Ayalon (Formerly Neustadt), David

views updated

AYALON (formerly Neustadt), DAVID

AYALON (formerly Neustadt ), DAVID (1914–1998), Israeli Arabist and historian, specializing in the social and military history of the medieval and early modern Muslim world. Born in Haifa, Ayalon studied at the Hebrew University, as well as a year at the American University of Beirut, receiving his Ph.D. in 1946. During World War ii he served in the British Army, and subsequently worked in the political department of the Jewish Agency. After the establishment of the State of Israel, he was employed at the Foreign Ministry until 1950, when he joined the staff of the Hebrew University as lecturer in the history of the Islamic peoples. He became a professor in 1959 and in 1962–66 served as director of the university's Institute of Asian and African Studies. Ayalon's early publications were in the field of medieval Jewish history, but he soon turned to the study of *Mamluk military and social history as well as other topics in pre-modern Islamic history. His many publications included Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Kingdom: A Challenge to a Medieval Society (1956; Hebrew translation 1994), several volumes of collected studies published in the 1970s to 1990s, and the posthumous Eunuchs, Caliphs and Sultans: A Study in Power Relationships (1999). His series of essays on "The Great Yasa of Chingiz Khan: A Re-examination" (published 1970–73) was a major contribution to the study of Mongol history. In 1947, together with the Arabist Pesaḥ Schusser (later Shinar), Ayalon published an Arabic-Hebrew dictionary, which for five decades was the mainstay of teaching Arabic among Hebrew speakers in Israel. Subsequently its revision and expansion were undertaken by the scholars of the Institute of Asian and African Studies. Ayalon was awarded the Israel Prize for humanities in 1972.

add. bibliography:

R. Amitai, "David Ayalon, 1914–1998," in: Mamluk Studies Review, 3 (1999), 1–12 (with a complete list of publications); Heb. version in Ha-Mizraḥ he-Ḥadash, 41 (2000), 3–5.

[Norman Itzkowitz /

Reuven Amitai (2nd ed.)]