Maghrebi Jews (in Hebrew Maghrebim מַגּרֶבִּים or מַאגרֶבִּים) are Jews who had traditionally lived in the Maghreb region of North Africa (al-Maghrib, Arabic for "the west") under Arab rule during the Middle Ages. Established Jewish communities had existed in North Africa long before the arrival of Sephardi Jews, expelled from Spain. The oldest Jewish communities were present during Roman times and possibly as early as within Punic colonies of the Ancient Carthage period. Maghrebi Jews largely mixed with the newly arrived Sephardic Jews, beginning from 13th century until 16th century, eventually being overwhelmed by Sephardics and embracing the Sephardic Jewish identity in most cases.
The mixed Maghrebi-Sephardic Jewish communities collapsed in the mid-20th century as part of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries, moving mostly to Israel and France and merging into the Israeli Jewish and French Jewish communities. Today, descendants of Maghrebi-Sephardic Jews in Israel have largely embraced the renovated Israeli Jewish identity and in many cases intermix with Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jewish communities there. Some of the Maghrebi-Sephardic Jews (literally Western Jews) also consider themselves as part of Mizrahi Jewish community (literally Eastern, or Babylonian Jews), even though there is no direct link between the two communities. They have similar histories of Arabic-speaking background and a parallel exodus from Arab and Muslim countries: the Mizrahim left nations of the Middle East, and the Maghrebi-Sephardics left nations of North Africa in the mid-20th century.
Some Jewish settlements in North Africa date back to pre-Roman times, possibly correlating with the late Punic settlements in the area.
After Jewish defeat in the First Jewish-Roman War in 70 CE, General Titus deported many Jews to Mauritania, and many of them settled in what is now Tunis. These settlers engaged in agriculture, cattle-raising, and trade. They were divided into clans, or tribes, governed by their respective heads, and had to pay the Romans a capitation tax of 2 shekels. During the Kitos War, Jews must have suffered losses, they continued to thrive in parts of North Africa that were under the Late Roman empire. After 429 CE, with the fairly tolerant Vandals, the Jewish residents of the North African province increased and prospered to such a degree that African Church councils decided to enact restrictive laws against them. After the overthrow of the Vandals by Belisarius in 534 CE, Justinian I issued his edict of persecution, in which the Jews were classed with the Arians and heathens.
In the seventh century, the Jewish population was augmented by Iberian Jewish immigrants, who, fleeing from the persecutions of the Visigothic king Sisebut and his successors, escaped to the Maghreb and settled in the local Byzantine cities. The much greater immigration of Sephardic Jews took place between 1391 and 1492, by the Alhambra decree edict of expulsion, and persecution in Spain and Portugal.
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- History of the Jews in Morocco
- History of the Jews in Algeria
- History of the Jews in Tunisia
- History of the Jews in Libya
- History of the Jews in Carthage
- Sephardi Jews
- Mizrahi Jews
- Berber Jews
- Jewish exodus from Arab countries