18 January 2016

Ptolemy's Map of 140 CE ... Rashi's Maps of Eretz Yisrael ... Our Land of Israel

Ptolemy's Map from 140 CE

Astronomer, mathematician, and geographer, Ptolemy played a key part in laying out history and cartography as we know it. It was Ptolemy who realized the earth was round, who corrected the Greeks' geocentric view of the universe (that the earth was at the center of everything, and rationalized the motions of the planets) prevalent in his time. Ptolemy lived from around 87 to 150 AD. He spent much of his life in Alexandria (Egypt), but it seems that he originally came from Greece.

A map created by Greek astronomer and cartographer Claudius Ptolemy, from around 140 AD, is considered to be the oldest surviving representation of Ireland. Included among his treatise “Geographia,” Ptolemy provided a set of coordinates showing different geographical features of the island, from which maps were later created in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ptolemy’s Roman era “map” looks much like today’s Ireland, save a few discrepancies. [...]  Even up to the time of Christopher Columbus Ptolemy's eight volume "Guide to Geography" remained the principal work on the subject.



Rashi's Maps of Eretz Israel

From an article in Haaretz:  The earliest Jewish maps of the Holy Land, unearthed and collected by Rubin (Prof. Rehav “Buni” Rubin’s “The Shape of the Land”), were sketches made by Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1105–1040) in the 11th century. In these maps, the greatest Torah exegesist schematically presented the regions of Israel through which the Children of Israel passed after the exodus from Egypt, as well as the borders of the Promised Land as described in Numbers 33-34. The maps also contain simpler sketches by Rashi. These sketches served as an aid in Rashi’s seminary, and their role was mainly an interpretive one.

   33 בְּמִדְבַּר    Parshas Masei
These are the stages of the children of Israel, 
by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt 
by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
 And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, 
by the commandment of the LORD; 
and these are their stages at their goings forth.
  And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, 
on the fifteenth day of the first month; 
on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel 
went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians,




The Land of Israel portrayed in them is more a talmudic concept than a real place. Rubin suggests that these sketches express the fondness Rashi felt for the Holy Land[...]. The efforts made by Rashi to define the relative positioning of each site described in the Bible, as well as his writings, place the interpretation of the holy text at the maps’ center, rather than attempting to describe a real geographic entity.

Thus, for example, there is an illustration of Jacob’s Ladder leaning over several locations – Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and Beit El. The difficult-to-interpret associated verse with which Rashi was contending (Bereshis 28:10-19) refers to the words of Jacob relating to Beit El (“Surely the Lord is in this place”).

Maps based on Rashi’s sketches were improved during the Renaissance, acquiring illustrations of cities, mountains and ships – as was customary in that period. However, they still remained icons of the Holy Land, whose sanctified status relied on the stature of Rashi. This article,  Of Biblical Proportions: How Maps of the Land of Israel Never Lost Their Roots, surprisingly, comes from Haaretz, once well respected for its interesting Israel research articles.

The sixth chapter* is devoted to holy site lists that were published in the 19th century. The sites depicted often followed the pilgrimage route of Jews in the 19th century, restricting the notations to the Four Holy Cities [Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, Safed] and the tombs of Jewish [holy sages]. Here, too, the land is a pilgrimage destination rather than a regular geographic space.


Our Current Map of Israel

I would think that Rashi when he created his (spiritual biblical) maps would be astonished to find how the current map of Israel is being eaten up by the enemy of the Jewish People in Israel. One organization is concerned with our Land:  the map of Israel. Regavim. The mission of Regavim is to ensure responsible, legal, accountable & environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation. Please view this video.




Ever so quietly, without the roar of battle and clamor of war, the Jewish People is being robbed of the Land of Israel. On this battlefield cement mixers have replaced tanks, plows replace cannons and innocent-looking civilians replace uniformed soldiers. Only the goal remains the same – Dis-inheriting the Jews of their land; today the EU sponsors illegal Palestinian roads and Arab building to help PA annex Area C. More: Position Papers and Maps.

The conquest and settling of the Land of Israel. Acre after acre, house after house, buying, squatting, illegally cultivating the soil that is not theirs, sometimes with guile, other times with violence, with huge sums of money and firmly backed by anti-Zionist organizations in Israel and abroad –

Israel is losing its hold on the Jewish people’s lands, and the legacy of Rashi's Maps.

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*Prof. Rehav “Buni” Rubin’s “The Shape of the Land”

See Also, Book: Portraying the Land: Hebrew Maps of the Land of Israel from Rashi to the Early Twentieth Century, Published by Yad Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem, 2014

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post. Don't worry, all the Land will return; never forget, H' gave us the Land!!!