KHURASAN (also Khorasan ), province of N.E. *Persia. The earliest mention of Jews living in Khurasan in the early fourth century appears in the Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 31b), where the present city of Merv is written in its older form mrgw'n. The Tang-e Azao inscription written in Hebrew script indicates the date 1064 Seleucid era/753–4 c.e. It was found in the Gur region in eastern Khurasan. In the same period a commercial note, also written in Hebrew script, was also found in eastern Khurasan in the place called Dandan Uiliq. In the Middle Ages Khurasan also included *Afghanistan, Turkestan, and Transoxiana. Jewish history has a long association with Khurasan, which in some Hebrew sources was believed to be the dwelling place of the *Ten Lost Tribes. Reliable rabbinical, *Karaite, and Muslim sources testify to a widely spread Jewish settlement in Khurasan. The caliph Omar ii (717–720) ordered his governor in the province "not to destroy any synagogues, but also not to allow new ones to be erected." Muslim sources also speak of Jewish jewelers and poets from Khurasan in the period of the *Abbasid caliphate (750–1258). An interesting Jewish figure from the ninth century known as *Hiwi al-Balkhi was the resident of the city of Balkh situated in the far eastern part of then Khurasan. The Arab geographer al-Maqdisī (985) stated, "There are in Khurasan many Jews and only a few Christians." The Hebrew chronicle of *Nathan b. Isaac ha-Kohen ha-Bavli (10th century) and the parallel version of *Seder Olam Zuta deal with a dispute between the head of the academy in *Pumbedita and the exilarch *Ukba concerning jurisdiction over the Jews in Khurasan. The Jewish authorities in *Baghdad used Khurasan as a place of exile for undesirables. Geonic literature speaks of a special Khurasan custom in matters of the calendar, marriage laws, and other halakhic subjects, but the Jews of Khurasan were enjoined by the Jewish authorities in Babylonia to comply with the Babylonian minhag. According to *Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century the authority of the Exilarch in Baghdad extended over the communities of Khurasan. The Jews lived in the cities of Sistan, *Nishapur, *Merv, Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni (see *Afghanistan), *Balkh, and the region east of *Herat. During the 16th century, Jews from Khurasan arrived in *India. They settled mainly in Old Delhi, Lahore, Kashmir, Agra, and Fatehpur. Many Jewish communities in Afghanistan and Turkestan were later augmented by Jews from *Meshed fleeing after the forced conversion of 1839.
Neubauer, Chronicles, 2 (1895), 78ff.; W.J. Fischel, in: hj, 7 (1945), 29–50. add. bibliography: M. Zand, "Bukhara," in: Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. by E. Yarshater (1989), 532ff.
[Walter Joseph Fischel /
Amnon Netzer (2nd ed.)]