A very special visitor to the Holy Land – MARK TWAIN

MARK TWAIN

MARK TWAIN

Mark Twain is a pseudonym for Samuel Langhorne Clemens, born on November 30, 1835, into an American catholic family.

He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, a region famously known as the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. During his adolescence Mark Twain worked odd jobs, like a a printer’s apprentice, but he also contributed to the articles in the journal of his older brother, Orion Clemens. In addition, he worked as a miner, as well as a maritime pilot on the Mississippi River. Later he would joke about his lack of success in mining, eventually turning to journalism.

In June 1867 he joined a commission of journalists, which traveled with a group of passengers to Europe and the Holy Land on the steamer “Quaker City”. The purpose of this trip was to write an article for the magazine “Alta california” on “New Pilgrims and Tourism”, called “the Pleasure Trip to the Holy Land”.

In his book ”The journey of the Innocents”, Mark Twain talk about his traveling companions, whom he found difficult to sympathize with. They were too pious for his taste.

After Europe they arrived in the Middle East via Syria, Lebanon and, finally, to Palestine. Marc Twain was astonished at the small size of Lake Tiberias, being used to the huge American lakes. He continued to Nazareth, Mount Tabor and crossed Samaria. From Nablus he then left for the Jordan Valley in the middle od August at 40C!  He tells about the difficulty of finding a tree, a water point to cool off after hours of walking … that of the arid desert, an ultimate desolation.

At that time, the Bible was the sole resource to find and recognize the holy places, but these famous places seemed a lot less grand than he had anticipated!

Finally he saw he Jordan River, a river that can be crossed on foot! What a disappointment it was, compared with Missouri! He later would call the Jordan River “Mississipee!”

Upon arrival in Jerusalem however, he was very impressed by the walls ,examining them four hours. He found the Old City smelly, dirty, dilapidated and outdated. Another disappointment! He stayed at the “Mediterranean Hotel” in the Jewish Quarter of that time. This is the same building that Ariel Sharon would buy 150 years later in 1987. Since Sharon’s death the hotel has been transformed to a “yeshiva”, a Talmudic school.

Monks guided him through the old town, but Twain was upset by their lack of culture. At the Holy Sepulcher he saw Adam’s tomb. Finally, a member of his family and he is moved !!

Upon his return to the USA he was asked how this ‘journey of pleasure in the Holy Land’ had been. Since it had been far from a pleasent trip, the title did not suit anymore.

We should call the article:” A trip for the great burial of the Holy Land! “A country in mourning and cursed, which has lost all its grandeur, its beauty and has become a cursed land forgotten by God ”

The Israeli Prime Minister during a meeting with Barack Obama offered him Mark Twain’s book, telling him this is what the Jewish people had done in this cursed country …

Mark Twain met Theodore Herzl and wanted to perform the latter’s play ‘The New Ghetto’ on Broadway. Mark Twain believed that Jews should not return to Palestine because they could be more influential by staying in their respective countries.

He wrote his autobiography in 1910 and according to his request it was not to be published until 2010 on the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death.

His wit and satire, in prose and speech, earned praise from critics and his peers, he has been hailed as the “greatest comedian the United States has produced.”

Twain was born shortly after the appearance of Halley’s comet, and he predicted that he would “go out with” he died on April 21, 1910, one day after the comet approached Earth.

Le voyage des innocents (Petite bibliothèque payot) (French Edition): Twain, Mark: 9782228889506: Amazon.com: Books

The photographer and the History of the country – Rudi Weissenstein

 

MYRIAM WEISSENSTEIN

MYRIAM WEISSENSTEIN

Born in 1910 in Czechoslovakia, Shimon Rudolf, “Rudi” Weissenstein studied photography in Vienna.  He immigrated to Palestine in 1934. Upon his arrival, he photographed the daily life of Jewish immigrants at that time, from which he accumulated a vast collection of more than a million negatives.

The most famous are most certainly those of the Declaration of Independence of Israel by David Ben Gurion in 1948. Until Rudi’s death in 1992, he and his wife Myriam, a dancer, ran a photography store in Tel-Aviv, where all his collections were exposed.

The Allenby Street store was familiar to me, the black and white photos of the window reflected a bygone past that Israelis don’t like to be forgotten. I was particularly fascinated by this one photo of a very vital lady, leaping happily in the air and being snapped up in flight by a photographer, her husband.

