Itineraries of Ereẓ Israel

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Apart from the accounts of their experiences which were recorded by Jewish wayfarers to Ereẓ Israel, which constitute a good part of Jewish travel literature of the Middle Ages, from an early date pious pilgrims set down lists of the places in the country which those who followed them might wish to visit. When in the course of the Middle Ages, presumably under Christian and Muslim influence, significance began to be attached to the intercession of the departed righteous before the divine throne, these came to be considered of importance as places of efficacious prayer. In some cases (e.g., Rachel or the Patriarchs), the place or region of burial was indicated in the Bible; in others, the names of biblical heroes and saints were connected with ancient sepulchers (or in some cases probably to caves which might have served as sepulchers) in the neighborhood of the places with which their life activity was associated. Later on, as talmudic study strengthened its hold, a similar significance began to be attached to the sepulchers or reputed sepulchers of sages of the mishnaic or amoraic period.

Lists of the principal places of pilgrimage in this sense began to be compiled at a relatively early date. The account of Samuel b. Samson (1211) of his travels in the Holy Land is in effect no more than such a travel guide, although couched in the first person. In due course, these itineraries assumed an almost stereotyped form. The title generally given them was " Iggeret Mesapperet Yiḥusei ha-Ẓaddikim " ("Epistle Recounting the Ascription of the Righteous") or something similar – they were sometimes accompanied by the form of prayer to be recited over the graves in general or certain individual graves. After the invention of printing these were in due course published, probably for distribution by Emissaries for the Holy Land in the course of their missions – sometimes as broadside sheets. Such publications appeared under various titles such as Iggeret Mesapperet Yaḥasuta de-Ẓaddikayya di-ve-Ara de-Yisrael (Venice, 1590, 1599, 1626 (broadside), 1640; Mantua, 1676, appended to the Ẓokhmat ha-Mishkan by Joseph Shallit *Richietti, Verona, 1680; and in North Europe in Frankfurt without date, broadside). Under the title of Yiḥus ha-Ẓaddikim there is a similar but more ample work by Gershom Scaramella, embodying also prayers and readings at the sacred sites, published by Jacob of Gazzolo at Mantua in 1561 (repr. Venice, 1598). In the Renaissance period, illustrated editions of Christian itineraries to the Holy Land began to be published. Influenced perhaps by this, Italian Jews at this period produced illustrated copies of these itineraries, using as their basis, apparently, a text drawn up about 1537 by an anonymous writer, though the prototype may go back half a century earlier. Normally, a scroll form was used, possibly for display. Each brief paragraph, containing a listing in rough geographical order of places in Ereẓ Israel and of the graves of the righteous or holy sites situated in each, would be followed by a row of colored pictures representing the sites in question. Originally, they were probably drawn from reality, however approximately, but in due course, as a result of more and more recopying, they tended to lose their relation to fact. Thus, for the sake of symmetry, in the conventional representation of Gaza, what had originally been the cupola of a mosque in the center of the town became converted into the city gate! The series would sometimes be introduced by a wholly midrashic representation (bearing no relation whatsoever to actuality) of Jericho within a seven-fold maze. A few sites outside Ereẓ Israel closely connected with Jewish or biblical history (e.g., Cairo, Damascus) would also be included with their synagogues, etc. It is possible that these parchment scrolls were also prepared by emissaries of the Holy Land as gifts to munificent contributors. Illuminated itineraries of this type in scroll form, basically very similar, are in the libraries of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Mss. Adler 1641 and 2910) and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Ms. Heb. 8° 1187); others are in private collections. Another, now untraceable, by Uri b. Simeon of Biella provided the crude cuts reproduced by Hottinger in his Cippi Hebraici (Heidelberg, 1659). But the usage was protracted long afterwards: a paper and vellum scroll of the sort of Yemenite origin of the late 19th century is in the Lenin State Library in Moscow (Ms. Ginzburg 579). A similar text converted into volume form and copied at Casale in northern Italy in 1598 in the collection of C. Roth was published by him in 1929 in facsimile under the misleading title The Casale Pilgrim.


Sukenik, in: ks, 7 (1930/31), 99–101; Narkiss, in: Ommanut, 2 (1941), 7–10; Z. Vilnay, in: Maẓẓevot Kodesh (19632); M. Ish-Shalom, Masei Noẓerim le-Ereẓ Yisrael (1965), 3–49; P. Thomsen, Palaestina-Literatur, 7 vols. (1908–60), passim; T. Tobler, Bibliographia geographica Palaestinae (Ger., 1867).

[Cecil Roth]