Rabbi Isaac ben Joseph ibn Chelo (14th century)

Les Chemins de Jerusalem, 1333

Born in Aragon in Spain towards the end of the 13th century, in 1333 Rabbi Isaac began his journey to settle in Jerusalem with his family. In The Roads to Jerusalem, he provides an account of the places visited during his travels, giving particular emphasis to the extraordinary events and the most interesting things that he encountered. In the excerpt we have selected he speaks to us of Capernaum, recalling the ancient Hebrew tradition according to which the name of the village, Kefar (village) Nahum (name of person), was derived from the presence there of the tomb of Nahum the Elder, as suggested in rabbinical sources and from an inscription found in the synagogue at Hammat Gader.

“From Arbela we reach Kefar Nahum, or Capernaum, which is the Kefar Nahum spoken of in the writings of our sages (Upon whose memory be a blessing!). It is a village in ruins, where there is an ancient tomb said to be that of Nahum the Old. At one time in this village there were a number of Minim [heretics, i.e., Christians], all great sorcerers as we know from the history of Chanina, nephew of Rabbi Joshua.”

The Roads from Jerusalem, in Jewish Travelers in the Middle Ages: 19 Firsthand Accounts, ed. Elkan Nathan Adler, Dover Publications, 1987, p. 147.