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GERSHON BEN ELIEZER HA-LEVI (YIDDELS) OF PRAGUE:

Traveler of the first half of the seventeenth century. He was the author of the curious and extremely rare book "Gelilot Ereẓ Yisrael," in Judæo-German, in which he describes several routes to Jerusalem and gives an account of his travels (about 1630), by way of Salonica, Alexandria, Mecca, and Jiddah, to the countries on the shores of the fabulous river Sambation and to the states of Prester John. He relates having seen three-eyed beasts, headless living men, and other strange beings. This led Asher to think that R. Joel Sarkes of Cracow, whose approbation is found at the beginning of the work, had probably never read the curious part of it. The first edition, which (published presumably in Lublin, 1635) was burned publicly in Warsaw by order of the Jesuits, is probably the only Judæo-German book thus condemned. It was reprinted in Fürth, 1691; Amsterdam, 1705; Prague, 1824. It was also printed together with the "Ma'aseh Buch" (Amsterdam, 1723; see Zedner, "Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus." p. 506). A Hebrew translation, entitled "Iggeret ha-Ḳodesh," passed through several editions. A long extract from the original edition is found in Eisenmenger's "Entdecktes Judenthum," ii. 546-564.

Bibliography:
  • Asher. The Itinerary of R. Benjamin of Tudela, ii. 281-282, London and Berlin, 1841;
  • Ersch and Gruber, Allg. Encyc. section i., part 62, s.v.;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. i. 320 (referring to Manasseh b. Israel's Miḳweh Yisrael, ch. 10);
  • Luncz, Jerusalem, iii. 61-62 (German part), Jerusalem, 1889;
  • Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, pp. 14, 97.
G. P. Wi.
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