I was also very touched by this unusual couple, Myriam and her grandson Ben Peter Weissenstein, who appeared in a documentary by Tamar Tal, called “ Life in Still.” They talked about their fears and difficulties to survive,  and about how they fought to preserve this heritage and their photography shop, which was in  danger to disappear permanently. The Tel Aviv City Hall wanted to renovate their building and offered them to move into a new building, in Chernichovsky Street.

Myriam Weissenstein died in 2011 at age 98, a few months after the store moved to its current location after years of fighting to save Allenby’s store. Her grandson manages the archives and photos of the store which is currently closed due to covid19 but available on the store’s website.

 

RUDI ET MYRIAM WEISSENSTEIN

RUDI ET MYRIAM WEISSENSTEIN

 

The Druzes community in the Golan Heights

The Druze religion is a schism of Ismaili Shia Islam. It was born in Egypt during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim, recognized as “mad” for some and “genius” for others. During an official ceremony in 996, he established himself as the last imam and the incarnation of God on earth. It was during this period that the split between Druze and Ismailis occurred.

Three Ismaili characters are the instigators of this new Druze religion, Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazi, will give him his name, but later he will be removed from the group whose ideas are incompatible with the new doctrine.

The Druze doctrine is rooted in a desire to synthesize the three monotheisms with ideas from Manichaeism, ancient Egypt, India and the Greek world.

The Druze designate themselves as unitary. This term is doubly justified because the Druze affirm the strict oneness of God and because they aspire to unite with him.

Al-Hakim wants to unite by force the Sunni and Shiite cults to create a new Islam, largely inspired by Ismaili Shiism with only pilgrimage place in Cairo. The vast Sunni majority living in Egypt strongly contests this ideology. In 1020, Al-Hakim disappeared during one of his usual walks, near Cairo where he found peace and serenity. His body was never found, only his clothes tainted with blood.

The death of Fatimid Al-Hakim led to a wave of persecution against the Druze. Their doctrine is eradicated from Egypt. Followers of this new religion fled and took refuge in southern Syria, Lebanon and the Galilee, far from Cairo and the Fatimid Empire. A movement of proselytizing is created in these regions and part of the local Shiite population converts to this unitary Druze religion which is then enriched by contributions of Kurdish, Arab origin and becomes a community of multiple ethnic origin.

The divine hierarchy has five ministers considered by five colors. At the top, there is Divine Intelligence, Soul, Word, Previous and Next.

These are the five colors found in the Druze flag (green, red, yellow, blue and white).

The initiates are distinguished by their moral quality, their reputation and their spiritual elevation. They renounce earthly pleasure and their long mystical journey leads them towards the purification of the soul to the level of elevation which will unite them to God and the return of the Messiah Al-Hakim at the end of time.

Reincarnation is one of the core beliefs of the Druze community. After death, the deceased’s soul immediately enters a Druze newborn.

This religion is strongly influenced by Sufism which advocates the removal of material goods to stay closer to God. Jewish and Christian religions are better accepted in Druze writings than Islam. One of the Druze doctrines is Greek philosophy.

The Druze do not follow Islamic rules such as the pilgrimage to Mecca. They do not read the Koran but the books of wisdom, they do not pray in mosques but in prayer houses. There is no rite or prayer on Friday. On Thursday evenings the Druze wishing to get closer to religion meet to listen to the conference on the books of wisdom followed by recitation of the texts of Sufi poetry. The session leader then gives a signal and only the initiated can stay and participate in the real religious session.

For a long time, the disclosure of the Druze doctrine was worth its author’s death.

The only Muslim holiday celebrated by the Druze is Id of Al-Adha which celebrates the sacrifice of Abraham which will be celebrated on the same day by other Muslims. They do not practice fasting during the month of Ramadan but during the ten days before the Id of Al-Adha. The party lasts four days. The day of ‘Id symbolizes the day of the last judgment which represents the deliverance for the druze.

Proselytism is prohibited among the Druze. We are born Druze, we cannot become one. Marriages take place within the community only. A password allows members to recognize themselves. Polygamy is not tolerated and marital fidelity is one of the rules. The woman is equal to the man and can inherit the family patrimony if the parents establish a will, if this does not exist the brother will be the heir and if there is no male in the family the cousins will inherit.

