has come in which the Almighty will gather together His people Israel from every country to Jerusalem the holy city." They emphasized penitential preparation by fasting and praying. Their opponents viewed such propaganda as dangerous, and shortly afterward the movement was suppressed. Alroy, however, reestablished his center in Amadiya on the route leading then from Khazaria to the Crusader kingdom. Its strategic position as a Muslim base for operating against Edessa (Urfa) had been strengthened by fortifications constructed by Zangī, ruler of Mosul. Alroy now proposed to capture Amadiya. He was encouraged by the contemporary Muslim sectarians (Yezidis) who also sought to gain control of the stronghold and its surroundings, aided by the superstitious awe with which its inhabitants regarded miracle workers and mystics. Rumors were circulated that when imprisoned by the Seljuk sultan, then overlord of the local rulers, Alroy had magically freed himself. Alroy then invited the Jews of the vicinity as well as those living in Azerbaijan, Persia, and the Mosul region, to Amadiya. They were to come with weapons concealed in their garments to witness how he would obtain control of the city. According to an anti-Jewish tradition, rumors of his activities reached Baghdad. Two impostors had forged a letter from Alroy in which he promised to convey the Jews of Baghdad to Jerusalem by night, on the wings of angels. Alroy, therefore, acquired many adherents in Baghdad, and those who waited up all night for the promise to be fulfilled became a laughingstock. Before Alroy managed to do more, he was murdered – according to one version by order of the authorities – according to another, by his father-in-law, who had been bribed. A number of his followers in Azerbaijan who continued to believe in him after his death became known as Menahemites. Alroy's death probably occurred long before the date recorded by Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1160). The character in Benjamin Disraeli's novel, Wondrous Tale of Alroy (1839), is largely fictional as he is depicted there as a conquerer.

bibliography:

A.N. Poliak, David Alro'i (Heb., 1958); idem, Khazaria (19513), 232–4; Baron, Social 2:5 (1957), 202–5.

[Abraham N. Poliak]