MOSUL (Arabic, Mauṣil):

Town of Asiatic Turkey; situated 220 miles northwest of Bagdad, on the right bank of the Tigris; capital of the province of the same name. Jews settled at Mosul, or rather in the ancient Nineveh (a suburb of which probably stood on the site of the present Mosul), on the left bank of the Tigris, when Shalmaneser, King of Assyria (730-712 B.C.), conquered Samaria. In 1165 Benjamin of Tudela found 7,000 Jews at Mosul, living under the protection of the house of Attabek. The head of the community was R. Zakkai ha-Nasi, who claimed to be a descendant of David. About 1171, David, chief rabbi of Mosul, obtained from the calif a firman permitting him to visit all the holy places (Luncz, "Jerusalem," 1899, p. 25). In 1289 the head of the flourishing community was the exilarch R. David ben Daniel, who also claimed to be a descendant of David. He, together with eleven members of the local rabbinical college, signed a letter threatening with excommunication Solomon Petit of Acre, the opponent of Maimonides (Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., vii. 166).

Little is known of the Jews at Mosul after 1289. In 1848 the traveler Benjamin II. found 450 Jewish families there (Benjamin II., "Mas'e Yisrael," p. 34).

In 1903 there were 1,100 Jews in a total population of 45,000. The affairs of the community are directed by the chief rabbi, Ḥakam Jacob, assisted by a court composed of three members. The community is not organized as such, levying no taxes; nor are there any benevolent societies. Although Benjamin II. says that in 1848 the Jews of Mosul were engaged in commerce and were in comfortable circumstances, they have since then been reduced by persecution and forced to live by peddling. At the instance of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, since 1875 the Ottoman government has consented to allow a Jew to have a seat in the municipal council of Mosul (Solomon Sasson in 1903), an arrangement adopted also in the other large cities of Kurdistan. Another Jew, 'Abd al-'Aziz, is a member of the supreme court.

There are two synagogues: the Large Synagogue, which is very ancient, and the Bet ha-Midrash, founded in 1875, which serves also as a school (250 pupils). Benjamin of Tudela says that in his time the tombs of the prophets Obadiah, Nahum, and Jonah existed at Mosul; and the natives say that beside the tomb of the last-named a bush springs up every year, recalling the "ḳiḳayon" of Jonah.

Thirty hours by horse to the north of Mosul is the village of Bar Tanura, inhabited exclusively by Jews, who claim that their ancestors have lived there since the return from Babylon, and who support themselves by manual labor. In 1893 this peaceable community was pillaged by Kurds from the mountains, who killed two Jews and wounded others. The remainder fled to the neighboring villages, and did not dare return to their homes until assured of the protection of the Vali of Mosul, which they secured through a letter from Moses ha-Levi, chief rabbi of Turkey.

In 1884 Siouffi, the French vice-consul at Mosul, sent to the Alliance Israélite Universelle the following statistical table in regard to the Jewish population in the province of Mosul, excepting that at Kerkuk, Koi-Sanjak, Ravenduz, and Sulaimaniye:

Place.No. of Jews.Occupations.
Akra250Merchants, druggists, goldsmiths, dyers, weavers, farmers.
Barach20Merchants, dyers, weavers, farmers.
Bet-Nuri60Dyers, druggists, weavers.
Brifke - Suara Spendar305Merchants, weavers, farmers.
Charafan305Dyers, weavers, farmers.
Choch and Gondoc107Merchants, druggists, dyers, farmers.
Dehoc205Merchants, weavers, farmers.
Erbil730Merchants, money-changers, druggists, goldsmiths, shoemakers, farmers.
Nafkir365Dyers, weavers, farmers.
Nervei40Merchants, druggists, dyers, weavers.
Rigan and Muzuriye350Dyers, weavers, farmers.
Sandur250Merchants, weavers, farmers.
Zakho510Merchants, druggists, ferrymen.
Zibar and Surdjie310Druggists, dyers, weavers, farmers.
  • Dezobry and Bachelet, Dict. d'Histoire et de Géographie;
  • Benjamin of Tudela, Mas'ot Binyamin;
  • Benjamin II., Mas'e Yisrael;
  • Luncz, Jerusalem, 1899;
  • M. Franco, Histoire des Israélites Ottomans, p. 211;
  • Bulletin d'Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1893, 1894.
D. M. Fr.
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