There are approximately one million druzes living in the world, 143,000 Druze in Israel, including 20,000 on the Golan Heights. Following the six-day war the Golan Heights, until then Syrian, was taken by the Israelis, the Druze population became administered by the Israeli government. Some Druze accepted Israeli citizenship while others remained loyal to the Assad regime. Trade, especially that of apples which is an important production of the region passes in Syria. Some young Druze people go to Damascus to study in Syria, where education is free for them.

Young druze girls will be promised in marriage to young boys from Syria, the border crossing will then be open the time of their passage, thanks to the thousand efforts of the Red Cross, in order to join their future husband and will never be able to return to the despair of the family and the bride. A very beautiful film was made on this subject its title “The Syrian fiancée”.

Following the war in Syria, families are torn between pro and anti-Assad, people of the past united against the Israeli occupation no longer speak from house to house, and the “hill of screams” , where families once came to exchange news via megaphones on either side of the barbed wire border between Syria and Israel, is now deserted. The means of communication have improved significantly in recent years.

The height of the Golan Heights is between 500 and 1,000 meters above sea level, its length is 55 km long, a highly strategic crossroads by location, and geography. It overlooks the kinnereth lake with the city of Tiberias, the upper Galilee and the Syrian Damascus plain. Its main source of water flowing into the kinnereth Lake is the Jordan river. It is a perfect point of observation. It has become a military field filled with antennae and sophisticated military equipment.

 

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

Golan height druze leaders meeting with their syrian compatriotes

The samaritan (Ha Shomronim)

The origin of the name Samaria (Shomron in Hebrew) is associated with a certain Shemer, to whom Omri, king of Israel (886-875 BC) bought a hill, which he fortified to build a city on it. 

He gave the city the name of Samaria. It became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Being a lush and very wealthy city, Damascus became its rival.

The name of Samaria was later dedicated to the entire center of the kingdom of Israel, and more particularly, the mountainous region which surrounded it.

The religion of the Samaritans ( Shomronim in Hebrew ) is based on the first five books of the Bible. Therefore, their only prophets are Moses and Joshua. Until today, the Samaritans are faithful to the Law of Moses. They practice circumcision on the eighth day of the birth of a baby boy and observe Shabbat scrupulously. They celebrate the pilgrimage festivals on Mount Garizim (which means ‘sacrifice’ in ancient Hebrew), where they sacrifice the Passover lambs.

The origin of the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans dates back to 722 BCE (before the common era) Following the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians and the inevitable arrival of foreign settlers, who would mix with the jewish local population. This combination of different people would be born as the Samaritan people. To their traditional gods they will add the worship of YHWH (Yahweh = G-d). The Samaritans are since then considered heretics by the other Jews.

Over the course of history, relations between Jews and Samaritans would gradually deteriorate. The construction of a Temple in 323 BC on Mount Garizim, recognized by the Samaritans as the site of the sacrifice of Isaac would be the beginning of the conflict with Jerusalem.

The final break between Jews and Samaritans occurred in 107 BC .Jean Hyrcan, king of Jerusalem, destroyed the city of Sichem and the Temple of Garizim.

In the Christ era, the Jews regarded the Samaritans as strangers. They did not socialize. The Jews considered the objects, animals or crops that crossed Samaria, were unsuitable for worship.

According to the New Testament, some Samaritans rally to Jesus, who gave them as an example in the Acts of the Apostles, the Church opens without discrimination to the Samaritans and John the Baptist would have exerted an influence in Samaria.

In recent history, they have even managed to get in the good graces of Christians, eager to see in them the descendants of the “Good Samaritan”.

In 1907, a family of Samaritans from Nablus settled in Jaffa, on the Mediterranean coast, still in Palestine. In 1955, a few years after the creation of the State of Israel, other members of the community, eager to find work, obtained the right to settle in Holon and south of Tel Aviv.

One of the main rules of the samaritan is the prohibition of marriages outside the “family”. This consanguinity, preserved over the centuries, has caused a degeneration of the population.

Following the 1st intifada in 1987, to avoid any further conflict, the Samaritans left the city of Nablus. They settled at the foot of Mount Garizim. In 1990, they obtained an Israeli identity card, on which they are defined as “Samaritan”. This card allows them to freely travel the West Bank and Israel. This is an undeniable advantage compared to the local Palestinians, especially during periods of tension.

There are 820 Samaritans in 2019 living in Nablus or Holon.

