Two days ago, Sunday to put a name to it, I travelled to both Tzfat (Safed) and Rosh Pina. The Tzfat leg of the journey was covered in yesterday’s post (here) so today’s post will address the lovely little city of Rosh Pina.
When the bus pulled into Rosh Pina, and I had made my way to a large city map, I sought out the old neighbourhood. There, in the oldest part of town, are the quaint, charming houses and buildings that draw tourists and locals alike, as flowers attract bees. I asked a local youth how long it takes to walk up the mountain to the old neighbourhood (as bus routes do not extend that far) and he told me it was a ten-minute walk. He was wrong. It was more like a twenty-minute walk… and uphill. But, the walk was more enjoyable that one would expect. Along the sidewalk the city council of Rosh Pina installed various maps and pictures, set in stone, and often accompanied with descriptive and biblical text. It sure made the walk pleasant – that and the magnificent view of the Western Golan area including Har Chermon (Mt. Hermon). Before too long I was in the old neighbourhood, and feeling a combination of confusion and peacefulness. There, to my right, was a house and a garden… and a sign that said Blues Brothers Pub. I could hear strange bird calls coming from the house, and the yard around it, so I ventured through the gate. What I found was very strange and despite the many people milling about, nobody questioned my presence.
I sat down on a rocking chair made of wood and rocked, watching the people run about – some in a dither. After thoroughly exploring the complex; the pool, the sauna, the bird cages filled with brightly-coloured tropical birds, the animal pens containing chinchillas and other small furry creatures, the pub and the pool hall (which were both closed), I stopped a man who was darting about and asked him to identity the place I was in. He replied in one short simple Hebrew word that answered everything: Tzimirim. A tzimir is like a bed & breakfast just not always having breakfast featured. The tzimirim are usually, if not always, privately-owned and managed and are a popular for both tourists and locals looking to get away from their hectic city lives. I gave a nod of understanding, thanked him and left. My next stop was the Baron’s Gardens, but I only spent mere minutes there. I returned to the main street and asked directions to the “tourist attractions.” What I found next was the Mer House, a house given to Professor Gideon Mer by the Baron Rothschild (who founded Rosh Pina) as an office for the Professor to work on discovering a solution to the malaria plague that troubled those living in the area of the swampy Hula Valley (which I have also done a post on, here).
After a look around I went into the next building and entered a room which was playing a video about Rosh Pina’s history. When the video ended and the lights were turned on I saw that I was standing among a tour group of sorts. I tagged along, lagging in the back, eager to see where they went next. After some time I caved in to my curiosity and asked one of the young men where they were from. And his answer: Bar Ilan University (in Tel Aviv). So, I continued tagging along as they continued on to the next few sites, the old cemetery and the Shlomo Ben Yosef cave, a memorial to several fallen soldiers. The students, and their professors and teachers didn’t seem to mind my presence, neither did the guard, so I persisted. At last, when I revealed myself as a journalist looking for the tourist attractions in Rosh Pina, one of the students (and the guard) suggested that I speak to the mustached professor. I did, and he accepted me warmly into his fold, telling me to join them in their tour. The next site we went to was the old synagogue in Rosh Pina, the first public building in the development to be built by the Baron Rothschild.
Professor Yossi Katz of Bar Ilan University, the one who legitimized my place in the group, spoke for some time and even pointed me out, telling me to write down what he was saying! The synagogue’s ceiling was very unique – painted with scores of small clouds – and the feel was very European. Outside, in the dark of night, we continued to the next (and possibly final) stop of the Rosh Pina tour: the Nimrod Lookout. Named after a local young man named Nimrod who fell in battle during the Second Lebanon War (in 2006), the lookout boasts incredible views and built-in binoculars. Had it been day I would have had an easier time seeing the distant cities and villages. As we gathered around a guest speaker, who was none other than the father of Nimrod, I realised that my bus (the last one of the day) was leaving in an hour from Tzfat and I still had to get a bus out of Rosh Pina. So I left it a hurry, wanting to hear the man’s fascinating story but also not wanting to be stranded out in middle of “nowhere.” I was in such a hurry that I resigned myself to literally running down the mountain to the main road where the malls are. I spent nearly twenty-minutes pounding my feet down the road, nearly unable to stop. When I reached the bottom I felt nearly ill from the violent burst of exertion that transpired. Thankfully the bus I needed pulled up nearly immediately and I was on my way back to Tzfat, feeling sweaty and strange. I got off in Tzfat and boarded my bus back home to Ma’alot. When I got off the bus in Ma’alot I found that my feet were not operating normally. I could not lift my feet using my feet muscles, so every step I took ended in a stamp. It felt weird but the walk was short. Today, sitting here writing this post, my legs are still sore… but the beauty of Rosh Pina was worth it. Here today’s beauty, as seen from the main street in Rosh Pina:
And here is what Rosh Pina looked like way back when, when the settlers grew crops of tobacco and bathed in the public bathhouse every Friday (no date given – featured on a stone part of the sidewalk historical presentation):