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24 ON HIS LAST JOURNEY

EnglishHebrew
by Joseph Yahalom
24 ON HIS LAST JOURNEY “ Did Yehuda Halevi arrive in the Holy Land?” is how S. D. Goitein titled his last paper dealing with Halevi’s journey to the Land of Israel ( Goitein, “ Did Yehuda Halevi Arrive”). For the most part scholars were unwilling to assume that Halevi had indeed fulfilled his deepest aspirations and reached Eretz Yisrael. They did concede that the poet, lauded for his poems of yearning for Zion, reached Egypt – as emerges from the many poems he wrote there – but would go no further than that. The fact that we have no poems by Halevi from the Land of Israel did not make it any easier to assume that he had indeed treaded on holy ground, and the silence in the case of a poet of Halevi’s stature thundered. Samuel David Luzzatto too – writing exactly seven hundred years after the poet reached Egypt – believed Halevi had ended his journey prematurely. I have shown in an earlier chapter how Luzzatto attacked the reasoning behind the sixteenth century account left by Gedalia Ibn Yah ˙ ya. But if the legend of the Arab horseman was discredited, then it would take only one more step to discount the entire tradition of Halevi having reached and died an unnatural death in Jerusalem. Our knowledge of the end of Halevi’s journey has completely changed in the wake of the discovery of a new letter ( Document 52) announcing to the poet’s patron H ˙ alfon Halevi that the poet’s ship had at last set sail on the first day of Shavuot, May 14, 1141, after being delayed for the entire week in the port of Alexandria as it waited for a favorable western wind. If we accept the supposition page TOC Home

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