About Hayy "Hiyya" Ya'ish יעיש ben David al-Daudi, HaNasi
From 969 to 1071, the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt ruled Palestine. Most scholars are convinced that during this period the Fatimids considered the gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva to be the head of the Jews in their domain (in all lands controlled by Fatimids). Hiyya HaNasi (Gaon of Sefard) was educated at Yeshivat Ge’on Yaʿaqov (Academy of the Pride of Jacob - the Palestine Yeshiva); a skilled mathematician who was highly skilled in geometry.
Hiyya HaNasi was the beneficiary of extensive grants of land in the vicinity of Lerida, with permission to rent them to whomever he desired, Christian, Jew, or Muslim. He also owned wine cellars in the Jewish citadel of Lerida. He is the first Jew to be designated in official documents as "bailiff' or “Almoxarife” [The Book of Lineage, or Sefer Yohassin by Abraham Zacuto ]
Lerida and Monzon are close to Saragossa. Also in Aragon, southwest of Saragossa in the city of Calatayud was a magnificent edifice known as the Ibn Yahya synagogue, after its builder Aharon Ibn Yahya, "besides two other chapels of prayer and study that bore the names of their founders." Calatayud “Calat”|”al-Yehud”is translated to mean “Castle, or fortress, of the Jews”. By the kings of Aragon the Jews of Calatayud were granted certain privileges, among which was one with regard to the oath; and these privileges were from time to time renewed.
Hiyya was administrator of Templar Lands in Castile-Leon. He was buried in a cemetery in Leon, Spain, just outside the walls of the Templar Castle. He fulfilled an important function in the apportionment of conquered territory on behalf of King Alfonso I “The Battler” (1073-1134) of Aragon and Navarre. Rabbi Hiyya was instrumental in conquering the the Taifa of Zaragoza (which included Lerida and Zaragoza and Monzon) from the arab dynasty named Banu Hud whose ruler was Al-Mustain I, Sulayman ibn Hud al-Judhami.
At the Siege of Bayonne in October 1131, three years before his death, King Alfonso I published a will leaving his kingdom to three autonomous Christian religious orders based in Palestine which were politically independent of the pope,
1) the Knights Templar, 2) the Hospitallers, and 3) the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre,
whose influences were expected to conflict with each other and to cancel one another's influence in Palestine. The will has greatly puzzled historians, who read it as a bizarre gesture of extreme piety uncharacteristic of Alphonso's character, one that effectively undid his life's work.
Elena Lourie (1975) suggested instead that it was Alphonso's attempt to neutralize the papacy's interest in a disputed succession— Aragon had been a fief of the Papacy since 1068— and to fend off Urraca's son from her first marriage, Alphonso VII of Castile, for the Papacy would be bound to press the terms of the will. This writer suspects the document to have been written by Hiyya ben David HaNasi, in order to neutralize foreign invaders in Palestine. Alphonso could not write - he employed his court Jew as scribe and physician. -------------------- References:
In Judische Familien-Forschung (Jewish Family Research) (Berlin, 1924-1938), the early journal of Jewish genealogy in Germany, there are several articles that discuss descent of this family from King David. The most interesting part is a list of generations entitled "The Yahia Document." It starts with King David, goes to Berachya (450 B.C.E.), and then there is a gap from 450 to 320 B.C.E. It resumes from Chisdia (300 B.C.E.) and continues to David ben Zakai, the Exilarch in Iraq who died in 940 C.E. Then there is a big gap with a few uncertain generations, and the list continues from Chiya al-Daudi (1090-1154) in Spain. The "Ibn Yahia" is changed to "Don Yahia - this part of Spain is now under Christian rule. The "Dons" continue to Don David (born in 1580) in Turkey, the last of the Yahia line on this list.
