Zev Vilnay

Zev Vilnay (Hebrew: זאב וילנאי‎, 12 June 1900 – 21 January 1988) was an Israeli geographer, author and lecturer.

Zev Vilnay in 1970


Zev Vilnay was born as Volf Vilensky in Kishinev, Russian Empire (now in Moldova). He immigrated to Palestine with his parents at the age of six and grew up in Haifa. He served as a military topographer in the Haganah, and later in the Israel Defense Forces.[1]

Vilnay and his wife Esther lived in Jerusalem. Their eldest son, Oren Vilnay, is an expert in structural engineering who established the Department of Civil Engineering at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The other son, Matan Vilnai, is a politician who served as a member of the Knesset and held several ministerial portfolios before becoming ambassador to China.

Land of Israel studiesEdit

Tour of Samaria led by Zev Vilnay, 1927

Vilnay was a pioneer in the sphere of outdoor hiking and touring in Israel. Vilnay lectured widely on Israeli geography, ethnography, history and folklore.[1] His Guide to Israel was published in 27 editions[2] and translated into many languages.[3]

In his 1950 book The Hike and Its Educational Value, Vilnai traced the Jewish emphasis on walking the Land of Israel back to the Bible. He describes a continuous historical thread that passes through the Jewish sources, and quotes the Talmudic dictum that anyone who walks three or four cubits through Erez Yisra'el merits a place in the world to come (Ketubot 111a).[4]

In the 1974 edition of his guide, Vilnay describes how he helped bring back to Israel the boat of a British naval officer, Thomas Howard Molyneux, who sailed the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea to map the region in the 19th century.[5]

Vilnay was a member of the first place-naming committee established by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in 1950.[6]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Published works in EnglishEdit

  • Legends of Palestine (1932)
  • The Guide to Israel (first published in 1955)
  • The Holy Land in Old Prints and Maps (1965)
  • The New Israel Atlas: Bible to Present Day (1968)
  • The Changing Face of Acco
  • Legends of Jerusalem (3 volumes)
  • Legends of Galilee, Jordan & Sinai (1978)[10]
  • Legends of Judea and Samaria
  • The Vilnay Guide to Israel: A new Millennium Edition (2 volumes) (1999), written and edited after his death and according to his instructions by Oren and Rachel Vilnay

Published works in HebrewEdit

  • Entziklopediya Liyidiat Haaretz (3 volumes) (1956)
  • Yerushalayim (2 volumes) (1960–62, 1970)
  • Eretz Yisrael Betmunot Atikot (1961)
  • Matzevot Kodesh Be'eretz Yisrael (1963)
  • Tel Aviv-Jaffa (1965)
  • Yehudah Veshomron (1968)
  • Sinai, Avar Vehoveh (1969)
  • Golan Vehermon (1970)
  • Ariel – Entziklopediya Lidiyat HaAretz (10 volumes) (1976–82)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Judaica, "Zev Vilnay," Keter Publishing, Jerusalem, 1972, vol. 16, p. 151
  2. ^ The Vilnay Guide to Israel 2 vols Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Zev Vilnay, Geographer, 87". The New York Times. 1988-01-23.
  4. ^ [1] Hiking in Israel: Why Are These Trails Different? Shay Rabineau
  5. ^ Eli Ashkenazi, 19th-century British explorer's boat returns to Dead Sea, Haaretz, 4 Nov 2007, accessed 22 July 2019
  6. ^ In Arabic and in Hebrew, a name is more than just a name, Haaretz
  7. ^ "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)". City of Jerusalem official website
  8. ^ "List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933-2004 (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv Municipality website" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 17, 2007.
  9. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1982 (in Hebrew)".
  10. ^ Legends of Galilee, Jordan & Sinai