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Highlights: Sites

Highlights: Sites

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Insights into the sites!
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City of David

The tour of the City of David begins with a breathtaking observation point overlooking biblical Jerusalem which sends visitors 3,800 years back in time to the days of Abraham, when the first foundations of the city were laid.
Underground are recently excavated fortresses and passageways where visitors relive King David’s conquest of the Jebusite city in 861 BCE as described in the Second book of Samuel.
The tour ends at the Gihon Spring, the major water source of Jerusalem for over 1,000 years and where, according to the Book of Kings, Solomon (849-797 BCE) was anointed king.
The spring channels through King Hezekiah’s (587-533 BCE) 2,700- year-old water tunnel, one of the wonders of early engineering.
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Genesis Land

Situated in the heart of the Judean Desert, Genesis Land provides the weary traveler with the opportunity to be transported back to the times of Abraham the Patriarch. The Book of Genesis springs to life in all of its vibrant color as you enjoy the warm hospitality of 65 “Abraham” and his household, in a specially prepared tent. All visitors are moved, looking out over the haunting beauty and solitude of the desert as night begins to fall.

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Artist’s Colony

In its narrow stone streets, artists from all over the world have gathered to this corner of Safed’s Old City to be inspired by its innate spirituality and stunning views.

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Dead Sea

Measuring 309 square miles, the mineralrich Dead Sea and nearby springs are known for their curative qualities. Its waters are 35% salt, ten times saltier than the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the Judean desert at 248.5 miles below sea level, the climate and atmosphere are in complete contrast to hilly Jerusalem just 9 miles away.

The sharp smell emanating from sulfur deposits close by reminds one of the destruction of nearby Sodom and Gomorah, when “G‑d rained down…sulfur and fire.” (Genesis 19)

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Ari Ashkenazic Synagogue

Built on the spot where it is said that the Ari and his holiest disciples gathered every Friday to greet the holy Shabbat Queen as she entered the city, the synagogue was built many years later. It became known as the Ashkenazi Ari Shul because chasidim from Eastern Europe comprised its congregation in the 18th century

The synagogue is known for its beautiful Holy Ark, intricately carved from olive wood by a Galician craftsman in the beginning of the 19th century. A small gouge in the lectern was caused by flying shrapnel during the War of Independence, from a bomb that exploded in the courtyard just as the congregation prostrated themselves out of harm’s way during the silent Amidah prayer.

Childless couples have often prayed for the blessing of children on the legendary Elijah’s chair in the back of the synagogue.

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Otzar HaStam Museum

The Otzar HaStam Museum educates visitors about the craft of the Sofer Stam. The Sofer utilizes intricate calligraphy and specially prepared parchments to produce various ritual Jewish scrolls including Torah scrolls, mezuzas, and tefillin, phylacteries. The interactive tour provides an inside view of the work of the Sofer Stam, explaining the significance of their work and mystical insight into the ancient Hebrew alphabet.

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Ari Sefardic Synagogue

The most ancient standing synagogue in Safed, the Ari Sefardic synagogue, was originally built in the 14th-century. It is said that the Ari frequented it, not only to pray, but to study with Elijah the Prophet in a small alcove in the eastern wall. The synagogue’s interior was designed according to Kabbalah. There are four Holy Arks, six steps to the bimah (lectern), a white marble floor and light blue walls, each number and color signifying a kabbalistic concept.

The durably built synagogue was used as a defense position in the War of Independence (1948), when the Torahs were removed and fortifications were set up on the roof of the building.

Today, it is once again a place of Torah learning, and a small group of men study there all day in a kollel (yeshiva for advanced studies).

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Atlit

Atlit is a small town just south of Haifa that served as a Crusader outpost in the 13th century. After its destruction by the Mamelukes in 1291, it fell from prominence and for centuries was no more than a small village. While the Nazi menace loomed in Europe the British severely curtailed Jewish immigration to Palestine due to Arab pressure. This discriminatory policy continued from 1936 until 1948 and effectively sentenced tens of thousands to their deaths during the Holocaust. After the war, the gates to Palestine remained firmly closed and survivors of the camps were denied entry. Thousands chose to immigrate illegally to Palestine by land, air and especially by sea, and those who were caught were interred by the British. The detention center in Atlit housed thousands of prisoners and was the scene of a daring break out on October 10, 1945, led by Yitzchak Rabin. A tour of the site today includes the barracks, a moving audio-visual, processing center, and a mikveh constructed for inmates.

