A Journey Back In Time To The Second Temple: The Peki’in Synagogue (Day 2 Of Our Travels In Northern Israel)

UPDATE 9 am Israel time Wednesday:

Great news from Sacramento, California this morning! We have just learned that the Sacramento City Council has voted unanimously to accept the proposal to make Sacramento and Ashkelon sister cities.

Many thanks are due all of those who worked so hard to overcome the massive international disinformation campaign carried out by BDS, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others. Kol akevod!

Ironically, the people of the Chof Ashkelon region were attacked again yesterday by rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.


As your humble servant left you in our last blog, my wife and I had made our way north from our southern Israeli home in Ashdod to Beit Jann, a Druze town atop Mt. Meron in the northern Galilee. Today, I would like to tell you about our journey yesterday to Peki’in,  another predominantly Druze village only about 10 km from Beit Jann at the base of the mountain.

There’s a moment in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark when the French archaeologist Belloq, in reference to the Ark of the Covenant,  tells Indiana that  “we are all passing through history, but this is history.”

So it was for your humble servant yesterday.

Try to imagine . . .  The year is 70 CE. You are a Jewish priest of the Great Temple in Jerusalem who performs the rituals and sacrifices in the Holy of Holies. You are part of an unbroken line of Jewish priests that stretches back to the Ark of the Covenant itself—to a time more than a thousand years before, before even the First Temple was built by King Solomon.

Your ancestors survived the destruction of that Temple in 586 BCE and remained in Israel until the Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE.  Now, ironically, 586 years later, you know what is about to happen. You know that the Roman Legions of Titus will break through the Jewish defenses, destroy Jerusalem, and destroy the Second Temple.

And then the day comes . . . when the horrible happens (if you have never read Josephus’s description of the moments that the Temple was set on fire, click here).

So what do you do? Do you give up and throw yourselves on the fire–or do you try to ensure that Judaism survives, salvage what you can, and start your lives over somewhere else?

For your family and two other priestly families, the choice is clear. You take what you can from the destroyed Temple—two or three tablets—and you escape Jerusalem traveling north. Until you come to a place that seems out of the reach of the Romans, a place at the base of Mt. Meron. And there, you settle down, and make the best you can out of life.

Can you imagine?

Today in August of 2012, one thousand nine hundred and forty two years later, there are still 7 Jewish families left in Peki’in descended from those that fled Jerusalem. One of them, the Zinati family, has lived those every one of those 1,942 years except one in Peki’in and will unfortunately soon die out with the passing of the elderly unmarried Margolit Zinati whom I blogged about several weeks ago. It is Margalit Zinati who holds the keys to the Peki’in Synagogue.

We had hoped to meet Ms. Zinati yesterday. Unfortunately, she was unable to be there, and we feared that we would be unable to enter. However, the door was unlocked for us, and your humble servant was honored to be handed the key.

Margaret Zinati's key ring--with your humble servant holding the key to unlock the synagogue.

Suddenly, there I was, standing in the courtyard in front of the door of the tiny synagogue:

The door to the Peki'in Synagogue

As that door opened, it was as if a window in time opened as well.  Your humble servant could not help but swell with emotion at the thought of how Jewish families, who have been living in Israel for over 3000 consecutive years, have somehow maintained this little synagogue through the conquests of Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks, and others.

What you see as you open the door of the tiny synagogue (only about 7 x 7 meters)-- the bimah.

On each side wall was one the two original tablets brought from the destroyed 2nd Temple.

One of the tablets from the 2nd Temple embedded in the wall of the synagogue. Note the lulav, menorah, and the shofar.

The second tablet which is embedded in the opposite wall:

Note that this tablet appears to have a representation of the entrance to the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple.

Your humble servant felt compelled to “touch” this part of history:

This is history.

There were other ancient artifacts in the synagogue as well, but with no Margalit Zinati, nor anyone else to explain what they are, we were only left to wonder:

An intriguing group of objects: could the marble column be from the Second Temple as well?

We stayed in the synagogue for at least half an hour drinking in as much of the history as we could, marveling at the depth of Jewish belief and tenacity–a tenacity that has kept some families alive in the land of Israel since time immemorial, then turned and started out the door. I happened to look up to see a part of a burned, glass-encased Torah above the door:

All that is apparently known is that this is part of an "ancient" Torah scroll--the shlach parashah ("to send").

We then went to the small Zinati family museum down the street, and were honored to be given a brief private tour of the ground floor of Margolit Zinati’s residence with its amazing memorabilia.

After this we walked to the Peki’in village square where we sat down for coffee and limonana and were regaled for several hours by the Druze proprietor with stories of Druze reincarnation . . . but I will pick up that story tomorrow on Day 3 of our travels which will also take us to the Lebanese border.

***Please note that our listing of supporters of this blog will resume on Friday.


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