Peki’in Village

October 19th 2014

What do an old synagogue, a famous cave and a Jewish woman from a family that lived in the same village for 2,000 years have in common? They can all be found in the village of Peki’in in the Galilee.

In the center of the village of Peki’in, you’ll find an ancient synagogue that was restored in the late 19th century and again in 1955, at the request of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Israel’s president at the time. There’s an enticing legend that the synagogue walls were built around two stones that were originally part of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. If the legend is true, it means these stones were smuggled here by Jews who escaped the Roman destruction of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. These two special stones bear symbolic carvings. Look for a menorah, a shofar and a lulav on one of the stones and what is thought to be the gateway to the Holy of Holies from the Second Temple on the other stone.

The synagogue is kept locked, but if you have the chance, it’s worthwhile to meet Margalit Zenati. She’s a descendant of the only Jewish family to have lived in Peki’in since the destruction of the Second Temple, and she’s the current caretaker of the synagogue. Don’t miss the ancient Torah scroll that’s still housed inside the synagogue and the plaque commemorating the donation of a Jew from Beirut, Lebanon, who funded the 19th century refurbishing.

Nearby is the cave where legend has it that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Elazar hid after their escape from the Romans during the same period. The father and son lived in this cave for 12 years, subsisting only on fresh spring water and carob that grew on a tree that miraculously survived at the entrance to the cave. Tradition holds that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai wrote the foundational Kabbalistic text known as the Zohar during his time in the cave.

Today, Peki’in is notable for being home primarily to Druze and Christian Arab families. While visiting, make sure to stop in to Savta Jamilla’sshop and purchase some locally-produced olive oil soap.