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Benjamin ben Elijahu - Account of his Work for Jerusalem



He was a Karaite pilgrim from Chufut­Kale in the Crimea, who visited the Holy Land in 1785/6. He carried alms for the Jerusalem community, and was accompanied by four other Karaites (one of them a woman) and one from Troki, whose expenses were paid by the Karaites of the Crimea, who hoped to induce thus the Karaites of Lithuania to cover in future part of the upkeep of the community of Jerusalem. The group sailed from Eupatoria to Istanbul and from there to Jaffa. It joined forces with the (last ?) Karaite Nasi of Damascus and visited Jerusalem together. The money they carried had been deposited with the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul, and the draft they had received was passed on to the leader of the Karaite congregation of Jerusalem, Mordehai ben Samuel Halevy. A further sum of 900 piasters was lent by the Orthodox Greeks to Benjamin for the Jerusalem community and he got the Karaites of Istanbul to repay this sum to the Greeks, promising that eventually it would be covered by the Karaites of the Crimea. He composed an itinerary in which he mentions the Karaite communities of Jerusalem and Istanbul, and claimed that in the past there had been a congregation also in Hebron (a claim for which it has been impossible to find any substantiation). He did not visit Cairo, because of an outbreak of the plague and heard that half of the 150 Karaite households there had been wiped out by the epidemic. He also composed some hymns which are included in the Karaite liturgy.