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Avraham Avinu Neighborhood

During the sixteenth century, Spanish Jews established the Jewish Quarter of Hebron, and built the Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Patriarch) synagogue, at the time one of Israel’s most magnificent and famous synagogues.

In 1879, Avraham Romano, a wealthy Jew from Turkey, built a beautiful house known as Beit (House of) Romano. In the 1900s an additional floor was added, and it was turned into a medical clinic known as Beit Hadassah.

On property adjacent to the Avraham Avinu Synagogue, Rabbi DovBer Shneuri (the “Mitteler Rebbe”, 1773- 1827) built a synagogue. This shul became known as the Avraham Avinu Ashkenaz Shul, as it was frequented mainly by Jews of European descent. This was the first in a string of properties purchased by Chabad Rebbes over the years. Many of these properties are in what is today the Arab section of Hebron and, for the most part, are inaccessible to Jews. The synagogue has been refurbished through the efforts of Rabbi Danny Cohen, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s emissary to Hebron, and is commonly also referred to as the “Mitteler Rebbe’s Shul.”

A large building at the center of Hebron’s Jewish community bears the name Beit Schneerson (Schneerson House). As its name implies, this building served as the headquarters for the Chabad community of Hebron from the mid 1800s until the massacre of 1929. A plaque at the entrance to the building confirms that Rabbi DovBer’s daughter, the illustrious Rebbetzin Menuchah Rachel Slonim (1798-1888), and her husband Rabbi Yaakov Culi Slonim, resided in this building.

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Banias Waterfall

Situated on the Western edge of the Golan Heights overlooking the Hula Valley, this site served as a fortified Syrian military outpost, complete with communication trenches and concrete bunkers, and surrounded by barbed wire and minefields.

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Cave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

The white-domed roof of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the seminal Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, is one of the most beloved destinations in the world for Jewish pilgrims.

Tens of thousands of people stream to the tomb on Lag BaOmer, the traditional death date of Rabbi Shimon. They sing, dance, light bonfires, feast and study Kabbalah. Many have the custom to give their threeyear old boys their first haircut at this holy spot.

A disciple of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid from the Roman authorities with his son in a cave for thirteen years where they were miraculously nourished by a carob tree and a stream of water. They merited frequent visits of Elijah the Prophet who revealed to them the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah.

A path from the southern part of his tomb complex leads to a cave and the spring of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The cave is also known as the Cave of Hillel, according to a 12th-century tradition identifying a tomb in it as that of Rabbi Hillel the Elder. According to tradition, only the righteous could witness a miracle in the cave: the sudden appearance of water. When such people beheld this event, their prayer requests would be answered.

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Chabad Victims of Terror Project

In partnership with more than 230 Chabad Centers stretching across the length and breadth of Israel, Chabad’s Victims of Terror Project offers support and comfort to victims of terror and their families by providing financial, spiritual and emotional assistance as needed. Chabad’s Terror Victims Project includes a network of emergency response teams that intervene with victims and their families within hours after an attack and continues with long term, community-based assistance.

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Chanah and Her Seven Sons

One of the great heroines of the Chanukah story (in 151 BCE), Chanah inculcated her children with such a love of G‑d that they were willing to die at the hands of the Syrian emperor Antiochus rather than bow down in service of his idols. Antiochus tried to fool the youngest and last surviving son by throwing his ring in front of the idol and asking the child to retrieve it. The child, too, steadfastly refused and was killed in front of his mother’s eyes; she then jumped to her death from the rooftop.

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Chassidic Shuls

Built by emissaries of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (1789-1866) in 1858, Chabad’s Tzemach Tzedek Shul is among several very old chassidic shuls tucked around the cobblestone alleys of the Old City. Several other chassidic groups including Breslov, Chernobyl (Skver), Chortkov, KarlinStolin, Nadvorna, Kossov, and Lelov are represented by 200-year-old plus congregations still active today.

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Herodian Mansions

The homes in this museum were uncovered after 1967, before Yeshivat HaKotel was built, unearthing a neighborhood of priests from the time of the second Temple (349 BCE-69 CE).

