BENJAMIN II., J. J. (real name, Joseph Israel):
Rumanian traveler; born at Folticheni, Moldavia, in 1818; died at London May 3, 1864. Married young, he engaged in the lumber business, but losing his modest fortune, he gave up commerce. Being of an adventurous disposition, he adopted the name of Benjamin of Tudela, the famous Jewish traveler of the twelfth century, and toward the end of 1844 set out to search for the Lost Ten Tribes. He first went to Vienna, and in January, 1845, started for Constantinople, visiting several cities on the Mediterranean. He landed at Alexandria June, 1847, and proceeded via Cairo to Palestine. He then traveled through Syria, Babylonia, Kurdistan, Persia, the Indies, Kabul, and Afghanistan, returning June, 1851, to Constantinople, and thence to Vienna. After a short stay in the last-named city, he went to Italy, embarking there for Algeria and Morocco. On arriving in France, after having traveled for eight years, he prepared in Hebrew his impressions of travel, and had the book translated into French. After suffering many tribulations in obtaining subscriptions for his book, he issued it in 1856, under the title "Cinq Années en Orient" (1846-51). The same work, revised and enlarged, was subsequently published in German under the title "Acht Jahre in Asien und Afrika" (Hanover, 1858), with a preface by Kayserling. An English version has also been published. As the veracity of his accounts and the genuineness of his travels were attacked by some critics, he amply defended himself by producing letters and other tokens proving his journey to the various Oriental countries named. Benjamin relates only what he has seen; and, although some of his remarks show insufficient scholarship and lack of scientific method,his truthful and simple narrative gained the approval of eminent scholars like Humboldt, Petermann, and Richter.
In 1859 Benjamin undertook another journey, this time to America, where he stayed three years. The result of his observations there he published on his return, under the title "Drei Jahre in Amerika" (Hanover, 1863). The kings of Sweden and of Hanover now conferred distinctions upon him. Encouraged by the sympathy of several scientists, who drew up a plan and a series of suggestions for his guidance, he determined to go again to Asia and Africa, and went to London in order to raise funds for this journey—a journey which was not to be undertaken. Worn out by fatigues and privations, which had caused him to grow old before his time and gave him the appearance of age, he died poor in London; and his friends and admirers had to arrange a public subscription in order to save his wife and daughter from misery.
In addition to the works mentioned above, Benjamin published "Jawan Mezula, Schilderung des Polnisch-Kosakischen Krieges und der Leiden der Juden in Poland Während der Jahre 1648-53, Bericht eines Zeitgenossen nach einer von. L. Lelewel Durchgesehenen Französischen Uebersetzung, Herausgegeben von J. J. Benjamin II.," Hanover, 1863, a German edition of Rabbi Nathan Nata Hanover's work on the insurrection of the Cossacks in the seventeenth century, with a preface by Kayserling.
- Jewish Chronicle, May 13, 1864.