 

 

Samaritans celebrating pessah

Samaritans celebrating pessah

The Empress Helena and the Holy Cross

Constantine and his mother Helena

Constantine and his mother Helena

Hélèna, mother of the Emperor Constantine, lived in the shadows until the advent of her son, Constantine the Great, in the year of 306. She had had doubtful life in the past because of her  work as being as an inn servant, and later, when her husband Constance Chlore (father of Constantine) became empereur, he rejected her.

The rise of her son Constantine, however, gave her power which allowed her to return to the public life. Like Constantine, she converted to Christianity and lived an active apostolate of the new faith to better establish the Christian empire, still fragile in the fall of 324.

Staying at the imperial court of Treve (city made capital by Constantine until 316) then in Rome, she became a true follower of the new religion. As his power grew, her son proclaimed his mother “Augusta” Empress in year of 324.

It was as an empress that she left Rome to settle in Palestine (326-328). But this journey, under the guise of a pilgrimage, was rather made as a political aim of recognition of Christianity, as established by her son. With his support she had planned to established Christianity iin the Holy Land by finding the holy places. She was guided by the scholar Eusebius of Caesarea. She built the  “Church of the Disciples”, today called the “Pater Noster”, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The holy relics, including the cross of Christ were find on the site of Golgotha.

A temple at the site of the Golgotha (Calvary) was built, bearing the name of “Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher”, in which the relic has been preserved.

In the year 614, during the conquest of Jerusalem by the Persian king Chrosroës, the Holy Cross was stolen. The population was massacred, the prisoners were sold as slaves, churches were burnt. The Holy Cross (or True Cross) was taken to the heart of the Persian Empire and placed at the foot of the king’s throne, as a sign of disdain for Christianity.

This was to become the Grail of the Eastern Roman emperor Heraclius who, after 15 years of struggle, would achieve his ends. The True Cross was returned to Jerusalem on September 14, 628, carried by the emperor in person across the city of Jerusalem.

Therefore, this day is marked in liturgical calendars like that of the Exaltation of the Cross.

To avoid further theft, the Holy Cross was cut into several pieces. One was transported to Rome, one to Constantinople and the third one was placed in a silver chest in Jerusalem. Another piece was divided into very small pieces and distributed in churches around the world bearing the name of Veracruz (the real cross).

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the revival of the Hebrew language

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the revival of the Hebrew language.

“The success of Hebrew proves that an old language can adapt to a new reality” (Academy of the Hebrew language).

The Hebrew Language Committee was created by Eliezer Ben Yehuda in 1889 in Jerusalem. In 1953, the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) replace it  by “the Hebrew Language Academy”

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was born on January 7, 1858 in the Belarusian village of Luzhki. His birth name was Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman.

Born into a Hassidic Jewish family, he studied Hebrew and the Bible at the “Cheder”. From the age of twelve he started studying  the Torah, Michna and Talmud as well.  He became a talmudic student at the local  “Yeshiva”.

His family had hoped that he would become a rabbi. However, his affinity with the Hebrew language was of more significance to him than religion.

Eliezer Ben Yéhuda was deeply convinced that the redemption of Israel would only be accomplished by the revival of Hebrew as a national language.

In 1877 he wrote:” A country cannot really become a living nation other than through their return to the land of the Fathers”. And again: “Hebrew is the only way to achieve the redemption of the Jewish nation. The revival of the Hebrew language in the Land of Israel could unite all Jews around the world “.

He left Russia in 1878 for Paris, where he undertook studies of History and Politics of the Middle East at the Sorbonne University. Unfortunately, his fragile health did not allow him to end these studies. In 1881 however, he arrived in Palestine with his plans to revive the Hebrew language.

He and his wife Dvora decided to adopt Hebrew as their mother tongue.

Ben Yehuda’s leitmotif was: “Hebrew at home, Hebrew at school, and words, words, words”.

Their first son, Ittamar Ben-Avi, born in 1882, was the first Hebrew-speaking child in modern history. The need to find Hebrew words, suitable for the ordinary activities of daily life, had become a necessity.  Eliezer Ben Yehuda therefore created new words and expressions in Hebrew. Four other children were to be born from this union, before his wife Dvora fell sick and died of tuberculosis.

In 1884 he founded the newspaper “HaTsVi” (“the deer “), in which articles were written in Hebrew and in which he urged the young pioneers and the future founders of the State of Israel to speak only in the Hebrew language. He instructed schools to study only in Hebrew. In his newspaper he wrote columns with new words he created to enrich the modern Hebrew language.