The numerous mikvaot were necessary, for the kohanim (priests)—as well as all who ate sanctified foods from the Temple within the walls of the city—had to be in a constant state of ritual purity.

The museum also has a fascinating exhibit on vessels from the second Temple and a fallen beam, now a pile of ashes from the building’s fall on Tisha B’Av, together with the Holy Temple’s fall.

 

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Jewish Quarter

The Old City is divided into four neighborhoods: the Jewish Quarter is in the southeast.

Remains of almost every era of Jewish civilization, from the time Joshua entered the Land of Israel, can be found in the quarter and its environs.

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Kfar Chabad

The Chabad-Lubavitch village in Israel, Kfar Chabad, was founded by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, in 1949. The first settlers were recent immigrants from the Soviet Union who had survived World War II and Stalinist oppression. Kfar Chabad, which is located about five miles south of Tel Aviv and includes agricultural lands as well as numerous educational institutions, serves as the headquarters of Chabad in the Holy Land.

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Lake Kinneret

The Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, is Israel’s largest fresh water reservoir. It is thirteen miles long and seven miles wide, and it is Israel’s most important source of drinking water.

Its name goes back to the Talmudic era and derives from kinor (harp), as the Talmud says (Megilah 6a), “ . . . as sweet and mellow as the notes of the harp.”

The beaches surrounding the lake vary in keeping with the local geography, creating different landscapes in every location. The eastern and western shores lie just below the Galilee Mountains.

To the north is the Beit Tsida valley, a wide area with plentiful water, and to the south is the Jordan estuary, flowing south toward the desert regions.

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Masada

One and a quarter miles west of the Dead Sea, rising 1443 feet above sea level, is Masada. With its wide flat summit, it was the perfect place for military defenses. The first fortifications built on Masada were constructed by the Hasmoneans in 42 CE.

Twenty years later, Herod added a wall, water storage cisterns, and a beautiful palace. Masada is famous for being one of the last Jewish strongholds after the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE. Numerous archeological finds confirm the story of the “Zealots” and their bravery as described by Josephus. Signs of Jewish religious life on the mountain include a mikveh (ritual pool) and a synagogue built so the congregation faced Jerusalem.

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Mount Bental Observatory

From the top of this dormant volcano cone (3845 feet high) that was once a military outpost, you can see majestic vistas of snow-capped Mount Hermon to the north and the Syrian side of the Golan to the east. Opposite is the deserted city of Kuneitra in the area known as the “Valley of Tears,” the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Yom Kippur War.

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Mount Meron

The highest mountain in the Galil at more then 4,000 feet, Meron gets its fame on account of the many great Kabbalists and Talmudic sages buried on it. On the mountain are the remains of one of the oldest synagogues in the country, dating back to the time of the Second Temple. It has three entrance gates all facing in the direction of Jerusalem.

The large domed building is the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who lived in the 2nd century CE, and his son Rabbi Elazar. There are also the gravesites of the great Mishnaic sages Hillel and Shamai, as well as their students. Up to the right is the burial place of Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar.

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Or HaChaim Synagogue

Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar, the Or HaChaim HaKadosh (1696-1743), famed for his groundbreaking commentary on the Torah, arrived in Jerusalem in 1742 and made his study hall in this building.

The mikveh where he immersed himself was uncovered ten years ago, exactly where long-standing tradition recorded it ought to be. It can be seen to the left of the stairs leading to the women’s section.

There is another room at the back of the men’s section where the Or HaChaim studied in sanctity and learned with Elijah the Prophet. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Ari Zal, was born in 1534 in another part of the building.

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Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz

Born in Salonika, Greece, at the beginning of the 16th century, the holy Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (1500–1580) was a great scholar. At an early age he authored the first of many important works, Manot HaLevi, a commentary on Megilat Esther, and presented it to his father-in-law as a gift in honor of his wedding. He reached Safed around the age of thirty-five, and once there, formed the group of mystical disciples who would later come under the influence of the holy Ari, including Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (who later married his sister), and Rabbi Yosef Karo.

He is most famous for composing the mystical poem “Lecha Dodi,” the highlight of the Friday night liturgy, which calls the congregation to meet the Shabbat Queen with the joyous refrain: “Come out my beloved, the bride, to meet /The presence of Shabbat, let us greet!

 
 
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