Safed's Historical Neighbor - Meron
While Safed is a fascinating place, rich in Jewish history, it also has many interesting neighboring areas. One such area is Meron, an ancient city that is today best known for its Lag Ba'Omer celebration. Learning more about Meron helps to shed light on the history of Safed and its surrounding area.
Meron is an ancient city that was mentioned in the records of Egyptian kings who invaded the area more than 3,000 years ago. One amazing discovery made by archeologists in Meron was the founding of a synagogue that dates back 1,700 years. Meron's other historical claim to fame is the belief by Jewish historians that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid in a cave in Peki'in, a nearby area, and wrote the Zohar there.
Meron is most famous for the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He was a first century rabbi who contributed a great deal to the Mishna and is often quoted in the Talmud. People also assume that he wrote the Zohar, a book about mystical thought in Judaism. Other figures also buried in Meron are Hillel, Shammai and Rabbi Elozor ben Shimon.
Lag Ba'Omer in Meron
Lag Ba'Omer is a holiday that represents the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The Omer is counted from Pesach until Savuot. Lag Ba'Omer is understood as a celebration for a number of different reasons. The Talmud says that during the time of Rabbi Akiva, 24,000 students of his died from a plague. Lag Ba'Omer is thought to be the day the plague ended. After all of these students died, Rabbi Akiva went on to teach just five students. One of them was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Lag Ba'Omer is also thought to be the anniversary of the death of Rabbi bar Yochai. Therefore, Meron is the center of a mass pilgrimage on Lag Ba'Omer by Jews who are coming to bar Yochai's tomb. Both Safed and Meron see thousands and thousands of Jews who come each year to visit the tombs on this special holiday.
Meron Modern History
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 Meron, unfortunately, made the news quite a bit. On July 14, 2006 a katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon exploded in Meron. Two people, Yehudid Itzkovich and her seven year old grandson Omer Pesachov, were killed and four others were injured. Meron was also hit by rockets on July 15, but no one sustained injuries.