Rabbi Shammai’s burial place is in the general vicinity of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and of Rabbi Hillel, in Meron. Travel on the main road from Tzfat to Meron, but continue past the entrance to the Rashbi, going beyond a wide curve in the road until you arrive at the first clearing on the right side of the road. (If you would prefer to arrive here by hiking from Tsfat to Meron, the left side of the road at this point is where you would emerge from Wadi Amud). A large area for parking and a sign in Hebrew saying, “Nahal Meiron,” will indicate that you have arrived at the starting point of your adventure.
Expect a relatively easy uphill walk of about 15 minutes, and begin on the clearly discernible dirt road which leads to the ruin of a building with two windowless windows, which will face you. To the immediate left is a path that has two overgrown bushes on each side of it. This is the path to take. Do not continue on the path beyond where there is a roof-like structure with large Hebrew writing on its roof. Keep walking on the left-turn path. The path is gravel with loose stones so care should be taken in walking.
The first site that you will see, as you arrive at your destination, will be the top of Rabbi Shammai’s tomb. Presumably, this area was the site of a small village in times past. There is indication of what looks like the remains of an olive press. You can find the ruins of an ancient synagogue by standing with your right side to Rabbi Shammai and then walking left until you get to an opening in a wire fence. You will assuredly be excited to come upon this wonderful find with its unexpected and lovely view of Tsfat and its surroundings.
Return to Rabbi Shammai’s site. To its right is a trail marker indicating a path. The path goes up the mountain. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you will arrive at a spot called the “Kisei shel Eliahu Ha Navi” — “The throne of Elijah the Prophet.” You will know when you will have arrived because the spot looks like a mini-amphitheater, with Eliahu’s flat, stone seat in the middle. This will take you by surprise! Be aware of the trail markers leading you to this spot so that you can follow them when descending the mountain.
Shammai, as well as Hillel, were called the “Avot HaOlam” — “the Patriarchs of the World.” It was they and their way of learning and teaching that established the major schools of Torah study and Torah interpretation. They were good friends. Their many recorded differences of opinion were for the sake of Heaven, the Sages say, and not for personal or argument’s sake.
You can easily spend hours at this special site, praying, studying Torah, picnicking, daydreaming and gazing at the scenery that includes Tsfat in the distance.
Buy guidebooks to Safed and the Galilee at the Kabbala Online Shop.
Yehudit Knauer moved to Tzfat from Northern California fifteen years ago. She spends much of her time driving visitors to the many holy sites in the Tsfat area.