Benjamin of Tudela, Spain, a famous world traveler of the 12th century [1173 C.E.] is considered by some modern historians as giving the most accurate description of every-day life in the Middle Ages. Written originally in Hebrew, it was translated into Latin and later became an extremely popular piece of Jewish literature in many languages. The modern reader might regard it as an exotic tale. But the author actually intended to give his contemporaries a factual account of his travels.
What exactly did Benjamin plan to accomplish when he started out on his fantastic journey? At first, probably nothing but a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. which. despite the Crusades, retained a magic attraction for the pious Jew. A pilgrimage-an Aliyah-probably with the thought to stay there for the rest of his life. But the fact is that he did take the long road, stopping frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations and giving a demographic count of Jews in every town and country.