LUNEL (Hebr. ):
Chief town of the department of Hérault, France; at times it is called and (see Zerahiah Gerundi, preface to "Ma'or," and I. de Lattes, "Sha'are Ẓiyyon," p. 75). The Jewish community here is an ancient one; important in the eleventh century, it became still more prominent in the twelfth. Benjamin of Tudela, who visited it in 1166, says ("Itinerary," i. 3) that it consisted of 300 members, some of whom were very learned and wealthy and took pleasure in offering hospitality to poor students eager to attend its famous academy. This institution had become so important in the twelfth century that it was at times called the "dwelling-place of the Torah" ("Ma'or" to Pes. vii.), and the "vestibule of the Temple" ("Temim De'im," No. 7).
The lords of Lunel were in general very well disposed toward the Jews. In 1252 one of them, Gaucelin, employed two Jews of his dominion as intermediaries to consult the Spanish Jewish doctor Ibrahim in behalf of Alphonse of Poitiers, whose eyesight had become seriously affected. In 1295 Rosselin of Lunel, in spite of the interdictions of the Church councils, pawned the revenues of his barony to a Jew named Thauros. In 1319 the Jews of Lunel were arrested, and the property was seized of those among them who were charged with having, during the preceding Holy Week, "in outrageous mockery" carried a crucifix through the streets of Lunel and trailed it in the dust (MS. Aubais, in the Nîmes Library, fol. 60).
At present there is not a single Jewish family in Lunel, and only a few vestiges of the synagogue remain in the former Hôtel de Bernis (now belonging to A. Ménard) in the Rue Alphonse Ménard. According to a document in the municipal archives (case 5, book i., No. 2319) the cemetery was situated on the Mas Desports road.
The following scholars, or "sages of Lunel," are mentioned in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries: Meshullam b. Jacob, a very learned man; Judah b. Saul ibn Tibbon, physician and translator; Samuel ibn Tibbon, translator of Maimonides' "Moreh Nebukim"; the Talmudists Zerahiah b. Isaac ha-Levi (Gerundi), Jonathan b. David ha-Kohen, and Manoah; Abba Mari b. Moses b. Joseph (Don Astruc of Lunel), author of the "Minḥat Ḳena'ot," a collection in which he preserved the letters exchanged from 1303 to 1306 between the champions of orthodoxy and the advocates of science and philosophy (among the former were the Lunel rabbis Isaac b. Abigdor Simeon b. Joseph, called "En Duran of Lunel," and Meïr b. Isaiah; among the latter, Solomon b. Isaac, called the "prince," who was commissioned in 1286, together with several other Jews, to collect the taxes imposed by King Philip the Fair upon the Jews in the jurisdiction of the seneschal of Carcassonne); the physician Solomon, who is probably identical with Maestro Solomon Davin, author of a work on fever; Sen Samuel, commentator of the "Moreh Nebukim"; and the astronomer Salmon; and in the fourteenth century, the philosopher Asher b. Abraham Cohen.
Several scholars from Lunel bore the surname "Yarḥi" (= "of Lunel"), among them: Abraham b. Nathan ha-Yarḥi, David ha-Yarḥi, Aryeh Judah ha-Yarḥi b. Levi (Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 495; idem, "Z. G." p. 469), and Solomon b. Abba Mari ha-Yarḥi, who lived in the second half of the fourteenth century and wrote a Hebrew grammar entitled "Leshon Limmudim." The name "Lunel" is still a very common one among the Jews of southern France.
- Saige, Les Juifs du Languedoc, passim;
- Renan-Neubauer, Les Rabbins Français, pp. 512 et seq.;
- idem, Les Ecrivains Juifs, pp. 401, 404 et seq.;
- Bédarrides, Les Juifs en France, pp. 100, 143, 144;
- Abbé A. Rouet, Notice sur la Ville de Lunel au Moyen Age, pp. 13-77;
- Thomas Millerot, Histoire de la Ville de Luncl, pp. 27, 40 et seq.;
- Dom Vaissète, Histoire Générale du Languedoc, iv. 161;
- Grätz, Gesch. vii. 28 et seq.;
- S. Kahn, Les Ecoles Juives et la Faculté de Médecine de Montpellier, pp. 7, 11;
- Gross, Gallia Judaica, pp. 277 et seq.