GEOGRAPHY


GEOGRAPHY
-In the Bible The geographic horizon in the early biblical period was the lu'aḥ ha-ammim, a table of 70 nations listed in Genesis 10. The identification of the names and the location of the countries are the subject of differences of opinion among scholars. It is clear however that included are all of Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor as far as the Caucasus, all the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, the western part of the highlands of Iran, the regions of the middle and lower Nile including the desert extending to their west, and Greece and its islands (see the seventy nations ). -In the Talmud Scattered throughout the Talmuds, the Targums, and the Midrashim are various geographic references connected with the halakhah and with expositions and homilies on the Bible and Midrash. Most of these references are associated with Ereẓ Israel: with laws about "commandments applying to Ereẓ Israel," which are to be observed only in Ereẓ Israel, with praise of the country, and with the identification of biblical place-names. The mitzvot dependent on Ereẓ Israel have full application only within "the territories occupied by those who came back from Babylonia" (Ereẓ Israel); have partial application within the borders of those who came up from Egypt; and refer only marginally to that territory which lies within the wider borders promised to the patriarchs but outside the area of those who came up from Egypt – territory conquered by David on his own responsibility and known in the Talmud as Syria. Within the obligatory territories were exempted enclaves, such as Caesarea in the Sharon, Susita (Hippos) in the Golan, Ashkelon in the Judean coastal lowland, and within the exempted territories obligatory enclaves such as Kefar Ẓemaḥ on the southeastern shore of Lake Kinneret. The boundaries of these areas and also of the enclaves are laid down in the halakhah (Shev. 6:1; Tosef., Shev. 6:6–11; Tosef., Oho. 18:14; Sif. Deut. 51; TJ, Shev. 6:1, 36b). In connection with the laws of usucapion, Ereẓ Israel was divided into three districts: Judea, Transjordan, and Galilee (BB 3:2). Concerning the laws for the removal of fruit from the house in the sabbatical year when they had stopped growing in the field, each of the three districts was subdivided into three regions: mountain, valley, and lowland. The phytogeographical features of these were: for mountains the Cillin pine, for valleys the palm, and for lowlands the sycamore (Ficus sycamora) (Tosef., Shev. 7:11; cf. Shev. 9:2). The area between Judea and Galilee was called "the country of the Cutheans" or contemptuously "the Cuthean Strip" (Matlit shel Kutim; Lam. R. 3:7). The question also arose as to whether the law applicable to levitically unclean heathen countries applied also to the country of the Cutheans. The sages decided that the law was applicable in those cities which had been surrounded by a wall since the time of Joshua and in which Megillat Esther is read on Adar 15th (Ar. 9:6; Ar. 32a; Meg. 4a; TJ, Meg. 1:1, 70a). Many identifications of geographic and ethnographic names in the Bible are in the nature of expositions. Onkelos contented himself with a few which he considered to be beyond doubt. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and the Palestinian Targum frequently identified places solely on the basis of the similarity of names without regard to any geographic considerations. Among the identifications of the table of nations, given in the Midrashim and Targums, none includes all the nations and countries known to the sages. These identifications are frequently inconsistent and contradictory. The equation of Rome with biblical Edom which was apparently intended at first to allow for open criticism of the Roman authorities was later accepted as fact and hence the former and latter halves of the verse: "Behold, of the fat places of the earth shall be thy dwelling, and of the dew of heaven from above" (Gen. 27:39) were interpreted in the Midrash (Gen. R. 67:6) as referring respectively to Italy (Rashi, ad loc., adds "of Greece," i.e., Magna Graecia, southern Italy) and to Bet Guvrin. On the identification of Kenites, Kenizzites, and Kadmonites, who are mentioned in the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:19), and who were not conquered by those who came up from Egypt, there are divergent opinions: in a plausible interpretation R. Judah held that they were Arab tribes on the border of the land of the seven nations which the Israelites inherited, whereas R. Eliezer contended that they refer to Asia Minor, Thrace, and Carthage (Gen. R. 44:23, end; BB 56a). The identification of places in Ereẓ Israel, particularly in Galilee, is mostly realistic and is of aid in a scientific study of the historical topography of the country (TJ, Meg. 1:1, 70a, b; TB, Meg 5b). The sages thought that geographic and hydrologic factors exerted a great influence on man's physical and spiritual being. On Moses' instructions to the spies: "And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak" (Num. 13:18), the Tanḥuma (Shelaḥ Lekha, 6) comments: "There is a country that raises strong men, and there is a country that raises weak men." A similar view is expressed in the midrashic statement: "Some springs   raise strong, others weak men, some handsome, others ugly men, some modest, others dissolute men." The spring of Shittim (Num. 25:1), which was a place of licentiousness, watered Sodom (Num. R. 20:22). From the statements of the sages one can reconstruct the geographic concept of the world current in talmudic times. The earth with its seas was seen as a circle ringed around by the ocean (Okyanos) with the center of the circle being the even shetiyyah ("foundation stone") in the Holy of Holies, which was thought to be in the middle of the earth (tabbur ha-areẓ), not only in a geometrical sense. This was thought to be the beginning of creation. Around the center are concentric circles in order of importance: the Holy of Holies, the Temple, Jerusalem, Ereẓ Israel, and the world (Tanḥ. Kedoshim, 6); this particular idea was devised by a man who had never seen Jerusalem. The idea of the centricity of the Holy Land occurs first in the Apocrypha, influenced by the Greek concept of omphalos, which is that the center of Earth is at Delphi. The sages based the idea that the start of creation is with the even shetiyyah on biblical passages (Tosef., Yom ha-Kippurim 3:6; Yoma 54b), but not the centricity of Jerusalem, which was not of such great significance to Jews as to Christians who transferred the center to the cross of Jesus, a concept which the Church Fathers based on biblical verses (Ezek. 5:5; 38:12; Ps. 74:12). Thus the center of circular medieval maps is Jerusalem with the cross. The view that Ereẓ Israel is higher than all countries, Jerusalem than the whole of Ereẓ Israel, and the Temple Mount than all Jerusalem (Sif. Deut. 152 and 37; Sanh. 87a) is a literal homiletical interpretation of the verse: "Then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose" (Deut. 17:8). The sages were however not unaware of the fact that the spring of Etam, from which water flowed to the Temple, was higher than the Temple Mount. An estimate of the size of the "world" ranged between the extremes of 6,000 and 1,440,000 parasangs. But a still more exaggerated view held that the earth was only 1/<sub>12,960,000</sub> part of Gehinnom (TJ, Ber. 1:1, 2c; Pes. 94a). On the area of the inhabited world (οὶκουμένη) there were divergent opinions: (1) a third is inhabited, the remaining two-thirds being sea and desert; (2) the whole inhabited world is situated under one star; (3) the inhabited world is located between the Wain and Scorpio, that is, about 80° from north to south (54° north of the equator and 26° south of it); (4) it extends from east to west, a distance of one hour of the sun's course, that is 15° (Pes. 94a). Even those sages who were aware that the earth is round did not deal with the problem of the date line. Alexander the Great during his campaigns is said to have risen upward until he saw the earth like a globe partially submerged in an enormous bowl of water, that is, the ocean (TJ, Av. Zar. 3:1, 42c; Num. R. 13:14). The Zohar (Lev., S.V. ve-im zevaḥ shelamim (3:1), Soncino ed., 346. states that according to the Book of R. Hamnuna the Elder the earth is a revolving globe, that when it is day on one side, it is night on the other, that there is a place where there is no day and opposite it a place where there is no night. The comprehension of this is said to be the secret of the mystics and not of geographers. How this individual view came to be included in the Zohar is not clear. The problem of the density of the earth occupied the aggadists. There was a widespread view that the circle of the earth is like a dish that floats on the face of the deep , namely, the water, and that below the deep are mountains, so that the whole rests on a solid base. Another view holds that the earth rests on pillars which apparently reach down to those mountains. Views on the thickness of the earth range from a thousand cubits (about 500 m. = 547 yds.) to a 50-year journey. There was a generally accepted view that the "water of the deep" is close to the surface of the ground which accounts for the origin of springs and the moistening of the ground: to a handbreadth of rain the deep responds with two handbreadths (Ta'an. 25b). Some thought that these springs originated in the Euphrates. The four rivers that went out of the Garden of Eden were higher than all the rivers in the world, the highest of them being the Euphrates, and hence R. Judah in the name of Rav prohibited all the water in the world to anyone who took a vow not to drink from the Euphrates (Bek. 55a). Hot springs have their origin in the deep, and pass over the entrance to Gehinnom (Shab. 39a). "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full … they return (to their source)" (Eccles. 