Gravesites of Northern Israel

Although Israel's North was settled by Israelites at the time that Joshua conquered the land and the twelve tribes entered Israel, the area's religious influence on Judaism dates mainly to the Roman period. Once Jews were expelled from Jerusalem many came to the North, among them the great Rabbis of the Talmud.

The ARI, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the great Kabbalist, identified scores of graves of these great rabbis when he lived in Tzfat in the 16th century, and his findings are generally accepted by religious Jews today, who flock to the North to pray at these tombs. Among the best known are:

Yehonatan Ben Uziel

Yehonatan Ben Uziel was a well-known Kabbalist and commentator, who translated the Book of Prophets into Greek.   Yehonatan Ben Uziel never married. which is rare and disapproved of among Jews.  Perhaps this is the reason that the gravesite of Yehonatan Ben Uziel, in Amuka on the outskirts of Tzfat, is a traditional spot for unmarried men and women to come to when praying to meet a marriage partner.

Benaihu Ben Yehoyada

Benaihu Ben Yehoyada's gravesite is also on the outskirts of Tzfat, right next to the main northern entrance to Tzfat. Benaihu Ben Yehovada was a warrior during the time of King David, but also a great Torah scholar who headed the Great Court, the Sanhedrin. Many stories are told about his prowess as a fighter, but he is best known as a righteous man, a "tzaddik" and for this reason his gravesite draws many petitioners who ask for his intercession in the heavens for assistance.

Honi HaMa'agal

Honi HaMa'agal - Honi "The Circle-maker" is buried near the western edge of the town of Hatzor, along the Rosh Pinna-Kiryat Shmoneh road. A well-known story about Honi casts him as the original Rip Van Winkle. Honi saw a man planting a carob tree and asked the man why he was planting the tree. The man declared that he was planting the tree for his grandchildren. Honi then fell asleep, and upon awakening, saw the tree fully grown, with a young man picking carobs from it. Honi asked him "did you plant that tree" to which the man replied "no, my grandfather did". Honi realized that he had slept for 70 years. Honi's gravesite is connected to prayers for rain, as he is remembered for drawing a circle during a dry winter and declaring to God that he would not leave until God sent the rains. God sent a drizzle, to which Honi said that the drizzle wasn't sufficient. God then sent a torrent, and Honi again refused to leave his circle, saying that the rush of water was also destructive. Finally, God answered Honi's request and sent proper winter rains.

Yehuda Bar Illay

Yehuda Bar Illay was a prominent sage of the Talmud and was a revered arbitrator among Talmudic scholars and commentators. His decisions, when a disagreement arose between two other sages, were accepted by all. Despite his knowledge and scholarship, R' Bar Illay was best known for his humility and the emphasis that he put on honoring his fellow man. His gravesite is on the side of the Tzfat-Meron road.

Rabbi Tarfon

The gravesite of Rabbi Tarfon is located off to the south of the Tzfat-Meron highway. Rabbi Tarfon is mentioned in the  Passover Hagaddah, the guidebook to the Seder ceremony which accompanies the first night of that holiday, as one of the commentators whose explanations of the Seder, the ceremony which accompanies the first night of the holiday are repeated until today. R' Tarfon was quite wealthy, but he is best remembered for his generosity to the poor and needy.