6 Hanan Hanahba St, Hatzor HaGlilit, North District.
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|Honi HaMe'agel, 6 Hanan Hanahba St, Hatzor HaGlilit, North District.
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קבר חוני המעגל (Honi HaMe'agel, Tomb of the Circle Drawer) is an underground chapel and an at least partly underground monastery. The cave looks pretty rough, although actually not natural, we have no idea how it formed, but we guess it was dug by man. If it is natural, it was strongly modified. The site is a religious centre, used quite frequently and a sort of pilgrimage destination. As such, it is actually open to the public, in the way a church is open to the public. The site is rarely visited by tourists though.
There are several different small and mostly low caves, it's not necessary to stoop, but the ceiling looks quite low. The rooms are used for different purposes, one is actually an underground chapel, but there are other caves with altars, an underground library, and underground passages connecting different caves. The monastery is located at the upper end of a road leading west from the town Hatzor HaGlilit.
The site is named after Honi HaMe'agel, which in Hebrew means "Honi the circle drawer". He was a Jewish scholar of the 1st-century BC, a century with a variety of religious movements and splinter groups amongst the Jews in Judea. Honi HaMe'agel was one of several miracle workers in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha. The circle drawing incident is mentioned the Babylonian Talmud, actually there are two variations of this story.
One year God did not send rain well into the winter, which is normally the rainy season in Israel. So Honi drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain. Then it began to pour, and he explained that he wanted a calm rain. Finally, the rain calmed to normal rain. As a result of this incident Honi was almost put into herem (excommunication), because he showed "dishonor" to God. Shimon ben Shetach, the brother of Queen Shlomtzion, excused him, saying that Honi had a special relationship with God. As a result of the fact that his prayer for rain was miraculously answered Honi was considered a miracle worker.
Another story about Honi is the Extended sleep story. Two variations can be found in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. This is a motive originating in the story of Epimenides, a 7th century BC Greek seer and philosopher-poet, from Knossos, Phaistos, or probably mythical. It's most well know variation is the story of the Seven Sleepers. But it is also often used in legends about people which entered a fairyland or a magic land and returned centuries later. An almost modern version is the story of Rip Van Winkle.
Honi was troubled throughout the whole of his life concerning the meaning of the verse, 'A Song of Ascents: When the Lord brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like dreamers'.
Honi asked "Is it possible for seventy years to be like a dream? How could anyone sleep for seventy years?"
One day Honi was journeying on the road, and he saw a man planting a carob tree. He asked, "How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?" The man replied: "Seventy years." Honi then further asked him: "Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?" The man replied: "I found already grown carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted those for me, so I too plant these for my children."
Honi sat down to have a meal and sleep overcame him, a rocky formation enclosed him, which hid him from sight, and he slept for seventy years. When he awoke he saw a man gathering the fruit of the carob tree and Honi asked him, "Are you the man who planted the tree?" The man replied: "I am his grandson." Thereupon Honi exclaimed: "It is clear that I have slept for seventy years."
He returned home, where he inquired, "Is the son of Honi the Circle-Drawer still alive?" The people answered him, "His son is no more, but his grandson is still living." When he said to them: "I am Honi the Circle-Drawer," no one believed him.
He went to the beit hamidrash (study hall) and there he overheard the scholars say, "The law is as clear to us as in the days of Honi the Circle-Drawer". Whenever he came to the beit hamidrash and the scholars had any difficulty, he explained it to them, and so this saying had developed. But when he explained them he was Honi, they did not believe him, nor did they give him the respect due to him. This hurt him greatly, and he prayed for mercy and died.
Halfway up the hill is a cave tomb which is called Khanan ha-Nekhba (Cave of the Holy Terms). It is the burial place of the grandsons of the Holy Tana, the dwellers of the circle ZIA, Rabbi Abba Khalkiya and Rabbi Hanan the Nachba. They were Chassids and lived in the last century before the destruction of the Second Temple.