Having also become a teacher at the School of the Alliance Française Universelle, he constantly propagated Hebrew, despite the lack of textbooks in this language.

Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, who were opposed to Zionism and the revival of Hebrew language, denounced him to the Turkish government as revolutionary. He was arrested and was only released by the intervention of Baron de Rothschild.

He remarried Hemda, Dvora’s younger sister. Their home became the Hebrew Language Committee Center, a  meeting place for the whole community wishing to practice Hebrew.

He went into exile in 1914 in New York, fleeing the Ottoman persecution, and returned to Eretz Israel at the end of the First World War to pursue his ideology. He was delighted to see the City of Jerusalem had grown, and that the Hebrew language had caught on.

Despite all his work, the family lacked means. Living in permanent discomfort, Ben Eliezer fell ill again with tuberculosis. However, his bad health condition did not stop him from travelling to Europe, where he visited various universities to study works written in ancient Hebrew, so he could write a dictionary of modern Hebrew.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda died in peace in 1922. During his lifetime, Hebrew was recognized as an official language by the British Mandatory Administration. After he died, three days of mourning were declared for this Great Man. Thousands of people came to pay their respect at his grave.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his wife Hemda

Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his wife Hemda

 

The High Priest ‘Cohen Gadol’

The High priest 'Cohen Gadol'

The High priest ‘Cohen Gadol’

According to the Torah and the Hebrew Bible, ‘Cohen’ means ‘devoted, dedicated’. It was the title given to Aaron, the brother of Moses of the tribe of Levi, as well as to all his male descendants.

Those priests were devoted to the service of the Temple of Jerusalem. As members of the Hebrew clergy they carried out the sacrifices, the Blessing of the People of Israel, as well as the implementation of the Divine Law under the authority of The Cohen Gadol (High Priest).

For Yom Kippur, ‘the Day of Atonement’,  the Cohen gadol was the only one allowed to meet with God by entering the holy of holies of the Temple, adorned with chains and bells to make sure that in case of emergency, it would be possible to take him out of the holy sanctuary without breaking the law.

The robe of the High Priest ‘Cohen Gadol’ was of the color azure, lined with gold bells and pomegranates, a tiara and a scarf. On his breastplate he wore 12 precious stones – each representing one of the 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel.

These stones were:

  • Ruben the ruby
  • Simeon the topaz
  • Levi the emerald
  • Judah the garnet
  • Issachar the sapphire
  • Zebulon the diamond
  • Dan the opal
  • Nephtali the turquoise
  • Gad the crystal
  • Asher The beryl
  • Joseph the onyx
  • Benjamin the jasper

Since the destruction of the Temple, the title has continued to be passed on from father to son. In Orthodox Communities, the Cohanim are subject to special rules and laws.

 

The 12 pectoral stones of the High Priest

The 12 pectoral stones of the High Priest

Theodor Herzl – The Moses of Modern Times.

 

Theodor Herzl

Theodor Herzl

Theodor Herzl – The Moses of Modern Times.

Theodor Herzl was born in 1860 in the Jewish quarter of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. He was the son of a bourgeois family of Germanic origin. His father was a reformist, practicing a “progressive” Judaism and supporter of the assimilation of Jews within their homelands.

Already being a doctor of law, Herzl became a journalist in Paris and correspondent of the Viennese newspaper “Neue Freie Presse”. But, eager as he was for knowledge, not being able to satisfy his curiosity, he also traveled the world.

In Berlin and Vienna, Herzl gained fame as a writer and as the author theater plays.  He was appointed to literary director of the newspaper he worked for.

Herzl was of tall stature and wore a long black beard. With his sparkling deep eyes, his vivacity  and eloquence, he magnetized people, from emperors to poor Jews, who would stop to touch the edge of his coat!

The Dreyfus affair and a crowed screaming “Death to the Jews” in Paris would change the course of his life.

It is said that, when he was young, he told his family doctor that the only way for the Jews was to go to Palestine. To the question who will lead them, the answer was “Me!”

In 1896 he wrote the book “The State of the Jew” (Der judenstaat) of which he said that he had never written anything in such a state of exaltation.

He went on a crusade to Germany, France and England to meet with financial sponsors, in order to raise money needed to realise his project.