2) Peter Clemens
Yeshiva of Palestine
Jewish historiography gave the geonic period its name on the basis of the title gaon (Heb. pride) that designated the heads of the Babylonian yeshivot in Sura and Pumbedita (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq). Thanks to documents found in the Cairo Geniza, it is now known that there was also a yeshiva in Palestine in this era, and it too was headed by a gaon. Like its counterparts in Babylonia, this yeshiva was called Yeshivat Ge’on Yaʿaqov (Academy of the Pride of Jacob), and it functioned throughout the early Muslim period in Palestine, from the Muslim conquest in 634 to the Crusader conquest in 1099. The existence of the Palestinian yeshiva gives us a new perspective on the status of the Jewish population of Palestine. It was not only significant, but also served as the center of authority for many Jews in the Diaspora. Geniza documents have shown that there were Palestinian communities in many cities in both the eastern and western MediterraneanBasin and that they were subject to the authority of the Palestinian yeshiva, which they regarded as a continuation of the Sanhedrin. The Geniza itself was discovered in the synagogue of the Palestinian community of Fustat. Everything known about the history of the Palestinian yeshiva is based almost solely on Geniza documents. But while these have provided a great deal of information about Judaism under Islamic rule as from the tenth century, very little is known about the history of the Palestinian yeshiva before then. Even for the period about which sources have been preserved, the responsa of the Palestinian geonim are lacking, although their surviving correspondence clearly indicates that they replied to halakhic queries sent to them by Palestinian communities.
Since the Palestinian yeshiva, like the ones in Babylonia, saw itself as the continuation of the Sanhedrin, it too had seventy-one members. The structure of its core leadership, however, differed from that of the Babylonia academies. Along with the gaon, there were six sages, each one called a ḥaver, and collectively this group of leaders was called the ḥavura. The highest-ranking ḥaver was the “the second of the ḥavura,” and he served as av bet din, or chief justice of the court. The next in line was referred to as “the third,” and so on. As in the Babylonian yeshivot, a few families held the reins of power. It is interesting to note what emerges from a unique Geniza document: In the second half of the ninth century, the person serving as head of the Palestinian yeshiva was Ṣemaḥ, a scion of the house of the exilarch and the great-grandson of ʿAnan ben David, considered the harbinger of the Karaite movement (see Karaism). It appears that Jehoshaphat, Ṣemaḥ’s brother, served as gaon before him. (For a complete list of the known geonim of the Palestinian yeshivot, see Palestine.)
Talmudic sources provide an account of the many transformations undergone by the Palestinian yeshiva following the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. After the death of Judah ha-Nasi (ca. 220), the yeshiva was located in Tiberias, which during the Byzantine period was an important center for piyyuṭ (liturgical poetry) and midrash, and also the place where the Palestinian Talmud was redacted. Since Byzantine policy did not permit Jews to live in Jerusalem, Tiberias became the Jewish center in Palestine and for all the Jews of the Byzantine Empire. Then, around 641, only a few years after the Muslim conquest of Palestine, the gates of Jerusalem were opened for Jewish settlement. Sources from the geonic period record that Jews resettled in Jerusalem after an absence of more than five hundred years. Nevertheless, the Palestinian yeshiva initially chose not to transfer its seat from Tiberias to Jerusalem. It is entirely possible that the move to Jerusalem, which only took place at the end of the first quarter of the tenth century, was a matter of necessity rather than choice, because in 921 a riftoccurred in the Palestinian yeshiva just as it was attempting to maintain its position vis-à-vis the Babylonia yeshivot over the issue of fixing the calendar. The move to Jerusalem seems to have been one outcome of this split. Geniza documents dating from after this relocation often refer to the members of the yeshiva’s Diaspora communities as “Jerusalemites.” The status of Jerusalem was greatly enhanced as a result of the yeshiva’s move and many Jewish pilgrims came to the city, particularly during the High Holy Days month of Tishri. Ceremonies were held on the Mount of Olives with the gaon officiating.
From 969 to 1071, the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt ruled Palestine. Most scholars are convinced that during this period the Fatimids considered the gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva to be the head of the Jews in their domain (for further details, again see Palestine). If this approach is correct, then direct relations between the head of the Jews in the Fatimid caliphate, whose seat was Jerusalem, and the caliph, whose capital was in Cairo, were definitely impossible. For it must be kept in mind that at that time Jerusalem was not the capital of Palestine, and the seat of the governor who administered Palestine on behalf of the Fatimid government was Ramle, the district capital. Geniza documents establish that the heads of the yeshiva had to rely on the help of Cairene Jews with good connections at the caliphal court to present their requests to the central administration. During part of Solomon ben Judah Gaon’s long term of office (1025–1051), the Karaite Tustari brothers, Ḥesed and Abraham, held important positions at court. The gaon’s dependence on the two brothers led him to adopt a policy of conciliation toward the Karaite Mourners of Zion who had settled in Jerusalem. Thus, he sought to put a stop to the annual Rabbanite ceremonial excommunication of the Karaites on the Mount of Olives.
