Benjamin of Tudela

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Benjamin of Tudela

(to͞odā`lä), d.1173, rabbi considered the first European to approach the borders of China, b. Tudela, Spain. He traveled (1159–73) through Italy, Greece, Palestine, Persia, the western borders of China, Egypt, and Sicily. His account, Massaoth Schel Rabbi Benjamin, sheds light on the situation of Jews in Europe and Asia. Despite errors, the book is an invaluable historical source. An English translation was published in 1840 as The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela.


See the critical text, tr. and ed. by M. N. Adler (1907, repr. 1964).

Benjamin of Tudela


Date of birth unknown; died 1173. Twelfth-century traveler.

A rabbi from the city of Tudela (Kingdom of Navarre), Benjamin traveled in the 1160’s and 1170’s through southern Europe, Asia Minor, Georgia, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. His travel notes are a valuable historical source containing interesting information about European trade with the East and the size of Jewish communities in various cities. These notes contain personal impressions and secondhand reports, some of which are unreliable.


“Puteshestvie rabbi Veniamina Tudel’skogo.” In Tri evreiskikh puteshestvennika XI i XII st. St. Petersburg, 1881.


Uspenskii, F. “Putevye zapiski Veniamina iz Tudely.” Annaly, Petrograd, 1923, no. 3.
Tucci, R. di. “Benjamino di Tudela i il suo viaggio.” Boll. della società geographica italiana, 1941, series 7, vol. 6.


References in periodicals archive ?
Moreover, according to the itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, a medieval Jewish traveller and writer, there were three thousand Jews living in Ceylon at the time of his visit in the 12th century.
In Navarra, a similar move is apparent in the branding of Tudela, which was, for some years, on the borderland between Christian and Muslim states, and home to several notable medieval writers and scholars, such as Benjamin of Tudela, known for documenting his travels all over the Middle East.
In the book written by the medieval Jewish traveller par excellence, Benjamin of Tudela he expresses it with these words (4): "All Israel is dispersed in every land, and he who does not further the gathering of Israel will not meet with happiness nor live with Israel.
After the Caliph's disappearance in the mountains around Cairo, the Druze moved north, where Jewish explorer Benjamin of Tudela found them during his travels in the 12th century.
The author explores 18 classics of Jewish literature to illustrate Jewish thought and experience over a period of 2,500 years: the books of Deuteronomy and Esther, The Exposition of Laws by Philo of Alexandria, The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus, Pirkei Avot, the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, the Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi, The Guide of the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, the Zohar, the Tsenerene and the Memoirs of GlEckel of Hameln, Theological-Political Treatise by Baruch Spinoza, the Autobiography of Solomon Maimon, Jerusalem by Moses Mendelssohn, the Tales of Nachman of Bratslav, The Jewish State and Old New Land by Theodor Herzl, and Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem.
By contrast, Benjamin of Tudela (1907) is principally interested in recording the distance between cities and the size of the Jewish populations that lived there.
Writers such as Benjamin of Tudela in his Sefer ha-Massa'ot ('Book of Travels'; mid-twelfth century) wrote an itinerary of the journey from Europe to Jerusalem, focusing largely on visits to holy sites but also reporting on toponyms, distances, populations (Jewish or otherwise), commerce, and trade.
It seems that these writers were not personally familiar with the appearance of the mountains and may have based themselves on the description recorded by Benjamin of Tudela, a twelfth-century traveler, who wrote: "On Mount Gerizim there are springs, gardens, and orchards.
Benjamin of Tudela, the great Jewish traveler of the Middle Ages, who passed through Narbonne on his way to the Orient in the 12th century, described Narbonne as "mistress of Hebraic law," with Jews there of "the race of David" who possess "great goods" under the protection of the princes of the country.
Chapter Three, "Tricksters and Travels," discusses several major world travelers who popularized the idea of the lost tribes, especially Eldad the Danite (late 800s C.E.) and the Spanish Jew Benjamin of Tudela (late 1100s C.E.).