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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 his stay in Jerusalem's Jewish communiry and his travelling further on to Safed and Tiberias in Palestine anno 1734.

landing in Egypt
arrival in Hebron
From Palestine to Constantinople
Jeruzalem and Safed
From Constantinople to Vienna
home: from Vienna to Florence

In Jerusalem and Safed, anno1734

While in Jerusalem he encounters an umusual British visitor:
"While I was in Jerusalem, there came to Jafo, the seaport a day's journey from here, an Eng1ish ship direct from London with a great lady, wife of a mi1ord, with a train of servants and footmen.
She came solely to visit, so came to Jerusalem with her suite without changing her or her servants' clothes. Thus she seemed a great object of curiosity to the Arabs to see such a dress-bonnet with tails and terrible hooped skirts; perhaps they had never seen anything 1ike it in their lives from the way in which the people went mad everywhere she passed.
She practised great charity and showed herself generous to all ; so the Arabs, knowing no better, came looking for it; one brought her a flower, another a fruit, another a fresh egg, another fragrant herbs and suchlike. As a result they all left contented, and satisfied, giving her a thousand blessings.
In the city the circuit on which she went lasted eight days, after which she left for Jaffa, where the ship awaited her and she returned in it to London.

The Jews on Jerusalem
After a lengthy description of the sights of the sacred city, he turns to describe the Jews. They have no ghetto, but may live where they please. They number about 2,000 in all. Among them are many women who come as widows from many parts of the world, and settle there to spend their lives in piety, maintained by their respective establishments. The men too are mostly foreigners, and are a1so maintained by their Houses. They do not engage much in commerce nor have many shops, though there are some who sell clothing, food, textiles (cotton and ca1ico), tobacco, old clothes, jewellery . There is some wine-making and distilling of spirits ; others are muleteers and caravaneers.

An open corridor leads to the synagogue, which is long and rather narrow, through a great covered courtyard. This gives access to another, which is open in the centre. This leads to the Holy Schools, and the assembly where they study and the Rabbis lecture, in both the synagogues and the two courtyards.

In the synagogue a continuous minyan is maintained both day and night and is occupied in prayer and the reading of the psalms. There is another place where the Rabbis assemble for their studies and their lectures, as they do at Hebron.
These depend more or less on the incomes allotted to them from various centres, the greatest of them being that of the Pereira family of Amsterdam, who established a permanent trust for the Holy Land through their investments in the East India Company.
This brought an annual income of 1,500 pezzi more or less, varying according to the fortunes of the Company, the income being divided in proportion between Jerusalem, Safed, and Hebron.
He then explains the system of collecting for the Holy Land by means of emissaries and Deputies at Constantinople (which is otherwise well known). The names of benefactors are recited and blessed after each reading session.
Three shiploads of Hebrews come each year on a visit for the Holy Days - one from Smyrna, one from Constantinople, and one from Salonika - some as settlers and some as visitors.

Having spent the Passover in Jerusalem and having stayed some weeks, he began to think of leaving. He had enjoyed the pleasantest relations with the Convent of S. Salvador, where his kinsman, Rabbi Samuel Cassuto, recently deceased, was well known, and drank many a morning chocolate and afternoon coffee there and was supplied with tobacco. His late kinsman, Rabbi Samuel Cassuto, was held there in high esteem, having invested in the Convent some money for which they paid him an interest of 5 per cent, an arrangement which his widow continued to maintain.

between Jerusalem and Safed
He left on Sunday 9 May for Nablus, passing the tomb of the Prophet Samuel and the HilI of Saul, and reached Nablus on Wednesday 12 May. Near by were the usual crop of holy sights - the tombs of Joseph, Menasseh and Ephraim, and others. He notes about 300 Hebrews in the city of Nablus, living in a ghetto with a synagogue and dressing in country fashion; he also described at some length the Samaritans and their customs.
On Monday 17 May, with a little caravan of ten persons, he left Nablus and the same evening he reached Zarefat (modern Sararand), where took place the miracle of Elijah and the widow's cruse.
From there next day they made Haifa on 19 May, where of course the sacred sites of Mount Carmel were to be visited. At the hospice of the Carmelite monks he met an ltalian from Turin (who was one of the monks). Here he visited the cemetery of the Hebrews, where two famous Rabbis, Rabbi Abdimi and Rabbi Ishac Nappahah, are buried. He notes that many Hebrews live outside the town in an enclosure, where they have their own synagogue, many being shepherds, with their own flocks.
On Thursday 20 May they left Haifa at night by mule, passing Acre, where they saw three ships flying the English flag, destined for Livorno, and continued on their tour of the sacred sites. The next day he reached Kafr Yasid, where they left their baggage, to visit, at a mountain vil1age called Arca, four hours' journey by horse, the tomb of Huscia, the teacher of King David. At Kafr Yasid was a synagogue and forty houses of Jews engaged in sheep-rearing.

