Bar’am, Bir’am and everything in between

By Nili Hess Ashkenazi,Israel

The trip includes two sites: The Bar David museum in Bar’am and the old synagogue in Bar’am which is located near the church that was preserved on the ruins of a village named Bir’am.

We went to visit both sites on the Saturday that occurred after Rosh Hashanah and before Yom Kippur. It was really hot that day, so walking was off the table. Moreover, we were after our annual trips for Rosh Hashanah and before our trips for Sukkot so we were looking for something that didn’t include a long drive and wouldn’t take too long so we could give our kids some leisure time to play at home, the way they enjoy.

Bar David Museum,Kibbutz Bar'am

Bar David Museum,Kibbutz Bar’am

We first arrived at the Bar David museum named after its donors Moshe and Tova Bar David. This museum is dedicated to the Jewish community of Berezhany that was perished during the holocaust. It is located in kibbutz Bar’am in the Upper Galilee and is a museum of the art and Judaica. In the museum’s entrance floor there are two halls that are meant to display the Judaica collections: Menorahs, Torah scrolls, pomegranates that decorate the Torah, candlesticks, etc…

Another permanent collection is shown in a small room on the top floor which includes archeological items from the area: Pottery and glass vessels, jewelry and sculptures. In addition to the permanent collections I mentioned there are changing exhibitions that are displayed on the entrance floor and in the big hall on the top floor. At the time of our visit, the exhibition that was on display was called “Here and Now” by photographer Adi Ness, it included photographs from his series of Men of The Bible and his series of Soldiers. Along with the photographs they displayed selected pieces from the Bar David collection which corresponded with the photographs- It was a fascinating exhibition.

Another exhibition they displayed was an exhibition by the painter Samuel Tafler.  We were with the kids and they didn’t have a lot of patience so we couldn’t spend a lot of time in the museum, which is why we chose to focus on things that might pique their interest as well: The Judaica item and the exhibition of Adi Ness where they could identify, with our help, events they learned about during their Torah lessons. Inside the museum there’s also a lower floor which includes a section for teenagers and workshops and in the museum’s garden there are giant sculptures by Yigal Tomarkin.

After the museum we visited the old synagogue in Bar’am which is about 2 Kilometers away from the kibbutz. The synagogue is located in a national park sprawled on the top of a 755 meters high hill, this hill overlooks the entire area.

Bar'am ancient synagogue

Bar’am ancient synagogue

Bar'am ancient synagogue

Bar’am ancient synagogue

The synagogue is a fancy building made of big hewn stones. It was built during the era of the Talmud, the 4th and 5th centuries, this synagogue is a testimony for the Jewish community that lived and flourished in that area. The front of the synagogue has been preserved almost entirely and it includes three entrances, the central entrance is big and magnificent. The gates are facing Jerusalem and are decorated with impressive stone pieces. The village also had a small synagogue, which has very few remains. The doorpost of the small synagogue is displayed in the Louvre.

In the area of the national park, not too far from the synagogue there are a church and the remains of the Christian-Maronite village called Bir’am. This village was founded during the 16th century, when the family of Daud Risha, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon, arrived there. Other families followed its arrival. During the Arab–Israeli War in November 1948, the villagers were ordered to leave their village for 2 weeks until the end of the battles. Most of the villagers moved to a village called Jish which is located 4 kilometers away from Bir’im, they were hoping to return to their houses, but ultimately, that didn’t happen, although, 2 years after they were moved the Israeli high court of justice ordered that they’re allowed to return.  The church remains complete and active.

Bir'am Maronite Church

Bir’am Maronite Church

Bir'am Maronite Church

Bir’am Maronite Church

Bir'am Maronite Church

Bir’am Maronite Church

During our visit a Christian family was visiting there, as well. One of the women approached us while we were wandering around the church and told us the story of her family which was uprooted from its home and added that every week her family members who live in Jish, Haifa and Nazareth gather there.

The remains of Bir'am

The remains of Bir’am

The visit in the national park of Bar’am demonstrates how complicated it is to live in Israel- The remains of a Talmudic synagogue are located side by side with the remains of a Christian village, and Jewish and Christian visitors, as one, return and learn about their pasts.   

By Nili Hess Ashkenazi, Kibbutz Amir, Israel

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