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Historical Overview

Rosh Pina – the mother of the Galilee settlements
Historical Overview

The town of Rosh Pina is located on the slopes of Mount Canaan, on a rounded hill beside Rosh Pina River. Rosh Pina River boasts three flowing springs that flow along the river channel in the winter months. Beside the river there are groves of ancient olive trees, almond trees, fig trees and raspberry bushes. Rosh Pina River is a unique nature reserve of pastoral tranquility. Up Rosh Pina River, an hour’s walk along an ancient route, lies the capital of the Galilee – the city of Safed.

Safed, one of Judaism’s four holy cities, was the residence of a large Jewish community, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic, which settled in the city for many generations.

In the second half of the 19th century Safed’s Jews experienced an increasing desire to make their living off the land, to cultivate it and not to rely on the donations from the Jews of the Diaspora (the distribution monies) that they were living on.

The Jewish residents of Safed were very familiar with the Arab village of Jauna, on the banks of Rosh Pina River. As long ago as 1840, after the Damascus Blood Libel, a few Jewish families who escaped from the Syrian capital found sanctuary in Jauna and lived among the village Arabs.

In 1875 the dream came true and a number of families from Safed purchased land from residents of Jauna. Three years later, the families moved, settled next to the Arab villagers and began to engage in agriculture. They called the new town Gei Oni.

But they were unable to make a success of their new endeavor, and, regretfully, they returned to Safed. Two families remained there, and are still living there.

At that time, the Jews of Eastern Europe also developed longings for redemption and settlement in the Land of Israel. In 1882, a group of families from the city of Moineşti in Romania immigrated to Israel, after sending their representatives David Bukchester and David Shuv to tour and buy land for them in the Holy Land. After traveling the length and breadth of the country, the emissaries were particularly enthralled with the Jauna village area, and chose to buy land there, because of the flowing river, the good and clear air and the splendid view of the surrounding mountains. The date of establishment of the town of Rosh Pina, whose name, the Hebrew word for capstone, comes from Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” was set for the first day of plowing, December 12, 1882.

Despite the difficulties posed by the Ottoman regime and the considerable baksheesh that they had to pay in order to build their homes, the settlers managed to build the houses in the “top road” now located in the recreation of Old Rosh Pina. When the cash that they brought with them ran out, before they were able to make a living off agriculture, they managed to survive only by mortgaging their lands and homes to their creditors. Their suffering was so great that they sent emissaries to recruit assistance. The only one who agreed to help was Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris. Rosh Pina was the first settlement to be sponsored by the Baron de Rothschild, and within a few years it became the administrative center of all the Upper Galilee towns that were built subsequently.
As such, the Baron’s officials invested in the construction of public buildings in Rosh Pina. At the settlers’ request, the first building to be built was a synagogue. An Ashkenazi synagogue, with wooden pews, a bima and Holy Ark made of wood carved by an artist (Weinberg) and a round wooden dome of sky blue, also made by one of the first settlers, Reb Motttel Katz. Alongside the synagogue, the Baron built a house for the settlement’s teacher, a house for the doctor, and two office buildings for his officials.

The streets of Old Rosh Pina are paved with cobblestones, with houses over a century old, alongside lofty trees that bear the memory of the old days.

Anyone strolling along the streets of Old Rosh Pina is struck by its sense of secrecy and perfection and by its ambiance, which is different and unfamiliar, yet charming and authentic.

The corners of Old Rosh Pina, the wadi and the blossoming of the almond trees all thrill and fill your heart with a feeling of warm and wild softness.

One of these corners is Kobi’s Pina Balev, in Old Rosh Pina, where Kobi have restored and recreated one of the homes of the settlement’s farmers that was built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild when he decided to sponsor the town. These homes, unlike the crowded and modest homes that were initially built in Rosh Pina, were designed by the leading architects and engineers of the day. In the late 19th century, on the eastern slope of the hill where the upper street was built, spacious four-room stone houses were built, each with its own courtyard and surrounding by various farm buildings. All the yards were surrounded by a thick protective wall. The farmers’ vegetable gardens and vineyards were located to the north of the protective wall. Rosh Pina’s industry included cultivating grapes for wine and raisins, cultivating silkworms for the fine cloth industry and breeding cattle.

A vineyard was set up in the settlement, in addition to a silk factory and rural Hebrew school where the language of instruction was Hebrew. In 1900, the Baron de Rothschild handed over the management of the settlements to the Jewish Colonization Association, and later their management was taken over by the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association. Only during the British Mandate did the farmers manage to redeem their property from the management company and embark on economic and financial independence. They continued to cultivate their orchards, mainly olive trees and deciduous fruit trees. In addition, due to the settlement’s architectural uniqueness and its wonderful geographical location, a hospitality and tourism industry developed there, and it is now the capital of rural tourism in the Galilee.