Tag Archives: history

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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A Jewish Queen Helene of Adiabene

 

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene – Israel Museum Jerusalem

A few years ago, to my surprise, I was told that the sarcophagus of Queen Helen of Adiabene, which was in the Louvre Museum, would be lent for a few months by France to be exhibited at the Israel Museum.

She was the queen of a country called Adiabiene, which corresponds to the Kurdish territories of today. According to Flavius Joseph, Ananias converted her towards the year 30 AD before he became a high priest.

Known for her generosity and being a benefactress for the poor of Jerusalem, she brought constant support to the Jewish people of Judea and Galilee.

During a famine, she sent ships to Alexandria in order to bring wheat and cereals to the victims.

The Talmud tells us that she followed the Jewish laws rigorously and that she made numerous gifts to the Temple of Jerusalem, including a golden candlestick for its door.

Helen died in her territory of Adiabene in the year 56-58.

Her body was brought back to Jerusalem and buried in the pyramidal tomb she had built during her life time, north of Jerusalem.

During an excavation in 1863, the French archaeologist Félicien de Saulcy discovered a large limestone tomb near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. He was convinced that it was the tomb of the great kings of the Bible David and Solomon, which explains the name “Tomb of the Kings”,  but it turned out to be of Queen Helen.

This tomb was transferred to the Louvre in full agreement with the Ottoman archaeological authorities at the time.

This venerated Queen will remain forever engraved in the memory of the Jewish people.

 

Helene d'Adiabene Palace - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Helene d’Adiabene Palace – Israel Museum Jerusalem

 

Beit She’an and the divinities

Beith Shean vue du Tell

Beit She’an ” Scythopolis ” is certainly one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Israel.

It was one of the ten cities of the decapole located around the Jordan river, a strategic crossroads of 40,000 inhabitants in Roman times and destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake, the beauty of its vestiges keeps impressing me at each of my visits :

  • His theater (still used for events and shows),
  • Its public hot baths (the most important found to date in Israel),
  • The Cardo ” Palladius ” largely restored main alley adorned with magnificent columns,
  • The ” Nymphaeum ” monumental public fountain, adorned with sculptures and water games.
  • The Temple of Zeus, the King of the Gods whose crushed columns remind us of the relentless violence of this earthquake and of course many mosaics, some of which are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem,
  • The magnificent reconstructed mosaic of the goddess Tyche, the Greek goddess of Good Fortune, holding the Horn of Abundance. It was stolen a few years ago, but a reconstruction was made and is exhibited on the site.

 

  • Goddess Tyche

    Goddess Tyche

Dionysus was also the protector of Beit Shean, the God of grape harvest, vinification and wine, ritual madness and fertility.

Legend tells us that the nymph Nysa nourished him and raised him during his childhood.

 

Napoleon and AKKO

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte tried to conquer other territories in the Middle East during the period of his Egyptian campaign.

After El-Arish, Jaffa and Mount Tabor he tried to conquer the city of Akko.

He set up his headquarter with 13000 soldiers on the hill outside the walls which is called upto this day the ” Napoleon Hill ”.

The Pasha El-Jezzar called the “Butcher”, a not so friendly man, knew of the intention of this general Napoleon, therefore with the help of of Antoine Picard of Phelippeaux, a French royalist engineer, built a second wall to protect his city.

This man knew Bonaparte from the Royal Military School of Paris where they studied together and dislike him.

Also the English Fleet under the command of Admiral Smith , the eternal enemy of General Bonaparte, came to the rescue of the Pasha, who felt strong enough to face this terrible threat.

Bonaparte was counting on the big guns which were to arrive by sea to succeed in this battle, but the English Fleet intercepted the French one and captured it.

Many French soldiers lost their lives against the heavy attacks of the Ottomans because the simple field guns that Bonaparte had could only make minor damage to the walls.

Despite this, the Napoleonic troops led by General Kleber, repeatedly pierced the walls, to take control of part of the city. However, each time they were pushed back by the defenders of the city.

An army of 35,000 men from Damascus came to the Pasha rescue and setback the French troops by surpise.

After two months of siege, Bonaparte renounced taking the city. The plague raged in his troops, some sick soldiers could no longer follow and were executed on the spot. Bonaparte went back to Egypt, where his departure had only weakened his troops left behind.

