Yitzhak Ben Zvi
Meron and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
In the second century AD Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai lived and worked in this area, a friend and a peer of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, and Rabbi Shimon was considered as one of the fathers of the oral Torah. However not only this: Rabbi Shimon was also a fighter for the freedom of his people, and because of this he was persecuted by the Romans and sentenced to death in his absence and he had to hide from the government in the mountains and in the rock formations. The legend tells us that for 13 years Rabbi Shimon sat with Elazar his son in a cave in Pekiim, and he was nurtured by the carob fruit that grew near the cave and drank from the waters of the spring that passed by him. In this cave they both sat and studied the Torah. Only after 13 years did he hear from Elijah the Prophet that the king who had wanted him dead had died and his sentence had been cancelled. And then he came out of the cave together with his son, and they went down the mountain where the cave was situated and went to wash in the Tiberias Hot Springs, after they had not washed in water for a long time. The ancient tradition attributes to Rabbi Shimon wondrous powers and a later legend made him the father of the Kabbalah, and the creator of the Zohar. In any event it would seem that since early times Meron, which was where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai lived and had his house of Torah Study, and where he was buried after his death, had been a centre for pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who died on 18th Iyar, which is Lag Ba’Omer. His tomb was attributed with wondrous qualities. The ancientness of Meron shall also be testified the old synagogue in the village, the western wall of which is hewed in the rock and is from the Roman era. The southern wall stands to this day and the lentil is cracked but has not moved from its place. On the site are the deviation stones to the front arranged within the building in two lines. On the eastern side one can still discern the incline which led to the synagogue from the valley on the side of Gush Halav. Today you cannot find the remains of the inscription on the wall and lentil, however at the beginning of the 13th century a tourist Rabbi Shmuel Bar Shimshon read the inscription on the synagogue: “This was built by Shalom Ben Levy” and Prof. Klein assumes that Shalom Ben Levy from Meron and Yosef Halevy Ben Levy from Kfar Ream, were brothers who were from a family of builders, who constructed several synagogues in the Upper Galilee. It is interesting that all these synagogues are known by the early tourists by the collective name: “the synagogues of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai”.