During an outing during the week of Passover we visited the cave of Rebbi Shimon in the historic town of Pekiin, and also visited the gravesite of Rabbi Oshaya nearby. It was a very lovely spot indeed, and quite moving to see the crowd of folks who arrived to pray in this special spot.
Not far from our home in Northern Israel there is a forest called the Baal Shem Tov forest, and within that very forest is a very special place: the burial site of the Tanna, Rebbi Shimon Ben Manasya. We visited this site in the Spring (though I am just getting around to sharing it with you now, sorry about that!) and with not a soul in sight we enjoyed every minute of this little adventure!
As it turns out, most of the burial spots of great sages tend to be located in special places with amazing views, and this site is no exception, you must visit sometime if you ever find yourself driving the road between Meron and The Holy City of Tsfat!
I am very blessed to live in an ancient city, one of the four holy citys in Israel, that is packed with inspiration, natural beauty, and loads of really important history, loads and loads. My town also happened to become one of the well known artist colonies after israel became a country in 1948, and it is no wonder, with the fresh mountain air and great light! After living here for almost ten years, with another five year stint before I was married, I have at long last come to the conclusion that simply photographing all this beauty is not enough. I have become inspired to paint! So I'm gathering up all my experience as an interior architect and designer, as a knits designer, as an art director in advertising, together with my varied education in the fields previously stated, and my last ten years or so of serious crafting, and I'm entering the world of fine art. Because if you know me, I'm always up for a challenge, and I guess I was in need of one, a great big one!
Above: View of the gorgeous topography of the Galillea, from a lookout point on the road to Pekiin, looking southeast.
Tonight we ushered in the very special holiday of Lag B'Omer, which celebrates and honors our great sage Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, also referred to as Rashbi. So there is no better day than to share with you photos of our little trip to the town of Pekiin, to visit the cave where Rebbi Shimon and his son Elazar hid from the Roman persecuters after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
This is a very special spot, located actually on the other side of Mt. Meron from the town of Meron, (where Rebbi Shimon is buried, and where as we speak tens of thousands of people are arriving from around the country and around the world for the festive Lag B"Omer celebration.) Certainly worth a visit, and for those of you who won't likely be making the trip anytime soon, keep reading for some more armchair traveling!
Today is Yom HaZikaron, the memorial day for fallen soldiers here in Israel. Today is a solemn day, which is taken quite seriously by the general population, and enforced by the government with mandatory closing of stores and sirens sounding in every city, both last night and this morning. If one happens to be on the road, say in a big city or on a freeway when the siren sounds for one minute, it is really quite a moving experience, as traffic stops completely and drivers get out of their cars to stand in silence. What can I say? Today is a day of such raw emotion for our country, as so many have lost sons and daughters and family members to war, in battles that we as the Jewish people never wanted to fight to begin with. When even one soldier is killed in war, our entire nation feels it, because despite the wide range of religious observance and skin color within our little group of 15 million, at the end of the day we are one people. I do think that is an important message to think about today.
The photos I'm sharing with you here were taken of a Six Day War memorial, (on one of our outings during the week of Passover), located in a beautiful spot in Ein Zeitim, an area accessed from the road between Tsfat and Meron. We came across this location quite by accident, and I really can't believe we had never been here as we pass it all the time!
This Passover vacation we took small trips close to home, and at long last visited some favorite sites that I hadn't been to in at least 15 years, and thus had yet to share with my little ones. Introducing one of my all time favorites, the burial cave of Elkana, the father of Shmuel HaNavi (Samuel the Prophet)! It is almost hard to wrap one's head around the fact that this site, on the road between Tsfat and Meron, in the Northern Gallilee area called Kadita, is thousands of years old! (!0th Century BCE) As with all historic burial caves, a small building has been erected over the cave, to designate the site and provide shelter for visitors who may choose to stay awhile and pour out their hearts.
This Passover holiday I have the personal goal of visiting some of the many holy sites that are very close to our home and that I have visited many years ago, but never with my family! We pass the Idra Raba Cave every time we visit Meron, and yet I have never been successful at getting my husband to stop the car for a visit. Until yesterday that is, when this very special historical spot was actually our destination! The Idra Raba Cave can be found on the Tsfat-Meron road, around 10 minutes west of Tsfat, and was discovered by the Ari HaKodesh, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria in the 16th century!
In this cave sometime around 70 CE, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his 9 students studied the Kabbalistic secrets that were incorporated in the Zohar, especially the part called “Idra Rabba” [the Great Idra]. The Ari HaKadosh and his students also gathered in this spot, and it was here that the Ari also revealed to his students deep and hidden secrets. A stone structure was built over the cave to mark its location and to identify the spot as well as make it accessible.
There is truly no sight quite as breathtaking as a flock of migrating white storks flying overhead! We saw a few of these twice yearly visitors on Shabbat, over our home, and today when we were on a small road trip in the area we witnessed several large flocks of white storks, and it was truly exciting, as always. I don't think I'll ever tire of spotting these migrating storks as they make their way home for nesting in Northern Europe, (in the Spring) or as they head down to Africa for the winter. There is just something so truly amazing about them, especially since they are quite large!
We often see them circling, (either as a way of resting in flight, or attempting to find a resting spot on land) or flying on a path as you can see in these photos, which is as close as I could get with my lens. Time to invest in something with a bit more range I do think!
The blooming period of our local almond trees is coming to an end, and I was fortunate to get out yesterday on a beautiful spring day, to not only witness some of this seasonal beauty, but also from a part of town that I visit quite infrequently. From this adjacent hilltop in a neighborhood called Canaan, the views of Mount Meron are stunning, I hope you enjoy this little snapshot of the views I enjoyed on my walk home.
Earlier this week I shared with you photos of the first almond tree blossoms, and now I thought I'd also share with you some photos of the little hike I took with my boys on that same day. We are fortunate to live just a skip and jump from a small forest and nature preserve, so appreciating the wonders of nature isn't difficult, though in the winter we have to wait for Rosh Chodesh, which is a half day. Okay, it is true, Fridays are also a half day, but I am generally really busy with cooking and getting the house in shape for Shabbat, so that isn't usually an option, though I'm hoping to get out today again with my camera, as the blooming trees are calling my name.