(1170-1235) Jewish Hebrew poet
, born in Spain
. Al-Harizi was a member of a wealthy family which has become impoverished
, and was therefore dependent on patron
s. He visited Provence
, returning to Spain
in 1190, and afterwards left to travel through the Middle East
. He first went to Marsilles
and presumably from there sailed to Egypt
, later continuing to Eretz Israel
, and Mesopotamia
, stopping along the way in Jerusalem
, and Baghdad
. He mentions seeing the tombs of the prophet Ezekiel
and of Ezra
. Al-Harizi's voyages through these countries helped spread Spanish
culture among the Jewish communities
there. Most of his compositions were written during his travels and contain reflections on his experiences. It is unknown whether he ever returned to Spain
Al-Harizi's most important translation of poetry is his Hebrew rendering of the Maqamat of the Arabic poet Al-Hariri, which he entitled Makhbarot Iti'el (Notebooks of Ithiel), completed before 1218. Though this translation was (and still is) considered a major artistic achievement, only 26 of the 50 Maqamat Al-Harizi translated are fully extant.
Al-Harizi used the form he utilized in the translation of the Maqamat for his own major work, Sefer Takhkemoni (Book of the Wise One), completed after 1220; he was among the first to use the genre of the maqama in Hebrew literature. Apart from its literary merit and brilliant, incisive style, the Takhkemoni also throws valuable light on the state of Hebrew culture of the period, and describes the scholars and leaders of the communities Al-Harizi visited. Al-Harizi gives vivid descriptions of the leadership of the Jewish community in Toledo, the poets of Thebes, a debate between a Rabbanite and a Karaite, and conditions in Jerusalem. The poem also contains critical evaluation of contemporary and earlier poets, although in this he is not always reliable. The Book included love ditties, fables, proverbs, riddles, and satirical sketches, such as a defence speech by a rooster about to be slaughtered.
Al-Harizi also wrote Sefer HaAnak (Book of the Necklace), a collection of 257 short poems on moral and religious themes, mainly composed of two stanzas and rhyming puns.
Of his prose translations the most important is the translation from the Arabic into Hebrew of Maimonides' greatest philosophical work Moreh Nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed). Although the translation lacks accuracy, and generally the later translation by Samuel ibn Tibbon is preferred, it was through Al-Harizi's translation that Maimonides' ideas were propagated in the Christian world.
Many of Al-Harizi's letters are also extant, and serve as important sources of the period, due to their light, entertaining and allusive style, as well as their variety of subject matter.