After the Sabbath on 22 May they reached Safed.
The air there was excellent, and food abundant, but he suffered severely from its fleas. Here there were said to be 8,000 Turkish inhabitants and about 2,000 Jews, but some of them had migrated to Saida about a year before, when it was captured and mostly sacked, because the inhabitants refused to accept an unpopular Governor, previous1y known to them, who had been sent back by the Grand Sultan.

a Turk governor
The tragic episode is described in some detail:
It came to the inhabitants' ears that he wished to be revenged, and, suspecting some surprise attack, they gave their best possessions into the care of the Hebrews, thinking that they would be spared as being innocent of any offence. When this was effected in a way they deemed safe, and they stood by in greater peace of mind, the said Governor, because he did not appear to have enough men, betook himself into those districts and villages where are many Greek and gave it to be understood that whoever had followed him would be free to plunder them and all the booty and spoil would be theirs. So they inquired from the Governor whether the assault was to be general. He replied that they might operate freely, except for the Hebrews, declaring that with them he had no complaint.
Thereat they refused to go, or, if he wished them to do so, claimed they respected none and did not distinguish between Hebrews and Turks. So the Governor, seeing himse1f constrained and in need for want of men, agreed to their plan and yielded al1. Then he made a camp of five thousand men, including four hundred horse, and without any regard, all with one accord moved into action and assaulted the city and despoiled it. They killed some, in view of the resistance of some of the Turks and those Greeks whose daughters they raped before their eyes. The Hebrews were ready to surrender them everything provided they let be their women, for whom alone they had regard. They robbed the synagogues of al1 their silver and furnishings and Holy Books, desecrating the sacred objects, except for one synagogue the doors of which, however much they battered and shook them to open and enter, would not yield; it was the only synagogue to remain untouched. The Hebrews were now beginning to return to Saida and to re-establish themselves, sending emissaries abroad to collect aid from the four quarters of the world wherever there are Jews in order to recover from their losses for the rebuilding of the synagogues.

to Lake Chinnereth
At Safed his first visit was to the School of the Patriarch Jacob, then to the Hospital of the Poor, then to the seven great synagogues, one of which, cal1ed the Occidental, was very old, and possessed a Scroll of the Law written by Rabbi Aboab, author of the work entitled Candle of Light. This scroll, which a person may touch only after purifying himse1f in a bath, is read twice a year at Succot and Pesach. On Tuesday, they made for the tombs, ancient and new, without the city, belonging to famous Rabbis and Talmudists, among them Rabbi Joshua son of Hananiah, Rabbi Joseph Karo the Gaon, Rabbi Isaac Luria, and others, of whom he speaks with reverence.
The next day they went to visit the tomb of Benaiah son of Jehoiada and the tomb of the Prophet Honi. The tombs of many more Rabbis are also mentioned, at Birya, Far'am, 'Amukah, Nibratin, 'Alma, Relata, Sa'sa'., Kefar Bir'im, Kiyomiya, Zeitun, Gofer, and Kafra. Here took place an absurd episode of a giant fennel which he cut by permission of the Rabbis from a plant growing before the tomb of Honi and made into a walking stick attached by a silk cord. He intended to bring it home as a souvenir but laments at great length how it was lost in Hungary by his servant during a spell of bitterly cold weather in January.

From thence to Meron (modern Huleh), three hours' journey from Safed, which was just then holding a meeting between its Rabbis and those of Safed, eight in number, to make possible ten days' continuous session of reading the Zohar. During this time, all the Jews of the city pay visits to each other, and light up their houses, make feux de joie and sing and go in for all sorts of merriment - all grief and lamentation being forbidden.
Here he stayed two nights and then returned to the road, paying other visits to holy spots, tombs of saints too numerous to describe here, save that they included places sacred to the Prophet Habakkuk, the prophetess Miriam, and Shed the son of Adam (!).

Finally he reached Tiberias, a walled city by Lake Chinnereth, which produces exquisite fish.
At Tiberias he continued his tour of graves and caves at Yakuk, Arbal, Ha'amahoth, visiting a1so the hot baths two hours distant and finding them very beneficial.
He retutned on 1 June to Safed to celebrate the Feast of Weeks (otherwise ca11ed Feast of Roses) in the Occidental Synagogue, where gather the whole population for morning prayer and the Law is read from the Aboab Sefer described above.

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