יום שישי י"ג בסיון תש"פ 05/06/2020
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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In Jewish Sites

The Gravesite of Rabbi Yishma'el Ben Elisha the High Priest

In the outskirts of the Arab village of Sajur in the Upper Galilee, in a large building with a light-blue cupola, stands the gravesite of the sage Rabbi Yishma'el the High Priest.

Mordechai Zeevi 08/06/2009 12:00
In northern Israel, on the border between the Upper and Lower Galilee, runs the Akko-Carmiel road. It crosses the Beit Hakerem Valley, and numerous Arab villages are scattered throughout the length of the road. A small distance from Carmiel, off the road that leads to Meron, the Arab-Druze village of Sajur can be found. The Arab population of Sajur is mostly poor and numbers several thousand people.

The village is of unique significance to the Jewish People, since the gravesites of two great Rabbis and Jewish leaders are located in the village: inside the village, the gravesite of the sage Rabbi Shimon Shazouri, whose last name indicates his connection to the village of Sajur, and in the outskirts of the village, near the neighboring village of Rami, the gravesite of Rabbi Yishma'el Ben Elisha the High Priest is located, in a large structure with a light-blue cupola.

Whether or not the gravesite can actually be identified as that of Rabbi Yishma'el is questionable and controversial. The Sages throughout their commentaries refer to Rabbi Yishma'el in several ways, either as 'Rabbi Yishma'el', 'Rabbi Yishma'el Ben Elisha' or 'Rabbi Yishma'el the High Priest', leading some researchers to believe that all the above-mentioned names do not refer to the same person. Rabbi Yishma'el Ben Elisha the High Priest was one of the Ten Martyrs who was murdered together with Rabban Shimon Ben Gamli'el Hazaken. The story relating to their deaths describes the ascending of Rabbi Yishma'el to heaven using the holy name of G-d. When he arrived before the Throne of Glory, he asked whether the decree of the Ten Martyrs must be carried out, and was answered that the decree could not be nullified. Rabbi Yishma'el descended to earth and told his fellow Sages what he had heard in heaven, and the Sages cast lots to decide who would be the first to be murdered. The first to be killed was Rabban Shimon Ben Gamli'el. Following his tragic death, the daughter of the Caesar caught a glimpse of Rabbi Yishma'el, who was very handsome, and desired to own his beautiful face. The skin of his face was thus removed – while he was still alive – and presented to the Caesar's daughter. Thereafter, he was murdered.

In another place where Rabbi Yishma'el is mentioned, he is referred to as a small child who was taken into custody in Rome. Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Chananyah heard of the imprisoned boy, approached the prison and said the verse: "Woe to him who has attacked the children of Jacob and who has looted the children of Israel", to which the boy responded with the continuation of the verse: "It has come upon us as we have sinned before G-d and we have not walked in his path and not adhered to his Torah". After hearing the child's answer, Rabbi Yehoshua said: "I am certain that this boy will grow up to be a leader among his people", and did not leave his side until the boy was redeemed with a large sum of money.

Most researchers are of the opinion that the two stories do not refer to the same Rabbi Yishma'el, as it is most unlikely that Rabbi Yishma'el was held hostage in the Roman prison as a little boy, yet served as the High Priest during the time that the Temple stood.

Tradition has it that the gravesite in Sajur is that of Rabbi Yishma'el who was one of the Ten Martyrs and served as the High Priest during the first generation of the Sages. The second Rabbi Yishma'el is believed to have been an acquaintance of Rabbi Akiva, both belonging to the third generation of the Sages. Yet others maintain that he was the grandson of the first Rabbi Yishma'el. According to most opinions, when the name 'Rabbi Yishma'el' is mentioned in the Mishnah without an additional title, it actually refers to a third Rabbi Yishma'el.

As of today, the gravesite of Rabbi Yishma'el is maintained by a Jew who voluntarily took upon himself the responsibility for the cleanliness and tidiness of the gravesite. The local Arabs respect the place and, for the most part, do not disturb the Jews who come to pray at the gravesite.