Diaspora : Babylonia
During the period of the Second Temple, the main events of Jewish history had taken place in the Land of Israel. In the second century, after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt and the Haadrianic persecutions that followed it, the centre of Jewish life moved from Judea to Galilee. There, by the 3rd century, the body of laws known as the Mishnah was compiled and edited by Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi, and certain ceremonies were performed which continued to suggest independence - if not political, then at least in a religious and cultural sense.
A large Jewish settlement also existed in Babylonia from the time of the first exile in the sixth century BCE. There were Jewish communities in Egypt, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Asia Minor and the Arabian Peninsula. After the destruction they began to come into their own. In particular, the main weight of religious authority gradually shifted from the Galilee to Babylonia, and a constant stream of scholars and students 'went down' to that country. A large area in Babylonia was almost exclusively populated by Jews, who enjoyed a great deal of autonomy under the leadership of exilarchs who claimed descent from King David.
In 219 CE Abba Arikha, who was better known as Rav, and who had become one of the outstanding rabbis of Eretz Israel, returned to Babylonia. He established an academy which, together with that of his colleague Samuel became the religious authority for the entire Jewish world. At these academies the Mishnah was expanded into the Talmud, and the record of the discussion that took place in those Babylonian academies is still studied today. The Talmud, beside legal and ritual material, includes discussions on a vast range of subjects; legends, stories and anecdotes, moral and ethical homilies, and investigation of natural and scientific matter. The Babylonian Talmud was completed in the 5th century while an Eretz Israel version, called the Jerusalem Talmud was finished somewhat earlier.
The Babylonian Jewish community prospered for several hundred years, the heads of its rabbinical academies begin called geonim. In the 9th and 10th centuries a major schism took place between the Karaites, a sect that denied the rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, and the established Rabbanites. This schism, together with the rise of Islam, had the effect of inspiring the first systematic studies of the Hebrew language, Bible and philosophy. In the 10th and 11th centuries the community began to decline, primarily as a result of adverse general political conditions. A Jewish community continued to live in Babylonia until the modern period, when most of it immigrated to Israel. By the early 1970's the 2500 year old Jewish community in Iraq had almost ceased to exist.
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