In this section of the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, he passes through the historic and diverse place that is Jerusalem. Upon arriving, our author notes on the many different peoples that he defines as “Mohammedans [Muslims] … Jacobites, Syrians, Greeks, Georgians, and Franks” (p. 34). The mere mention of all these peoples raises a multitude of questions, particularly regarding the Franks given their distance and apparent sizable presence in this far-away city, however he does not seem to be terribly troubled with learning any more about these peoples. Instead, Benjamin of Tudela focuses on the people most akin to him, the Jews.
There is something to be said about knowing no matter where you go, you can always find some of your kin.
The further from Europe he journeys, it appears Jews find themselves in improving conditions. Here, the community is built around the most significant structure in the city, the Tower of David. Not only is there local Jewish heritage with this tower, but it is upkept by the “Mohammedans”, indicating a positive relationship between the Muslims and Jews of Jerusalem (p. 35)
Christians, too also seem well-represented in the city. Upon Mount Zion, a hill just beyond the walled Jerusalem, there is “a place of worship belonging to the Christians,” (p. 37). By this account, the spiritual presence of Christianity also appears to be strong. Once, the church upon Mount Zion had a wall cave in. While under renovation, two workers attempted to access the tombs of the old kings in search of wealth, but when they tried to step in a great wind pushed them out and onto the ground, and “they fell to the ground like dead men, and there they lay until evening,” (p. 39).
Tales like this are likely nothing more than that — just tales. However, it is interesting to note that Benjamin of Tudela cares to entertain such tales. He is clearly entrenched in his faith, as that which relates to his heritage is what he writes most about, but he chooses to acknowledge a miracle that occurred at a Christian church. This is far from pantheism or polytheism, but it does indicate a belief that other religions are not merely tolerated but seen as valid and somewhat true from the perspective from outsiders to the religion. Of course, those buried there were King David and his descendants, and the House of David is significant in Judaism as well, so this may explain some of the willingness to accept this miracle. The point still stands, though, that it occurred at a Christian, not Jewish place of worship.
It is a common thread through the writings of Benjamin of Tudela that he completely ignores the practicalities of travel. The most we get are distances, which are not measured in concrete units but in parasangs, a measure of distance similar to leagues kept by measuring time on foot. This account is hard to justify as being a guide for others, but in some part appears to be an account of the Jews of the world. They are always his greatest focus no matter where he goes, and he often notes their dwelling-places, indicating perhaps that where he would spend his days and nights whil stopped in these cities.