Homo viator et narrans judaicus – Medieval Jewish Voices in the European Narrative of the Wandering Jew
The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Alumni Magazine (2008)
Scholarly treatments of Jewish medieval travelogues have addressed these texts fore mostly as historical and ethnographic documents. They have rarely been appreciated for the literary talent and craftsmanship invested in them or for their imaginative power or their potential to generate cultural images. This is the reason why Petahiya of Regensburg’s travelogue, the Sibuv, describing his journey to Babylonia and Palestine around the year 1180, has usually been treated with harsh criticism or at best with irony. Petahiya’s text has been rejected as fanciful, fantastic, legendary and folkloristic and it usually scores low points when compared with the accounts of his more fact-oriented contemporaries, Benjamin of Tudela and Ya’aqov ben Netanel Ha-Kohen. It is not unusual to hear hints about the possibility that Petahiya may not have visited the places he described or may even not have existed at all.
For the same reason, and a number of others which shall be discussed further on, Petahiya of Regensburg’s travelogue and the description of his pilgrimage constitutes a most adequate text for folkloristic study.