website for the descendants of the Dutch Cassuto's
familiedocumenten/the travels of Moses Cassuto p.2
family main page| name page | documents | pedigrees | photo galleries | sitemap
The travels of Moses Cassuto, 1733-1735 and 1741-1743
A unique document is the diary of Moses Vita Cassuto, written in the first half of the eighteenth century and describing his two journeys, one to Palestine and one to England and Holland. On this page a part of the summary of this diary describing the trip from Cairo to Hebron and his stay in the city of Hebron and its Jewish community anno 1734.

landing in Egypt
Jerusalem and Safed

From Palestine to Constantinople
From Constantinople to Vienna

Arrival and stay in Hebron, anno1734

by caravan through the Sinai

On his return to Cairo, happy from his outing, Cassuto found a small caravan about to leave for the Holy Land and the city of Hebron which he arranged to join. To cross the desert involved as much preparation, he says, as a journey by sea, it being necessary to take water as well as victuals, since there are stages of five, six or more days without them.

He bought a pair of camel-bags called mullie, and hired a camel and on Monday 15 February 1734 it appeared and on it they loaded themselves and their baggage with the child in the middle. On Wednesday 18 February the caravan assembled and left for the Desert. There were 120 people in the caravan among them two Rabbis already well known to him as 'ambassadors' (shilukim) of Hebron. He describes his journey. These Rabbis told him on the way that though they had many times been on this road they had never had so fair a journey, and that one of them when making it had been robbed by an Arab and left completely naked without even a shirt but was found by an Arab with a camel who brought him near to the city of Hebron, from whence he called for garments to be brought to him,
so that he should not enter the city naked. After passing a ruined city in the desert which Cassuto believed to be Sodom and Gomorra, they reached the frontier of Palestine.

a custom: renting garments at the view of Hevron

At two hours distance from the city of Hebron on the top of a mountain was a small domed building covering a tank of water, at the side of which is a cave, where David cut the mantle of King Saul.
On seeing the city and the building above the cave where the Holy Patriarchs with their wives, and even Adam and Eve, are buried, they sat on the ground and rent their garments according to the local custom, as is required of Jews.

He reached Hebron on Friday 5 March 1734 at 22 hours and lodged in the Hospice of the Foreigners at the expense of the community, which is accustomed to feed travellers for three days in the manner of the Patriarch Abraham. In his case, in view of their late arrival, just before Sabbath, they were lodged for five days in the hospice, but were fed in the house of a private person, receiving from the community as well the customary gifts of mutton, wine, and brandy.

The Jews at Hebron

There are no Catholics or Christians at all there, but the Hebrews inhabit forty houses in a ghetto, where they apply themselves to studies and a life of devotion.
They have one synagogue, where they perform the three services every day, beginning three hours before dawn.
In another place, the Rabbis meet for studying and reading of the law and of holy hooks. There are hours when they may read privately and others when they read at the special expense of a particular community or private person, since all the Jews in every city in the world contribute to the maintenance of so holy a work.
Those supported in this way do not work in any business or craft of any sort but pass their lives in these exercises. The income is provided according to the quality of the subjects and their need, with Deputies who are in charge of their admissions and departures and distributions; They have their chancellery, to write circular letters and for every other matter, and from time to time they send out their 'ambassadors', supplied with the necessary credentials, to raise funds from each place where they have obtained offerings previously and where they show these letters, to meet the oppressions which are inflicted on them.
Thus, it often happens that the Arabs quarrel and are at war with each other, and the Hebrews, so as not to be involved, have to satisfy both sides by sweetening their mouths in order to be left in peace.

leaving his son at Hebron and sight seeing

Here he preferred to leave his son, rather than in Jerusalem, since it was more peaceful and withdrawn, and with the help of friends discovered a Rabbi of good position, living only with his mother and wife but without sons. They were all delighted to have the little boy in their house and to treat him as their own child and to train him in his studies. He paid them for a year's keep and signed a contract accordingly.

He then gives the text of a prayer to be recited at the tombs of patriarchs, prophets, and saints. This came in useful, for, his mind now at rest on the subject of his mission, he now felt able to visit the sights near by; the tomb of Jesse on a mountain, below it, that of Abner, King David's commander-in-chief, the tombs of the Hebrews outside the town,
the site of circumcision of Abraham and Ishmael; of Abraham's tent with four doors where he received the travellers; and the bath of Sarah.
The building above the cave of the Patriarch was built, he was told, at the time of King Solomon. It is described at considerable length.
Then came the tombs of the Patriarchs and their wives, in describing which he emphasises that he is concerned with brevity and only with describing things which he has seen himself. He then goes on a journey of four days into the desert past the city of Hammon (modem Amman in Jordan) to visit the Mount of Aaron, where Aaron was said to be buried.

departure for Jerusalem

Wednesday 25 March 1734 he left Hebron with his servant early in the morning by mule for Jerusalem, passing Bethlehem and the tomb of Rachel.
On the way, at a distance of about five miles from the city, they were molested by two Arabs, who attempted to rob them, but as a result they had to continue their journey to Jerusalem on foot, having lost their mules in the excitement. Fortunately, however, these reappeared the next day.

to page 3: Jerusalem and Safed

back to family main page   to home
page Rob Cassuto