The Schmooze

Pious Donkeys and Ancient Jews Hit the Road

Were Jews of antiquity mere homebodies compared to adventurous Islamic and Christian travelers? In his 1932 study “Caravan Cities”, historian Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff suggested as much, stating that ancient Jews were “of a national character insufficiently mobile or versatile.”

However, “Jewish Travel in Antiquity”, a study out in October from Mohr Siebeck Verlag, scotches this notion. Its author, Catherine Hezser, professor at The University of London, bases her arguments on close reading of the rabbinical literature, with cogency familiar to readers of her previous books, “The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine” and “Jewish Slavery in Antiquity”, both from Oxford University Press.

Hezser establishes that the “traditional image of ancient rabbis as sedentary figures is inappropriate, at least as far as the most prominent and well-connected rabbis are concerned.”

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Pious Donkeys and Ancient Jews Hit the Road

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