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their common language. The chief significance involves the leading role of late ancient Jewish Babylonian communities in defining the religious identity of and a cultural agenda for the Jews in Palestine as well as in the various diasporas through their interpretation of normative rabbinic Judaism, which came to dominate Jewish life after the Islamic conquests.

The fact that Jews and Christians were competing in a direct and sometimes violent clash, both communities claiming the same inheritance, often draws attention to their polemics and obscures the fact that many aspects of their lives were common to both. By definition, polemical literature insists on what divides, ignoring the many points of agreement between two groups.10 The koinos bios of both in late antiquity is highly significant for a richer understanding of the cultural dynamics between them. Folklore provides an example. Galit Hasan-Rokem has recently shown how one can closely read Midrashic literature as 'tales of the neighbourhood', reflecting the common daily life and attitudes of Jews and Christians (and not only of them) in the Galilee of late antiquity.11

Localities of Jewish populations in late antiquity

In our period, significant Jewish communities existed throughout the Christian Roman empire, whether East or West. Christian attitudes toward Jews, both public and private, apparently varied in different areas. If there was cultural exclusivity in Byzantium, for instance, the fact that there were fewer Jews in the West does not seem to have promoted more lenient attitudes towards them. On the contrary, anti-Jewish legislation evidently was harsher in the West. But the most important Jewish communities of later antiquity were located outside the Roman empire. We find significant Jewish communities in Arabia, for instance, where the Jewish king Dhu Nuwwas (regn. 517-25) persecuted the Negus Christians in Najran. Jews also lived particularly in the Sassanid empire.

Palestine represents a special case, as both the country of the Jews, who call it 'the land of Israel', and the Christians, who name it 'the Holy Land' (a term which appears for the first time in sixth-century hagiographical literature from Palestine). We know little of Jewish communities in Alexandria - and in the rest of Egypt - after the mid-second century. In North Africa, where the existence ofnotable communities is attested from the time ofTertullian to that of Augustine, we remain in the darkas to their size and their activities, including

10 See P. Fredriksen and O. Ir Shai, 'Christian anti-Judaism, polemics and policies: From the second to the seventh century'.

11 G. Hasan-Rokem, Tales of the neighborhood.

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