In about 1076, the Palestinian yeshiva, now led by Elijah ha-Kohen ben Solomon Gaon (1062–1083), was forced to leave Jerusalem and settle in Tyre, which was no longer under Fatimid authority. The move was a result of the Turcoman invasion, which had begun in 1071 and had caused the situation in Palestine to seriously deteriorate for the entire population. The hardships and lamentations of Christian inhabitants and pilgrims following this occupation were one of the factors that led to the launching of the First Crusade. Jerusalem’s Karaite leaders, the nesi’im, moved to Egypt. Elijah’s son Abiathar, the last gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva, never returned to Jerusalem and died as a refugee in Damascus around 1112, while fleeing the Crusaders.
As is apparent from the preceding survey, the Palestinian yeshiva was beset with problems on many fronts—the vicissitudes of relations with the changing Muslim governments and the ongoing attempts by the Babylonia yeshivot to undermine its status. The haughty attitude of the Babylonian yeshivot toward the Palestinian yeshiva was probably the main factor that led to the situation whereby, until the discovery of the Geniza, the existence of an active Jewish center in Palestine during the geonic period was totally unknown. The yeshivot in Babylonia contested both the authority of the Palestinian yeshiva in the Diaspora and the Palestinian tradition of halakhic interpretation. The Palestinian yeshiva also had to contend with the challenge posed by the Karaite community in Palestine, mainly in Jerusalem. Although the Karaite movement began in the Diaspora communities of Babylonia and Persia, the most important Karaite center was established in Jerusalem in the last quarter of the ninth century by the Mourners of Zion. They vigorously challenged the Rabbanite leadership, which they considered the main obstacle to the coming of the messiah. Karaite communities in the Diaspora were less militant.
In addition to these external problems, there was no lack of power struggles over the leadership of the yeshiva among the families whose members routinely filled this position. Two representatives of the exilarchic line, Ṣemaḥ and Jehoshaphat, served as geonim. This branch of the Ananite dynasty was deposed from the yeshiva as the Karaite movement increased in strength. Daniel ben Azariah, who held the office of gaon from 1051 to 1062, was also of exilarchic lineage. He fought against the Kohen family, who hailed from North Africa ( Elijah and Abiathar, mentioned above, were members of this family). From 1038 to 1042, Solomon ben Judah was forced to defend his position against a challenge by Nathan ben Abraham, who attempted to have Solomon removed so that he could declare himself gaon. (On this power struggle see Palestine.)
A twofold disaster brought an end to the geonic period in Palestine. The First Crusade dealt a demographic death blow to the country’s Jewish population. A considerable number of communities simply disappeared. Second, the status of the yeshiva had already suffered a severe setback when it moved to Tyre, since it was cut off from the Jews of the Fatimid caliphate. It remained in exile until the First Crusade and was never able to return to Palestine. As a result, for many generations Palestine ceased to be the center of Jewish authority for the Diaspora. The attempt to preserve the authority of the Palestinian yeshiva in exile failed, and the Diaspora communities that were called Palestinian or Jerusalemite began to wane and finally disappeared altogether.
Brody, Robert. The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 100–122.
Gil, Moshe. A History of Palestine , 634–1099 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 490–539.
Goitein, S. D.. A Mediterranean Society (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), vol. 2, pp. 5–40.
Mann, Jacob. The Jews in Egypt and in Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs, 2 vols. in one (New York: Ktav, 1970), vol. 1, pp. 13–201; vol. 2, pp. 11–238.
———. Texts and Studies (New York: Ktav, 1972), vol. 1, pp. 309–356.
Citation Yoram Erder. " Yeshiva of Palestine." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 01 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/yeshiva-of-palestine-SIM_000258>
Hayy "Hiyya" Ya'ish יעיש ben David al-Daudi, HaNasi's Timeline
רמלה, Israel, ישראל
Coimbra, Burgandy, al-Burtuqali
Castilla y León, España