Pioneering Sephardic geographer
1. Ishtori HaParchi was born in France around the year 1280. His last names means Florentine in Hebrew, so called because the family came from Florenzia, in Spain.
2. When the Jews were expelled from France in 1306, he went first to Spain, then Egypt, and finally to Eretz Yisrael. He settled in Bet She’an about the year 1313 and worked there as a physician. At the time, Bet She’an was a center of sugar cane production.
3. Under the pen name of Isaac (HaKohen) Ben Moses, he authored the first Hebrew book on the geography of Eretz Yisrael, the Sefer Kaftor Yaferech (“Button and Flower”).
4. The book was written in 1322, after HaParchi had spent seven years walking the land. It deals with the geography, topography, botany, history, astronomy and laws of the land, listing the names of towns and villages and identifying 180 ancient sites. Initially published in Venice in 1549, it was lost, then rediscovered in Egypt some 300 years later. It is of unparalleled value to scholars today.
5. His date of death is alternately given as 1355 and 1366, though the former appears the more reliable.
Many thanks to Tel-Avivi https://www.facebook.com/telavivi1909 for these photographs of Ishtori HaParchi Street today.
You’ll find Ishtori HaParchi Street in Tel Aviv running north from Jabotinsky, west of Yehoshua ben Nun.