The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage

By Raymond P. Scheindlin | Go to book overview

Introduction

Judah Halevi lived most of his life in the country now known as Spain, at the time when it was an Arabic-speaking, predominantly Muslim, territory known as al-Andalus and was linked more tightly to North Africa and the rest of the Islamic world than it was to Europe. A member of the Jewish social and intellectual aristocracy that flourished throughout the Muslim world during the age of Islamic ascendancy (750–1300), Halevi was a physician, theologian, merchant, religious scholar (though not, as far as is known, a rabbi), and a prominent figure in public affairs. He may be regarded as a representative figure of the so-called Golden Age of Hebrew letters.

Halevi’s story stands out from among those of the other members of the medieval Judeo-Arabic elite because of his decision, taken in late middle age, to withdraw from his conventionally successful life and end his days in the Land of Israel. After much debate with himself, family, and friends, he sailed from al-Andalus in the summer of 1140, intending to settle in Palestine and die there.

Arriving in Alexandria on September 8 of that year, Halevi was acclaimed as a celebrity by the local Jewish community. Instead of proceeding immediately to his destination, he remained in Alexandria, hosted by friends and admirers, into the winter. He then traveled to Cairo, where he spent several months with a prominent member of the Jewish community of Egypt, Ḥalfon Halevi (not a relative, despite the name), and called on Samuel ben Ḥanania, head of the Jews of Egypt. Halevi may have contemplated continuing his

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The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I- A Portrait of the Pilgrim 9
  • 1- Halevi’s Religious Development 11
  • 2- The National Problem 53
  • 3- The Visionary 70
  • Part II- The Pilgrimage 95
  • 4- Alexandria 97
  • 5- Cairo 119
  • 6- Alexandria Again 141
  • Part III- The Pilgrim Speaks 153
  • 7- An Epistle 155
  • 8- In Imagination 163
  • 9- Argumentation 182
  • 10- The Voyage 215
  • Epilogue 249
  • Notes 253
  • Poem Sources 285
  • Bibliography 291
  • Index of Poems 299
  • Index of Names and Subjects 303
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