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TAYMA (Tema ), an oasis in northwest *Arabia, already mentioned in the Bible (Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23; Job 6:19) with another close oasis, Dedan, as a center of water and food in Arabia, through which the caravans made their way from South Arabia (Sheba) to the Land of Israel and to Mesopotamia. Tema is mentioned as well as a descendant of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15; i Chronicles 1:30) and with the same function in an Assyrian text from the eighth century b.c.e. Tema was one of the oldest Jewish communities in northern Arabia. Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king (539–555), recounts in one of his inscriptions that he built his house in Tema (542–552); this raised the conjecture that some of the Jewish exiles in *Babylonia settled with him in Tema. This conjecture was supported by Nabonidus' prayer found with the *Qumran Scrolls. According to inscriptions, Arabs settled among the Jews in Tayma in about the mid-fifth century, and many of them adopted Jewish ways, as Jews owned most of the land and the date palms in the area. Tema became the central Jewish settlement in northwest Arabia in the two or three centuries before Islam, alongside two other oases: Dedan (al-'Ulā) and Hajrah (Madā'in Ṣāliḥ). It seems that Tema was the place where the first Judeo-Arabic biblical translation was produced for the Arabic-speaking Jewish communities in pre-Islamic Arabia. In that area the earliest Judeo-Arabic inscriptions were found, from the fifth or the sixth century b.c.e. About the importance of Tema as a Jewish settlement during that time we can learn from the verse of the 6th–7th century Arab poet A'shā Maymūn who called the town "Taymā; of the Jews." The most famous Jew of the pre-Islamic era is the poet *Samuel ibn Adiya who built his castle, al-Ablaq, near Tema; his name is still known for his faithfulness. Because of their special status among the Arabs, the Jews of Tema were allowed to retain their land even after *Muhammad's conquest. The results of the extensive excavations carried out recently in Tema and its vicinity may uncover new information about Jewish settlements.


M. Liverany, "Early Caravan Trade between South Arabia and Mesopotamia," in: Yemen, studi archeologici, storice e filolgici sull'Arabia meridionale, 1:111–15; Baron, Social2, 3 (1957), index; H.Z. Hirschberg, Yisrael ba-Arav (1946), index; Sergio Noja, "Testimonianze epigraphiche do Giudei nell'Arabia settentrionale," in: Bibbia e Oriente, 21, 283–316; idem, "L'Arabie sédentaire et nomade," in: S. Noja (ed), L'Arabie avant l'Islam, 19–92; B. Chiesa, "Les commnautés juives en Arabie," in: ibid., 167–97; Y. Tobi, Bein Everla-Arav, 2 (2001), 17–60; G.D. Newby, The History of the Jews in Arabia (1988).

[Yosef Tobi (2nd ed.)]