1:7). How do they return? There are three views: (1) through the channels of the deep; (2) through vapors that rise from the sea and form clouds, the desalination of the seawater taking place in the deep or in the clouds; (3) that river water disappears in the ocean because the latter has water which "absorbs water" even if brought up in a barrel on to dry land (a view which is apparently not an exposition of the passage in Ecclesiastes). The phenomenon of how such absorption takes place is not explained (Ta'an. 9b; Gen. R. 13:9; et al.). The Jordan flows from the Dead Sea to the ocean below the earth (Bek. 55a). The idea that the ocean is higher than the land is apparently based on the homiletic interpretation of biblical verses (Jer. 5:22; Amos 9:6); the sand on the seashore prevents the flooding of the land, which happened twice, once in the generation of Enosh, when the flood reached Calabria, and once in the generation that witnessed the confusion of the tongues when the flood stretched as far as the ends of Barbaria (TJ, Shek. 6:2, 50a; Gen. R. 23:7, end). In the sea there are river-like currents and waves whose height reaches 300 parasangs which is also the distance between one wave and another. Among the big waves there are small ones (BB 73a). The sages distinguished between floral zones in Ereẓ Israel on the basis of differences in altitude and hence in temperature. But there are other universal reasons for such diversity, viz. the distinctive features of water and of soil. Koheleth-Solomon planted in his gardens and parks "trees … of all kinds of fruit" (Eccles. 2:5), which means, according to the aggadah,   literally all the kinds in the world. That they might flourish he sent demons, over whom he had dominion, to irrigate each tree by bringing water from its country of origin. Another view held that arteries spread out from the center of the earth through the entire world, and Solomon, knowing how to distinguish them, planted on each artery the appropriate trees, even those from Africa and India (Eccles. R. 2:5, no. 1). From the praise of Ereẓ Israel contained in the aggadah it is possible to put together an aggadic geography of the country before its destruction. The love of the Holy Land, the anguish at its impoverishment and at the depletion of its children, and the expectation of its future glory engendered exaggerations that are logically incomprehensible. Ereẓ Israel's situation in the center of the world and its altitude did not change even after the destruction of the Second Temple, nor did the weight of its stones, which was greater than those of the neighboring countries (PdRE 13). The aggadah is responsible for the extension of the western boundary up to the Atlantic Ocean, this being, for the aggadist, the interpretation of "the Great Sea" in the verse: "And for the western border, ye shall have the Great Sea for a border" (Num. 34:6). Extravagant conclusions were reached by Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. All the countries on the continent as well as the islands opposite Ereẓ Israel within the limits assigned to the patriarchs (from the Brook of Egypt to Taurus Amanus) up to the "primeval waters" at the furthermost extremity of the world and even the ships sailing the sea are all included in the Promised Land (ibid.). It was said that after the destruction of the Second Temple Ereẓ Israel "drew together," i.e., diminished inside. Alexander Yannai had 60 myriad "cities" in the King's Mountain and in each of them were 60 myriad people, except for three in which there were twice as many. To feed this population the country produced enormous crops of excellent quality. By the fourth century, the country had deteriorated to such an extent that it did not produce even a large number of reeds (TJ., Meg. 1:1, 170a; TJ., Ta'an. 4:8, 69a; Git. 57a). In the days of Simeon b. Shetaḥ rain fell at the right time, the grains of wheat were as large as kidneys, the grains of barley like olives, the lentils like golden denarii (Ta'an. 23a). Several species of trees, such as cinnamon, brought from distant lands in the time of Solomon, still grew in the Second Temple period, and Indian pepper continued to grow until the destruction of Bethar (Eccles. R. 2:8). In fulfillment of the biblical passage: "Thou shalt not lack anything in it" (Deut. 8:9), there were exiled with Israel to Babylonia through the channels of the deep 700 species of fish permissible as food and through the air 800 species of locusts permissible as food. The fish and the locusts returned with those who came back from Babylonia (Lam. R., Proem 34). The fate of the Lost Ten Tribes has stirred the imagination of Jews from the days of the Second Temple to our times. A miraculous existence was invented for them in distant and unknown lands, the legend of the tribes being connected with those of the river sambatyon and the Mountains of Darkness. Thus the Ten Tribes were exiled across the Sambatyon, Σαββατείον, the Sabbath river, which rages and hurls stones on six days of the week but rests on the Sabbath, thus proving through nature the holiness of the Sabbath (Sanh. 65b; Gen R. 11:5, 73:6); Josephus describes it as a river in Syria which flows on one day and rests on six days of the week (Jos., Wars, 7:96–99); the origin of the legend being apparently to be found in rhythmically intermittent springs, such as Ein Farah in the Judean desert. -Medieval Jewish Geography Knowledge of the spherical form of the earth, derived from observing the height of the stars in different latitudes, reached Jewish scholars in Islamic countries through Arab astronomy. The first Jew to consider the earth as a sphere was the Cordovan rabbi, Ḥasan b. Mar Ḥasan ha-Dayyan, in his book on intercalation (end of the tenth cent.). At approximately the same time in Baghdad Sherira b. Ḥanina Gaon , followed by his son hai gaon , rejected the opinion that the heavens are like a cap over a flat earth. Only fragments remain of the stories of Abraham b. Jacob who traveled in Germany and the Slavic countries in the 950s. The two letters from Joseph b. Aaron, king of the Khazars, to R. Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut , which comprise not only historical, but also geographical material, were transmitted by Jewish merchants from Germany (about 950). The books of medieval travelers frequently contained material of geographic interest (see travelers ). By the 11th century the spherical form of the earth was accepted among Jewish scholars in Islamic countries, and from there the idea passed to Provence and Italy. solomon ibn gabirol states in Keter Malkhut: "The terrestrial globe is divided into two, half is dry land and half water." The first work in Hebrew about the round shape of the earth and its division into climatic regions, together with a list of the countries in each region, was Sefer Ẓurat ha-Areẓ ("The Book of the Shapeof the Earth" (late 11th or beginning of the 12th century), by Abraham b. Ḥiyya . His system, like that of his Muslim teachers, is that of Ptolemy, the Alexandrian (c. 150 C.E.). According to Abraham b. Ḥiyya, the earth, with the seas upon it, is a globe. The western or lower half of the globe is entirely water. The eastern half is mostly dry land (except for seas such as the Mediterranean and the Red Sea), but there is no human settlement except in seven regions. North of latitude 66° there is no settlement because of the cold. In the far south (there are those who say from the equator to the south and those who say from a few degrees south of the equator) there is no populated area because of the heat, which increases as one progresses in a southerly direction. Ẓurat ha-Areẓ was published with a Latin translation by D. Schreckenfuchs and notes by Sebastian Muenster (Basle, 1546). The discoveries at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century refuted the limitation of the earth's population to seven regions. Information regarding this refutation was conveyed to readers of Hebrew by abraham b. mordecai farissol in chapter 13 of his book Iggeret Orḥot Olam ("Epistle on the Ways of the World," 1525), but geographical ideas derived from legends or books are still to be found in   homiletic and ḥasidic works, and they persisted in "scholarly" books until the 19th century. Still in 1550, mattathias b. solomon delacrut , in his short treatise Ẓel ha-Olam ("Shadow of the World"), based on a 13th-century French work, speaks of a quarter of the area of dry land which was not populated and where no human foot trod. As late as the end of the 18th century, phinehas elijah hurwitz of Vilna in Sefer ha-Berit (ha-Shalem) ("The (Complete) Book of the Covenant," 1797) maintains that most of the globe is water, either surface or underground, that the waters of the oceans are higher than the land, and that sand prevents their flooding the earth. It served as a basic text to those who wished to learn about nature but were apprehensive of the work of the new maskilim who belittled traditional literature. Geographic literature in Hebrew and the part played by Jews in systematic geographic research are slight compared with the Jewish contribution to other branches of science, such as astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. -Geography Textbooks Abraham Farissol's Iggeret Orḥot Olam served as a Hebrew geography textbook until the 19th century. Like other 16th-century Jewish and Christian thinkers, Farissol believed in the existence of the Ten Tribes and the river Sambatyon, and devoted much space to them. Approximately 300 years later, samson ha-levi bloch , a maskil of the Galician school, published Shevilei Olam ("The Paths of the World": vol. 1, "Asia," 1822; vol. 2, "Africa," 1827), basing himself on German literature. The treatise is in the rhetorical and witty style of the times. Abraham Menaḥem Mendel Mohr , still using only German sources, continued the work (1856) after Bloch's death. The information on Jewish communities and Jewish scholars, known to the two authors without having to do any special research, is their original contribution. In the 1780s with the establishment of schools that