NISIBIS (Greek, Νίσιβις; Hebrew,):
City in northeastern Mesopotamia, in the ancient province of Migdonia. The Biblical Accad (Gen. x. 10) is rendered "Neẓibin" (Nisibis) by the Targumim of pseudo-Jonathan and Jerusalem; but the Targum of Jonathan renders Canneh (Ezek. xxvii. 23) by "Nisibis" (comp. Gen. R. xxxvii. 5). There was at Nisibis an important Jewish community in the time of the Herods; and here, as well as in Nehardea, treasure-houses were built in which were deposited the gifts sent to the Temple by the rich Jews that lived outside Palestine, and whence they were forwarded under a strong escort to Jerusalem. There was also at Nisibis a celebrated college, at the head of which was R. Judah b. Bathyra. Its fame was so great that the words "That which is altogether just shalt thou follow" (Deut. xvi. 20) were interpreted by the Rabbis to mean "Follow the school of Judah b. Bathyra at Nisibis" (Sanh. 32b).
After the accession of Trajan the Jews of Mesopotamia in general resisted that conqueror, who wished to annex their territory to the Roman empire. But the most stubborn resistance was offered by the Jews of Nisibis, which city was taken only after a lengthy siege. When Lucius Quietus, Trajan's general, in his subjugation of the Mesopotamian cities, laid waste Nisibis and Edessa, the massacre of the Jews was so great that the houses, streets, and roads were strewn with corpses.
According to Yaḳut ("Mu'jam," s.v. "Naṣibin"), Nisibis was rebuilt by Chosroes Nushirvan, and after the Arab conquest it became the home of Mohammedan scholars. In the time of Saadia Gaon a man of Nisibis is mentioned whom it was desired to make exilarch (Neubauer, "M. J. C." ii. 83; see also Schechter, "Saadyana," p. 134). Benjamin of Tudela found there (c.1170) 1,000 Jews ("Itinerary," ed. Asher, i. 57), and Pethahiah of Regensburg states ("Sibbub," p. 6, St. Petersburg, 1881) that when he visited the place (1175-80) it contained a large community and three synagogues, one named for Judah b. Bathyra, and the other two built by Ezra. In one of the latter synagogues, he reports, there was a red stone brought from the Temple of Jerusalem.
- Asher in his edition of the Itinerary, ii. 129;
- Graetz, Hist. ii. 53, 358, 393, 398, 524;
- Kohut, Aruch Completum, s.v. ;
- Neubauer, G. T. p. 370.