That Jewish journeys are about more than just going from A to B is made clear from two snapshots in Jeremy Leigh's fascinating little book. In the first, a young English Jew, low on petrol, calls up a rabbi for advice on whether it's OK to visit York (a city prohibited to orthodox Jews since a massacre of the city's Jewish population in 1190) to find a petrol station. In the second, a Rome rabbi walks his congregation backwards through Titus' triumphal arch in the city when Israel comes into existence in 1948. This symbolises the reversal of a moment some 1900 years earlier when captive Jews were marched through the city behind Titus, celebrating his defeat of the Jewish rebellion in Judea - a rebellion that would culminate in the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem itself.
Leigh writes engagingly about the `state of mind, purpose and pure heart' needed to really journey as a Jew. Since Moses led the people out of Egypt, Jewish journeys have always been both physical and spiritual - often compelled, of course, due to persecution and/or expulsion. Blending his own reflections as a tour guide to some of Judaism's most `freighted' spots - Vilna, Cracow, Granada, and of course Jerusalem - he supports his insights with deftly-woven quotes from sources as diverse as psalm 126 (a pilgrim hymn), the medieval thinker Nachmanides, and the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. The final section of the book quotes (sometimes, in my view, at rather too great length) more extensively from biblical, rabbinic, medieval and a range of contemporary writers, further illuminating the many-stranded phenomenon that is the Jewish journey. Fascinating - and a very nicely produced little book, too.