Luncz, Abraham Moses

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LUNCZ, ABRAHAM MOSES (1854–1918), author, publisher, and editor of geographical works on Ereẓ Israel. Luncz emigrated in 1869 from Kovno, where he was born, to Jerusalem, and was accepted as a pupil in the Eẓ Ḥayyim yeshivah. The director, R. Moses Nehemiah Kahana, was in favor of secular education and the use of Hebrew as a spoken language. Because of this, Luncz was able to continue his secular studies and his reading of Haskalah books. The head of the Jerusalem maskilim at that time was Israel Dov *Frumkin; Luncz began to associate with him and took part in the founding of the Maskilim Circle and the Moses Montefiore Library (1873–74). In 1873 he began to write in Frumkin's Ha-Ḥavaẓẓelet, and like the latter, he criticized the methods of the *ḥalukkah and its administrators. However, he did not always oppose the traditional community. When H. *Graetz attacked the Jerusalem community after his visit of 1873, during which he was insulted by religious fanatics, Luncz defended it in 1874 in his Ivri Anokhi ("I am a Hebrew"). After having already written several geographical articles, Luncz published in 1876 a guide to Jerusalem, Netivot Ẓiyyon vi-Yrushalayim ("Paths of Zion and Jerusalem"), the first work of this kind in Hebrew. From then until his death he worked tirelessly to perfect his geographical knowledge. In his search for books he visited the libraries of Christian institutions, a revolutionary step for a Jew in the Jerusalem of those days. In 1877 Luncz's sight began to fail. He went to Vienna and Paris to seek medical help, but it was of no avail; by 1879 he was blind. His misfortune did not deter him from his projects. In Vienna he contacted Perez *Smolenskin, in connection with the publication of his projected yearbook of Ereẓ Israel. The first volume appeared in Hebrew and English in 1882, after a second trip to Vienna, under the title Jerusalem, Yearbook for the Diffusion of an Accurate Knowledge of Ancient and Modern Palestine. Only 12 volumes appeared by the time of his death 36 years later. The first volume, of which both the Hebrew and the English part were written mostly by Luncz himself when he still had his sight, is the best. The second volume was printed in 1887 on Luncz's own press in Jerusalem. The articles of the second volume were written by some of the greatest scholars of Palestine and other countries. The material in the Hebrew section dealing with the history of the Jewish settlement is unique. Here again, Luncz was the main contributor. Volumes one and two appeared in Hebrew and English; three and four in Hebrew and German. In 1895 he began to publish the Lu'ah Ereẓ Yisrael, a literary almanac, which appeared yearly until 1915. Among the books which he published in improved editions with his own notes, the most important are Kaftor va-Feraḥ of R. *Estori ha-Parḥi; Pe'at ha-Shulḥan of R. Israel of *Shklov; and Tevu'ot ha-Areẓ of R. Yehoseph *Schwarz. In the three volumes of Ha-Me'ammer he published documentary material on Ereẓ Israel. A courageous experiment for a blind man was his publication of the Jerusalem Talmud according to a manuscript that he found in the Vatican Library. By the time of his death, he had reached the tractate Shevi'it. Luncz also wrote Die juedischen Kolonien Palaestinas (1902) and edited Ha-Ikkar ("The Peasant"), 1894–96. Besides these literary activities, he was an active member of the *Va'ad ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit ("Committee for the Hebrew Language") and in 1902, with two of his friends, he founded the Educational Center for the Blind.


H. Luncz, in: Yerushalayim, 13 (1919), 329–50 (incl. list of works); Rivlin and Malachi, in: Yerushalayim, ed. by I. Press and E.L. Sukenik (1928), 1–16 (Heb. pt.); Rivlin, in: Koveẓ Ma'amarim le-Divrei Yemei ha-Ittonut be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 2 (1936), 66–81; I. Trywaks and E. Steinman (eds.), Sefer Me'ah Shanah (1938), 285–98; Malachi, in: Talpioth, 4 (1950), 759–69; idem, in: Genazim, 1 (1961), 276–89; bies, 19 (1955), 1–28; H. Luncz-Bolotin, Me'ir Netivot Yerushalayim (1968); Kressel, in: Netivot Ẓiyyon vi-Yerushalayim (1970).

[Abraham J. Brawer]