The Trumas HaDeshen #88 in chelek 2, seen here discussed going to live in Eretz Yisroel in his times.

In his discussion he mentions

בני ברית מערביים נחשבים לרשעים גמורים מוסרים מפורסמים והם טורדים ומבלבלים האשכנזים שהם שומרי תורה

Who are these בני ברית מערביים and what were they doing? I'm assuming he means middle eastern Jews so I wonder if they were still practicing Judaism or perhaps they had converted to Islam. He does call them Bnei Bris, but at the same time he implies that the Ashkenzi (immigrants?) were the ones keeping the Torah. Why were these other people so intent on ruining it for the Ashkenazim?

Later on he mentions רשעת הישמעלים so these people were not Muslim, not that it's likely he would call a Muslim Bnei Bris.

A quick reference point, the author of Trumas HaDeshen Rabbi Yisroel Isserlein died 26 years before the Ottoman conquest of the Holy land, so whatever political issues were going on were still under the rule of the Mamluks

  • It is quite possible that he is referring to non-Muslim Arabs descended from Yishmael who are living in the land of Israel. They are also called 'Bnai Yishmael' and do have a tradition of keeping the covenant which they received from Avraham. It is not the Torah but something akin to the seven laws of Noach. That is to distinguish them from the balance of Muslims in the area. Aug 16, 2017 at 16:59
  • Maybe he’s referring to (assimilated?) Jews who live in Arab countries? Can you share some more context?
    – DonielF
    Aug 16, 2017 at 18:19
  • @DonielF Could be. I used converted to Islam as a similar suggestion. Seems to be a more period accurate guess. But I don't know. I have no other information to offer.
    – user6591
    Aug 16, 2017 at 19:15
  • @DonielF The language of the Trumat HaDeshen would be different if he was referring to assimilated Jews. The Hebrew is "בני ברית מערביים"which means that they are actual Arabs who are included in a covenant. A Jew who converts to Islam does not become an Arab. They become a Muslim. They would be called a "משומד". It is possible that he could be referring to Jewish converts who were of Arab background who are known informants. But that seems highly unlikely. Aug 16, 2017 at 19:15
  • @DonielF And if you read the whole response, it seems to clarify that those Arabs who are 'Bnai Brit' are actually called "Yishmaelim" in the closing words. In other words, they are cousins to Jews. In Midrashim, like Sefer HaYashar, they distinguish between descendants from Yishmael and other inhabitants of the Arab middle east. Aug 16, 2017 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


According to Rabbi Yehudah Leib Maimon in Sefer Zikaron Leshlomo Meir Sali, this is a reference to some Sephardic Jews living in Eretz Yisrael who would inform on the Jews who came to live in Yisrael, especially the Ashkenazim. These "mosrim" were considered at times among the "z'kenim" of Yerushalayim; meaning they were considered to being men of stature, though clearly, they weren't really. It seems they gained this status by inducing fear. Thus, by the time of Rabbi Ovadyah of Bartenura, a number of decades after Rabbi Isserlein, Yerushalayim's Jewish community had become considerably smaller. According to Rabbi Maimon, based on what the Bartenura wrote, it seems they did this purely for monetary reasons.

Rabbi Yisrael Hess in Or Hamizrach, vol. 21, also notes that this term refers to Sephardic Jews.

Dr. Avraham David in Al Bamotei Hatzvi, on the other hand, thought this may be a reference to the "Edah Hamughrabit", i.e., Jews from North Africa, who got into an inter-edah fight with the Ashkenazim, and not necessarily "z'kenim"-leaders. Rabbi Eliyahu Zini in Eretz Chemdatenu also wrote that this refers to North-African Jews.

  • Thank you! (15)
    – user6591
    Jan 17, 2021 at 21:03
  • @user6591 You're welcome!
    – Harel13
    Jan 17, 2021 at 21:04

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