Page 189 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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O f subsequent generations, it is the medieval period that holds
the greatest interest. Zunz devoted interesting passages to Abra­
ham Ibn Ezra, to the astronomer Abraham bar Hiyya and the
maqamist Alharizi. He recorded the aliyah of 200 rabbis from
France at the beginning of the 13th century, and subsequently
— the aliyah of Nahmanides. With love and warmth he men­
tioned Yehudah Halevi. “The beloved bard of his people,” he
calls him, and writes that “with the nobility of his spirit” he
elevated Israel and “beautified the service of the Lord.”
Somewhat amazing is the fact that he did not mention at all
possibly because of its deep “Zionist” commitment.
The time and place which he set for the
namely 10th
century Italy, is in agreem en t with recent scholarship.
(Gesammelte Schriften,
I, pp. 159-160; see Yitzhak Baer, “Sefer
Yosippon ha-‘Ivri,” in
Sefer Dinaburg,
ed. by Yitzhak Baer et
al (Jerusalem, 1949), pp. 178-205.
A “genius”, embracing all the knowledge of his day, was, in
Zunz’s opinion, Abraham Ibn Ezra. In 1140 he already was in
Rome, where he died in 1168. Zunz names many lands where
he stayed: Provence, France, England, Africa, possibly also Pal­
estine and India.
To the most famous travellers of the Middle Ages belonged
Benjamin of Tudela and Petahyah of Regensburg. Interesting
is the following passage in Zunz’s account of Benjamin:
If Benjamin also pursued some commercial plans during this
great trip, he obviously must have been trying to find out about
the situation o f his remote coreligionists. This is why he did not
omit mention o f the names of the Jewish representatives or teach­
ers o f each city which he passed and where Jews were living.
He named 248 such men on the line from Barcelona to Bagdad.
To the contrary, of the far-away places like Persia, Chorasan,
Bochara, the Indian peninsulas, Chaibar, Yemen, Nubia and
Abysinia, he at most named only four, and this (on the basis
of) reports.
I believe that the words of Zunz: “If Benjamin also pursued
some commercial plans” must have been the source for the as­
sumption by Professor Zvi Ankori (Tel Aviv University) that
Benjamin of Tudela may perhaps had been planning to estab­
lish commercial ties between the Jewish silk manufacturers of
Spain and Salonika.