It is said that the Pasha El-Jezzar wanted to eliminate Christians living in the city as revenge, but  Admiral Smith threatened him to bomb Akko if this should happen and prevented the massacre …

 

The coronation of napoleon

The coronation of napoleon

The nine Gates of the old city of Jerusalem

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Beautiful gate of the 'Ieshiva Bet El' in the Jewish quarter

Beautiful gate of the ‘Ieshiva Bet El’ in the Jewish quarter

 

Nine gates are in the wall of the Old city of Jerusalem built in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent, they protect the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam :

-The Golden Gate – the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent while renovating the walls of the old city definitely closed that gate in order to refrain the Jewish Messiah to pass.
– The Dung gate – Poor people used to live in the lower part of the old city  where  they  probably threw garbage. Next to it and later on in the 1980’s excavation an old medieval gate was opened to allow an easier passage
– The Tanners gate reopened recently.
– The Sion Gate or David Gate where is the Tomb of King David
– The Jaffa Gate in the direction of the Biblical city of Joppée, called Jaffa today.
– The New gate built at the end of the nineteen century to allow a quick passage to the    Christian quarter .
– The Damascus Gate the most beautiful gate in the north in direction of Naplouse and Damas.
– The Flowers Gate also called the Herod’s Gate opened in 1875 after the construction started outside the walls.
– The Lions Gate according to a legend the sultan Soliman the Magnificent had a terrible nightmare,  lions threatening to devour him as he did not seriously provide the protection of his population living inside the old city. He immediately hastened the construction of the city walls.

Sarona – Tel-aviv’s German colony –

Tel-aviv - Sarona

Tel-aviv – Sarona

”The Templers” were Protestant religious people who came to the Holy Land in the nineteen century with their mentor Christoph Hoffman calling for the return to the origins of Christianity and the establishment of urban and agricultural settlements in Palestine.

Their involvement with the Nazism government during Hitler’s time made them the ennemy of the British in power in Palestine and after World War II, the entire Templar community with their seven settlements in Palestine was deported to Australia, never to return.

They arrived in Palestine more than a decade before the first Zionist Jewish immigrants came and in many ways, they served as models.

Despite their small number in the country, the Templars nonetheless contribute to
modern techniques of agricultural development in Palestine and they quickly gained a reputation for their skill and precision in the execution of various works.

They planted vineyards and orchards using modern technology unknown in Palestine, they created the first oil mills for grain that operated with steam engine. They have tapped into the soil to find this water so rare and necessary for the survival of everyone. They opened the first European-style hotels and pharmacies, and embarked on the production of important commodities like soap and cement – or beer and wine. They were the first in the market of “Jaffa Oranges”.

Their beautiful houses,  of continental elegance, with their red tile roofs were surrounded by flourishing gardens. These neighborhoods have become today, after their renovations, trendy and luxurious places either in Jerusalem, Haifa, Bethlehem of Galilee, Jaffa and Tel Aviv Sarona.

The Sarona district includes 37  Templar houses that were renovated (out of 85 at the time of the Templars) 5 of them have even been raised and displaced to expand the Kaplan street and to allow better circulation. The project, which lasted for years, finally ended and we can see now numerous high luxury buildings that are being built on the site of the houses that were destroyed together with shops and “haute cuisine” restaurants even installed in underground vaulted cellar of the agricultural cooperative used by the German Templars.

This unique neighborhood, thanks to the renovation, allow us to keep an eye on the past and I was told  that the young german generation belonging to this community come sometime to visit the Holy Land and their ancestors patrimony. They are delighted to know that their heritage has been preserved and they are proud of it and so are we !….

 

Tel-Aviv - Sarona

Tel-Aviv – Sarona

Tel-aviv - Sarona

Tel-Aviv – Sarona

Tel-Aviv’s ”Cafe Tamar” and the Lady with the blue hair

cafe tamar 2While passing in Sheinkin Street in Tel-Aviv yesterday, I could not resist to glimpse at the remain of what once was  ”Cafe TAMAR”,  the mystic cafe where so many writers, artists and journalists sat down and wrote their articles, books and even songs related to the place.

The cafe was closed at the end of June after having being managed  by Sarah Stern for 74 years, the Lady with the blue hair, who celebrated her 90th birthday this year.

The café opened in 1941, and in 1956 was taken over by Abraham and Sarah, after they had met in the British army in the Egyptian sands. After the death of Abraham in 1966 Sarah took over and managed the café in a mastering manner. The toasted bagels were unique and it became the favorite place for the Sheinkin-south Tel-Aviv’s boheme, which spent many hours sitting and discussing about politics, religions and last trend of the day.

Sheinkin Street, called the ”Boheme street” became this mystical, amazing and interesting street thanks to the combination of reporters from the nearby daily newspaper Davar and the many politicians who would conduct their business there together with the people from the world of culture and art who had made the café their ”Home”.

I felt very sad to see the door closed. Gazing through the window I could see all the furniture remaining inert, motionless like in a picture.

 

cafe tamar 4