Despite many difficulties, like doors that closed, and the denunciation of “false Messiah”, Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. It was a large assembly of bearded Zionist brothers from all over the world, from all cultures united by their origin. His transcendent speech was acclaimed by these brothers, who were fascinated by the charism of this man. Unanimously they chanted Hebrew expression ”Yechi Hamelech” ”  Long live the King ”.

Herzl would preside over every Zionist Congress until his death in 1904.

Better than anyone, he understood the power of Germany over Turkey, and met the Emperor WilhelmII, who was just preparing for his trip to Palestine, stopping at Constantinople. Herzl also left for Constantinople, thinking to meet the Sultan and to solicit him the cession of Palestine against money!

”Here is Jesus Christ”! HabdulHamid cried out when he met Herzl.  However, nothing was signed because the Sultan wanted to be sure that the money was handed to him before making any commitment.

When the Emperor WilhelmII visited Palestine …He met Herzl there. They saluted each other majestically like two kings, although one of them had no crown!

Theodore Herzl was 44 years old when he died in 1904, leaving behind a wife and 3 children. After his death, the children were sent to foster homes as per their father’s request. They all  died later under tragic circumstances.

The paradox is great between the ideology of Herzl and the misery of his family. His wife was deprived of the care of her children by this man, who lacked any compassion for her, because she did not follow him in his dream. Her destiny would end as tragic as that of her children.

Theodore Herzl’s last wish was to be buried in Palestine, after the Jewish people would have found an independent state. He had expressed the wish to have his close family at his side.

On August 17, 1949, his body and that of his parents, Yaakov and Jeannette, and his sister  Pauline, were buried at Mount Herzl.

In Septembrer 2006 the remains of his children Hans and Pauline were transferred from Bordeaux. His youngest daughter, Trude Norman, died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and her remains were never found. The body of Trude’s only son, Stephan Theodore Norman, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in 1946 in Washington, was also transferred to Mount Herzl on December 5, 2007.

Theodor Hertzl's children

Theodor Hertzl’s children

The Kabbala and the mystical City of Safed

 

Safed -Kabbalist drawing

Safed -Kabbalist drawing

The “Kabbalah” is a familiar name, whose meaning is not always understood. It is a speculative tradition, dealing with the mysteries of God and Creation.

The Kabbalah is an interpretation of the five books of the Bible, (“Torah” in Hebrew), namely Law, or Teaching, and which make up the Pentateuch, in particular from the text of the “Vision of Ezechiel”.

It is a tradition of Judaism that appears from the time of the Second Temple. It it is based on the Revelation. A gift concerning the Nature of man, his origin and his future, this covenant is created by God and the people of Israel, chosen by Him.

Kabbalists associate word and alphabet. The 22 letters of the alphabet were engraved by and in the divine breath.

The city of Tsfat, also called Safed, is located on Mount Canaan at over 900 meters above sea level, and is the city of Kabbalah. It is one of the four Holy Cities of Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias.

In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella banned the practice of all religions other than Christianity, whereupon many Kabbalists and their followers fled to Safed.

It became a city renowned for its synagogues, with the names of Kabbalah scholars, some of whom lived in Safed. For example, Rabbi Isaac Louria, the Ari, who settled here in the 16th century. He developed a method how to study the Kabbalah, which is followed even today by all Kabbalists. His pupil Rabbi Joseph Karo wrote the book ” Choulhan Arouh ”, where the laws of Judaism are summarized by subject. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz wrote the famous song with which the Shabbat begins: Leha Dodi.

To visit the Rabbi Abuhav’s Blue Synagogue is a delight. It is adorned with many symbols.

Inside a holy arch stands a sixteenth century Bible, which is taken out and read only on Yom Kippur, Shavuot and the Rosh Hashanah Holidays. The legend says, that if a person ignores this message, a misfortune will befall him within in the year.

The first letters of the three words: Kippur, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah mean “Kasher” (kosher). It is also said, that in another holy arch, during the Ottoman period, the “Koran” was kept, a ploy that would have saved the synagogue from muslim attacks in times of tension ….

In this holy city, the mystical atmosphere is intertwined with many legends. Visitors enjoy the narrow passage in its alleys, surrounded by numerous colourful galleries of artists.

It is said that, when the Messiah will come from Meron, He will enter the Old City of Safed by “the path of the Messiah”, which has remained untouched until today.

Legend has it that the clean air of Safed allows a longevity of up to 120 years!

 

 

Safed - Abuhav street synagogue

Safed – Abuhav street synagogue

 

 

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