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Shushtar

SHUSHTAR

SHUSHTAR , also called Sustar , and by the Arabs Tustar , town situated in the southwest of Iran in the province of *Khuzistān near the river Kārun. There is a reference to Shushtari in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanh. 94a), which clearly differentiates it from another city called Shush, the latter being situated to the northwest of Shushtar. The Talmud says "Shush-Tar" means "more than Shush." Neubauer claims that it is possible that the talmudic reference is to Shushan. Obermeyer thinks that Shush, meaning "beautiful," is short for Shushan, and Shushtar means "more beautiful." However, Shush was the ancient capital of the Elamites, and later one of the four capitals of the Achaemenians which most probably was populated by Jews. The city was later destroyed and afterwards rebuilt near its ruins. According to local tradition, the coffin of the prophet Daniel was found in Shushtar and later on was brought to Shush. It should be said that the common name "Shushan ha-Birah" in Jewish sources is Shush (Susa in Greek sources) and not *Hamadan, as wrongly interpreted.

Shushtar entered Jewish history because of a very important and rich *Karaite family known as Tustaries. The head of the family, Esrail ben Ya'qub, and his three sons, Abul-Fazl, Yosef, and Sa'id, known as the Sahl family, became famous in Islamic history. Some members of the Tustari family founded important trade centers of textile in *Baghdad and in *Egypt. They most probably immigrated to *Cairo around 1020, where they became close political figures in the court of the *Fatimid Sultans. The Muslim geographers of the 14th century write about the beauty and the prosperity of the city, but no one mentions the existence of the Jewish community there. The city is not mentioned in the Chronicle of *Bābāi ben Lutf (17th century) nor in other known Jewish travelogues as a dwelling place of the Jews. But a 17th-century Armenian chronicler, Arakel, claims that Jews lived in Shushtar. Neumark reports that Jews had ceased to live in Shushtar some 30–40 years before his time (1884), which means about the middle of the 19th century. However, it is possible that some time before the 18th century, Shushtar was no longer a dwelling place for Jews, mainly because of persecutions. Curzon and Sykes both describe the character of the Shushtaris as "disagreeable and fanatical."

bibliography:

Arakel of Tabriz, Livre d'Histoires: Collection d'Historiens Arméniens, transl. and ed. by M.I. Brosset, 1 (1874–76); G.N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question (1892), 2:363ff.; M. Gil, Tustaries, Family and Sect (1981); G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphates (1905); A. Neubauer, La Géographie du Talmud (1888); J. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien in Zeitalter des Talmud und des Gaonats (1929); E. Neumark, Massa be-Ereẓ ha-Kedem, ed. by Ya'ari (1947); P.M. Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia (1902), 252ff.

[Amnon Netzer (2nd ed.)]

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