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Yehudah Ben Samuel Halevi

1141 - 1075.

Rabbi Juda (Yehuda) HaLevi was a Sephardic rabbi, philosopher, doctor, and poet born in Tudela (Spain).

During his life, he practiced medicine, engaged in trade, and had connections with Jewish and non-Jewish figures worldwide.

Statue of Yehuda Halevi, in Israel. Source: Wikipedia.

At age 60, convinced that Jews living outside the Holy Land lead an incomplete life, he decides to leave for the land of Israel and make Aliyah. Documents indicate that Judah Halevi arrived in Alexandria in September 1140. The place of his death remains unclear. Some say he died in Egypt, and others mention him arriving in Jerusalem, his final destination.

During his lifetime, Halevi's poems were known beyond Spain. His poetry is inspired by Arabic models (dominant at that time) and adapted to Hebrew. We know around 800 poems by Judah Halevi.

His most famous work is "Kuzari", or the 'Book of the Khazar'.

Translated from Arab into Hebrew in the 12th century by Rabbi Yehuda Ibn Tibbon, It has been repeatedly republished and printed in Latin, Spanish, German, and Italian.

The book is built on the model of a dialogue between a Rabbi and the king of the Khazars (who existed between the sixth and thirteenth centuries AD in the area of today's Ukraine/Georgia). It deals with the conflict between faith and philosophy, at a time when Jewish intellectuals were under classical Greek influence. It is also one of the first attempts to confront Judaism with Christianity and Islam.

In the book, Rabbi Juda Halevi argues that the presence of Israel's God is most palpable in the Land of Israel. It is therefore ideal and most religiously fulfilling for Jews to live there.

One of Tel Aviv's first streets is named after him.


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