included secular instruction in the curriculum, special short textbooks began to appear. Reshit Limmudim ("The Beginning of Instruction," first ed. 1796; last ed. 1869), by Baruch Linda, the first such textbook in Hebrew, also has chapters on geography. A geography book, Ha-Kaddur ("The Globe," Prague, 1831), by Moses S. Neumann, was written partly in Hebrew and partly in German, though in Hebrew characters. Asher Radin's Ge'ografyah ha-Ketannah ("The Short Geography," Koenigsberg, 1860), is an abridgment of a German textbook. Two works on the principles of geography: Meẓukei Ereẓ ("The Foundation of the Earth," 1878), by nahum sokolow , and Gelilot ha-Areẓ ("The Regions of the Earth," 1880), based on German literature, by Hillel Kahana, an experienced pedagogue who is one of the last of the Galician school, appeared about the same time. As was customary among writers who did not know any Western European language other than German, Kahana transcribed French and English names according to the German pronunciation. An innovation was a colored Hebrew map, and sketches and pictures with Hebrew captions. In this way he educated the Hebrew reader to map study and observation. Writers of textbooks solved problems in Hebrew geographical terminology and paved the way for the teaching of geography in schools in Ereẓ Israel from the end of the 19th century. (Abraham J. Brawer) -Modern Geography In modern geography there has been development in the concentration on limited areas and specialization in particular fields of study. One of these limited areas is the city. Die Stadt Bonn, ihre Lage und raeumliche Entwicklung (1947), by Alfred philippson , a German geographer, is one of the most important works on urban geography. Another significant contribution was made by norton sidney ginsberg , a U.S. geographer, who at the invitation of the Japanese government studied Tokyo's urban problems and incorporated his findings in "Tokyo Memorandum" (Reports on Tokyo Metropolitan Planning, 1962). Another specialized field is economic geography. julius bien , a U.S. cartographer, not only prepared atlases for a number of major cities but carried out a full-scale survey of intercontinental railways for the U.S. War Department. saul bernard cohen , who specialized in a number of geographic fields, wrote Store Location Research for the Food Industry (1961), considered a standard guide. In addition, in the sphere of political geography he wrote Geography and Politics in a World Divided (1963). On physical geography victor a. conrad wrote Fundamentals of Physical Climatology (1942) and Methods in Climatology (1944); the Israel meteorologist dov ashbel published A Bio-Climatic Atlas of Israel (1950) and Climate of the Great Rift; Arava, Dead Sea, Jordan Valley (1966). Joseph Ḥefeẓ Gentilli (1912–2000), an Australian geographer, wrote Australian Climates and Resources (1947) and Geography of Climate (1958). In connection with the study of the geography of soils david amiran , an Israeli, edited for UNESCO "Land Use in Semi-Arid Mediterranean Climates" (in Arid Zones Research, vol. 26, 1964). morton joseph rubin , a U.S. meteorologist, did research in oceanography, meteorology, and in glaciology, particularly in connection with his studies on the Antarctic. Another specialized branch of modern geography is biogeography; a monumental work in this field is Studies in Medical Geography (7 vols., 1958–67), by Jacques Meyer May (1896–1976), a French-born American scientist. Nautical geography is another division which has drawn the interest of Jewish geographers, among them the Italian carlo errera , who wrote the pamphlet L'italianità dell' Adriatico (1914). The modern period has also produced an increasing number of historians of geography. Gustavo Uzielli (1889–1911), an Italian, did extensive research on the explorations of Christopher Columbus, Toscanelli, and Amerigo Vespucci. His best known work is La vita e i tempi di P. Dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1894). A number of geographers have turned their attention to the history of cartography. Roberto Almagià , one of Italy's most distinguished geographers, edited Monumenta Italiae Geographica (1929) and Monumenta Cartographica Vaticana   (4 vols., 1944–55). erwin j. raisz , an American, wrote General Cartography (1938) and Principles of Cartography (1962). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Neubauer, Géogr; J.Z. Hirschensohn, Sheva Hokhmot (19122); A.J. Brawer, in: Yerushalayim, 10 (1914), 117–32; idem, Palaestina nach der Agada (1920); S. Klein, Zur Geographie Palaestinas in der Zeit der Mischna (1917); J. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien im Zeitalter des Talmuds… (1929); J.M. Guttmann, Ereẓ Yisrael be-Midrash ve-Talmud (1929); M. Avi-Yonah, Atlas Karta li-Tekufat Bayit Sheni, ha-Mishnah ve-ha-Talmud (1966); F. Taeschner, in: ZDMG, 77 (1923), 31–80; Zunz, Schr, 1 (1875), 146–216.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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