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Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages: 19 Firsthand Accounts Paperback – November 2, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (November 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048625397X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486253978
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Hebrew (translation)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mbcz on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Do not buy this book for the editorial content, it is minimal. The first hand accounts provided by the travellers provide more than enough reason to buy this book. There are not many other diaries similar to the ones presented here.
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Format: Paperback
The title of this book is self-explanatory: 19 travelogues, written by Jews between the 9th and 18th centuries (though a couple of them are of doubtful veracity).

The most common refrain throughout this book is the sheer difficulty of travel in the Middle Ages: many places had constant plagues of various sorts (presumably due to bad sanitation) , highways were full of sometimes-murderous robbers, etc.

I can't vouch for the translation, let alone the validity of the original sources- so I'm not sure how factually accurate any of the travelogues (as translated) are. But assuming that the translation is at least reasonably close to the authors' intent, a few other facts grabbed me:

*As late as the 12th century, Egyptian Jews with roots in Israel still read Torah according to the triennial cycle (finishing every 3 years instead of every year). I had heard that the triennial cycle had ancient roots, but had never read "primary source" confirmation.

*The level of obsession with graves. More than one essay had numerous tales of the graves of prophets and holy men, and miracles that allegedly happened in those places (though to be fair, some of the authors were skeptical of such stories).

*The assimilation of Jews into Muslim societies. Some of the essays were by European travelers who visited Egypt or Iraq on the way to Israel, and remark on the similarities between Jewish and Muslim attitudes towards women (usually involving high degrees of sex segregation and low levels of financial support for wives).
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Stienstra on August 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book should be purchased before visiting The Holy Land, October 16,
2004

Reviewer:Barbara Stienstra (Goshen, New York United States) - See all my
reviews
This book should be purchased before visiting The Holy Land, taken there
when on a visit, and studied and applied while traversing the countryside
and cities! Chocked-full of wonderful and interesting genealogy and
grave-ology! A who's (located) where, when and why! Did you know: "From the river Hiddekel (Tigris) at the foot of the mountains of Ararat it is a
distance of four miles to the place where Noah's Ark rested, but Omar ben
al-Khatab took the ark from the two mountains and made it into a mosque for the Mohammedans." (Page 42) -Benjamin of Tudela. "Ninevah is in ruins...
(Page 42) noted in Benjamin of Tudela's day. In the land of Cush "There is
a people among them who like animals, eat of the herbs that grow on the banks of the Nile and in the fields. They go about naked, and have not the
intelligence of ordinary men. They cohabit with their sisters and anyone
they find. The climate is hot. When the men of Assuan make a raid into their land they take with them bread and wheat, dry grapes and figs, and throw the food to these people, who run after it. Thus they bring many of them back prisoners, and sell them in the land of Egypt..." (Page 61). Gee, when my husband Greg and I were in Aswan in 1995, we were lucky that this is no longer done as it would surely would have vexed us, and would have been most disconcerting! With regard to the "desert called Sahara", Benjamin states:
In this desert there are mountains of sand, and when the wind rises it
covers the caravans with sand and many die from suffocation."(Page 61).
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