Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Jews Got to Jerusalem in the 1400's From Europe

Nadene Goldfoot
Italy was very close to Palestine, even back in the 1400's.  Jews living in Italy could have taken a ship and returned to Palestine, but there were times when the Popes ordered their followers to prevent Jews from traveling there.  The Italians denied Jews the use of their ships.  This either forced them to forget about returning or caused them to have to take a very long land route instead.

 The land route for many involved having to travel through Germany, Poland and Southern Russia, or through the inhospitable Balkans and a Black Sea crossing before getting to the fairly safe Turkey.

In 1433, after a ban was imposed, Yitzhak Tsarefati urged Jews to go through tolerant Turkey.  Often a journey took years.  Immigrants would have to work at stopping places to raise money for the next leg of his journey.  Sometimes one bent on returning to Jerusalem would ask a Jew with money to finance his journey and so share vicariously in the mitzvah of his aliyah.  It's a good deed to help another in this endeavor.

An immigrant Jew from Germany had set out from Nuremberg and traveled to Posen which was about 300 miles.
From Posen (Pozanan),  Prussia or Germany  to Lublin was 250 miles.
From Lublin, Poland to Lemberg (Lvov) was 120 miles
From Lemberg, Ukraine to Khotin was           150 miles
From Khotin, Bessarabia or Moldova to Akerman was            150 miles
From Akerman to Samsun was               6 days
From Samsun, Turkey to Tokat was                6-7 days
From Tokat, Turkey to Aleppo was                  15 days
From Aleppo, Syria  to Damascus was             7 days
From Damascus, Syria  to Jerusalem was         6 days

In those days the Ottoman sultans encouraged Jewish immigration to their empire.  Their gates were open to Palestine for them then.  The sad fact is that the conditions in Europe made it almost impossible for Jews to get there.  Many who did were refugees from the Inquisition and were scholars, artisans and merchants.  They found homes in Jewish centers that were in existence.  This small flow of Jews from Europe injected a new pulse into Jewish life in Palestine in the 16th Century.

We today have poor excuses of not visiting Israel in our period of jet travel.  It only takes 9 hours and 5 minutes to go from New York to Tel Aviv.  Leaving August 1st at 2:25 pm one can get to the destination by 11:50 pm August 2nd.  It would cost $1,284 dollars one way.  A later trip in September is listed for $966.

I traveled in 1980 to Israel and was able to take El Al.  That was a wonderful experience, but I suggest you lose weight first.  The seats were fairly small.  However, it was like already being in Israel with men joining together for prayers at certain times.  Also, boarding the plane was different.  We walked through a hallway of soldiers with rifles ready to protect us.

The latest horror of travelers killed on the tour bus in Bulgaria tells us that being Jewish in Europe is not a safe place for us to be today.  We've become targets for terrorists just for being Jewish.  Even though it's the center of anti-Semitism,  I always felt safe in Israel.

Resource: Battleground, Fact and Fantasy in Palestine by Samuel Katz, pages 97-98;jsessionid=FA0FECCBF442C134A9556C07D105E38A?followAction=AirFlightSearch

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