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15. The Jews of Palermo from Late Antiquity to the Expulsion (598–1492–93)

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Chapter Summary

The Jews of Palermo, like the island as a whole, tended to find themselves, depending upon the epoch or the context in question, on the frontier between two worlds, Islamic and Christian. There arose as a consequence a diachronic dialogue with the Arab-Islamic world, sustained by a cultural inheritance which differentiates Sicilian Jews from the other communities present in the peninsula. The principal evidence for a Jewish presence on the island in the first thousand years of the Christian era is provided by epigraphs and archaeological testimonies, concentrated above all in Eastern Sicily, to which one could add a handful of scattered references in literary sources. Between the end of the 10th century and the first seventy years of the 11th century Palermo and its Jewish community were indubitably at the centre of the economic and commercial triangle between Egypt, Ifriqiya and Sicily documented by the letters of the Geniza.

Keywords: Arab-Islamic world; Christian era; Eastern Sicily; Egypt; Geniza; Ifriqiya; Islamic; Jews; Palermo



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