A Medieval German Jew Visits Eastern Europe and Iraq https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/history-ideas/2023/11/a-medieval-german-jew-visits-eastern-europe-and-iraq/

November 28, 2023 | Tamar Marvin
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Two weeks ago, I recommended an article by Tamar Marvin about the great medieval Jewish travel writer Benjamin of Tudela. Marvin has since followed up with a piece about the less renowned, but no less fascinating, adventurer Petahiah of Regensburg, who seems to have recounted his journeys to a distinguished German rabbi who then transformed them into a book:

Around the year 1175, Petahiah, who was a person of means, departed from Prague on a journey to pray at the graves of notable Jews, particularly biblical figures, in the East. He traveled overland through Poland and Kievan Rus’ [roughly comprising parts of today’s Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia] down through the Crimea into Tartary, Khazaria [by then a small kingdom in the Russian Caucasus], Ukraine (which Petahiah called Kedar), Armenia, and Kurdistan. These locations, for which we have relatively few Jewish sources and are of great historical interest, are not treated in any detail in the account.

Rather, the narrative of Petahiah’s travels concentrates on his experiences in Babylonia (Iraq) and in the Land of Israel, including his visiting of graves and holy sites as well as remarks about contemporary Jewish communities. He seems to have returned to Europe by sea, sailing to Greece and then proceeding by land back to Prague, eventually reaching Regensburg.

Of particular interest is his description of the tomb of Ezekiel, located in al-Kifl, some 70 miles south of Baghdad. Petahiah appreciatively recounts local Muslims’ folklore about the tomb, and their customs for respecting it.

Read more on Stories from Jewish History: https://trmarvin.substack.com/p/petachia-of-regensburg-a-medieval-9da