The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, October 28, 2016

The phantom Jews of al-Madina

Brill of Leiden has published a book recently, by one Haggai Mazuz, purporting to discuss the Jews of the Madinat Yathrib. Ilkka Lindstedt got around to reading this, because Brill wouldn't dare put out shoddy scholarship now would they? So here's Lindstedt's review.


Lindstedt does sort-of recommend this (in passive-voice) for researchers wishing to learn how Medinese Jews were portrayed in Muslim religious and historical literature; but based on similar reviews I've had to write, that's like saying that your significant-other's BFF has a nice personality. To translate him (and me) to the general reader: the book on its own terms is a failure. Nothing new has been exposed about the Jews of al-Madina.

But we cannot expect anything new, until the Saudis open that sacred city to Israeli archaeologists. The city as a whole is not nearly as well-documented as one might think. Mazuz was, therefore, stuck with an assignment he could not possibly conclude. If he had reoriented his project to 'Abbasi-era official memory of Hijazi Jewry, as Lindstedt suggests, he might have had something to work with.

In the meantime, now Brill are left with a book notching up negative reviews and scholarly disdain. They were mistaken to let this book loose without, first, a serious chat with its author.

posted by Zimri on 15:37 | link | 0 comments

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