Samuel ben Samson
SAMUEL BEN SAMSON
SAMUEL BEN SAMSON (13th century), Ereẓ Israel settler, who emigrated from France to Ereẓ Israel in 1210 and described his journey in an extant letter. Samuel was one of a large group that emigrated from France and England; he entered the country by way of Egypt together with Jonathan b. David ha-Kohen of Lunel, a Provençal scholar. Samuel then traveled throughout the country with two of the company of immigrants, Saadiah and Tobiah, as well as the exilarch from Mosul who had come to pray at the holy places and the graves of the pious. In his letter to the Diaspora Samuel described his arrival in Jerusalem and its holy places. From there he went to the cave of Machpelah, entering with the help of a dyer of wool, the only Jew there. From Hebron he returned to Jerusalem and went by way of Bethel, Shiloh, and Shechem to Beth-Shean and Tiberias, describing the tombs of the pious in the latter's vicinity. Traveling from there to Safed, he toured its environs. His descriptions include not only the graves of the pious in the Upper Galilee, but also ruins of ancient synagogues he saw, and which he believed to be some of the 24 synagogues erected by Simeon b. Yoḥai. He also visited Kefar Biram, Kefar Nivrata, Gush Ḥalav, Meron, and Almah, and testified that "in all these places there are communities of more than eight minyanim" (A. Yaari, Iggerot…, (1943), 80, 81), i.e., in each village of Upper Galilee mentioned he found more than 80 Jewish families. This pointed to the remnants of an agricultural settlement in Upper Galilee, even after the conquest of the country by the crusaders. From there he went to Dan and Damascus, later visiting Naveh in Transjordan, where he saw the ruins of the ancient synagogue which has been rediscovered in modern times.
E. Carmoly, Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte (1847), 115–68; A. Berliner, in: mwj, 3 (1876), 157–60; Heb. section: 35–38; A.M. Luncz, in: Ha-Me'ammer, 3 (1920), 26–35; J.D. Eisenstein, Oẓar ha-Massa'ot (1926), 62–65; S. Schultz, in: Ha-Ẓofeh le-Ḥokhmat Yisrael, 14 (1930), 69–81, 375–8; A.L. Sukenik, in: Zion Me'assef, 2 (1927), 108–11; S. Krauss, in: rej, 82 (1926), 333–52; E.N. Adler, ibid., 85 (1928), 70–71; A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ-Yisrael (1943), 75–83, 540–1.