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ʿUKBARĀ (Okbarā) , Babylonian town. The three towns of ʿUkbarā, Avana (Awana), and Busra, which were all situated near each other on the left bank of the Tigris, were regarded as the northern extremity of Babylonia during the talmudic period. The largest of these was ʿUkbarā; the geographer al-Muqaddasī said at the close of the tenth century that it was a big town with a large population. It fell into decline and was destroyed as a result of a change in the course of the Tigris, whose chief river bed moved eastward during the 12th century; this explains the fact that the town's ruins are now located to the west of the river. During the town's period of prosperity there was also a large Jewish settlement (see allusions to it in A.E. Harkavy, Zikkaron la-Rishonim ve-gam la-Aḥaronim, 4 (1887), no. 285). During the ninth century *Meshvi of ʿUkbarā achieved fame; he founded a sect which deviated from both traditional Judaism and *Karaism. According to the testimony of *Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler, there were about 10,000 Jews in ʿUkbarā during the second half of the 12th century. After the decline and destruction of the town, the Jewish settlement also disappeared. However, when the Jewish researcher Jacob *Obermeyer visited the site in 1877, he found many potsherds bearing Hebrew inscriptions in square script.


J. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien (1929), 81ff.; A. Ben-Jacob, Yehudei Bavel (1965), 53.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]