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In Search Of Dinah

Rachel Ginsberg

Ancient documents and a heavy dose of inspiration have convinced a team of researchers that they’ve rediscovered the holy graves of Dinah bas Yaakov and her brothers who rescued her. Over a thousand years ago, Jewish travelers — from the Baalei HaTosfos to the Ramban and his students — documented the site on the cliffs of Mt. Arbel. Have the mysterious graves suddenly reappeared?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

For eleven years, Yisrael Hertzberg searched. Armed with maps and ancient manuscripts, he scoured the area, overturning rocks, lifting shrubbery … but nothing.

“I decided to give it one last shot,” he recalls the day that corroborated his efforts. “I was together with my wife, and we decided to descend the mountain one more time. Back and forth, following paths that led us nowhere, I was about to give up for good. And then as the sun’s rays settled low on the horizon, they reflected off of what I was sure was a mirage — four white slabs of stone in a row, with some sort of ancient bush protruding from the left one. A few paces further left was the cave with the winepress. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Did I really merit to find what our team had been looking for for over a decade? I began to laugh and cry at the same time … here they were, the graves of the shvatim.”

For Rabbi Yisrael Hertzberg, author of the newly published encyclopedic Holy Places and Kivrei Tzadikim in the Galil, finding the lost burial site of Dinah bas Yaakov and her brothers Reuven, Shimon, and Levi was a fitting reward for years of research.

Over a thousand years ago, Jewish travelers — from the Baalei HaTosfos to the Ramban and his students — documented their climb up the eastern cliffs of the Galil adjacent to the ancient village of Arbel, where they knew Dinah and her rescuers Shimon and Levi, and possibly Reuven, were buried; a few meters away was the uniquely carved-out burial cave attributed to Shes ben Adam HaRishon.

Rabbi Hertzberg, a native of Jerusalem and expert on ancient manuscripts, and Yossi Stepansky, former senior archaeologist for the Galil region of the Israel Antiquities Authority, spent eleven years analyzing, validating, and charting out the paths of 120 journals of travelers to Eretz Yisrael in the last 1,200 years — most of them obscure manuscripts that had never before been studied. With the help of Stepansky and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabai, Israel’s foremost expert on graves and tombs, Rabbi Hertzberg has been able to find dozens of graves that have been lost to or mistakenly identified by modern pilgrims. The most elusive — and dramatic — of these discoveries was the grave of Shes and Yaakov Avinu’s children.


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