My wife and I were in the Galil (Galilee) this week. Here are a few highlights from the trip:
1) Rabbi Meir's tomb near Tiberius.
2) In Tiberius proper Rabbanit Leah Kook was giving a class. My wife attended and really enjoyed it. I learned the daf yomi in Rabbi Dov Kook's Beit Midrash while she was at Rabbanit Kook's lecture.
3) The next morning I davened at the synagogue of the Tiberius' chief rabbi, Rabbi Orbach. There was and old Haredi Jew there, who I estimated to be at least 70 years old. His body was stooped, so bent over that the upper half of his body was almost parallel to the ground. I was astounded by the great effort that this man made to get to the synagogue in the morning and pray. Truly, he was a walking book of ethics. Afterwards I wanted to see Rabbi Dov Kook. I had heard a lot about his piousness. I entered his Beit Midrash, which was almost completely empty, as the morning service was long over. I asked a few students where Rav Kook was and they said he was still reciting the Amidah (the silent prayer recited standing up). I looked around and the only one davening was a relatively young guy, probably in his forties. I had expected to see an old rabbi with a long white beard! Since he was in the middle of prayer I could not talk to him so I left.
4) Chamei Teveria: Natural hot springs near Tiberius that are mentioned in the Talmud (Shabbat 40A) . There are two different buildings for these springs on two different sides of the street. One building has separate pools for men and women (this is the one I went to of course) and the other one is mixed. Upon entering I saw that not only Orthodox Jews prefer the separate pools. This place was full of Arabic speakers (I think were Druze, because some of them had the distinctive bushy Druze mustache. There were two pools, one 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and the other 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The sign above the pool said that it is forbidden to stay in the pool for more than fifteen minutes. Indeed, if you are not careful you can easily get dehydrated. (Isn't that ironic: to sit in a pool of water and get dehydrated?)
5) The Rambam's Tomb in Tiberius. This site includes the tombs of other famous Rabbis such as Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai and the "Shla."
6) Tzfat (Safed): Here I met an old friend of mine, B. Freedman, who told me that he was blogging. His blog is called Galileeblog and it is really good. Check out his hard-hitting commentary: Column: Jerusalem of Orange. I plan to be a regular reader of this blog.
7) After a short stroll in the Old City we went down to the cemetery where many famous rabbis are buried. A new concrete path with stairs and a railing make navigating through the cemetery much easier. The Spanish Inquisition caused indirectly caused Tzfat to become a center of Torah study, as many of Tzfat's great rabbis came from families that were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. We saw the graves of Torah giants such as the "Ari" and the "Mabit." I was particularly moved to see the grave of Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish code of law. Further downhill, in the newer part of the cemetery, I shuddered when I saw the plot where the victims of the 1974 massacre in Ma'alot. How many more massacres of this kind have we suffered at the hands of the Islamofascists since?
8) The next and last stop was the tombs of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar in Meron. You just cant be in the Galil without stopping here.
It was a short but enjoyable trip. Kind of makes me hungry for more!