HaPalmach St 12, Safed.
Zefat (or Safed, Tzfas), Galilee. Close to the bridge above Rehov Yerushalayim and close to Rehov Palmach.
|Cave of Shem and Ever, HaPalmach St 12, Safed, Israel.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Zefat is located in northern Israel, about 850 m asl, which makes it a rather cool and pleasing place in summer. The name Zefat means to look. One sight of this city is the מערת שם ועבר (Merat Shem Va'Ever, Cave of Shem and Ever). This cave was used for burials by a prominent Jewish family during the 4th century, the Byzantine period.
There are numerous stories and legends surrounding this site. The first is about the name, Shem And Ever, which is from the legend that Noah's son Shem and his great-grandson Ever, set up a Beit Midrash or House of Study in this cave. Depending on which story you believe, Avraham, Isaac or Jacob, or two or all three of them, went at separate times, to this cave to study the Torah with these descendants of Noah. There are both Christian and Moslem legends connecting Jacob to the cave. According to Moslem tradition, this cave is where Jacob went to mourn the presumed death of Joseph, the Arabic name for the cave Beit Al Achzan means House of Sorrow. Jewish tradition says that Jacob spent 14 years studying Torah in this cave, and later he returned and studied with Joseph. Christian legends say that this is the burial place of Tuvia Aprcrypha, and the site was called Convent of Children of Jacob by the crusaders, who placed a nunnery here called The Daughters of Jacob. According to legend it was the burial place of several Talmudic sages including Rabbi Dosa Ben Harkinas, Rabbi Shimon Ben Azai, asnd Nechemia.
Today the cave is gated and located on the site of a modern synagoge. The webpages differ if it is actually open, some say its open without any restrictions, some say its open on Sabbat, some say its completely closed. As far as we know, there is no official website, neither for the cave nor the synagoge. We are also not sure how interesting the cave actually is, as far as we understand, it was at some point renovated to become an underground chapel. All pictures showing old graves are historical, modern pictures show boring plastered walls. This is not really impressive, but actually we had no reviewer on site so far. So if you visited the site please email us with your impressions.
From Jerusalem Street, climb the stairs up to the bridge that carries HaPalmach Street to reach this holy cave where Noah's son and great grandson supposedly studied the Torah.
According to Muslim tradition, it was here that a messenger told Jacob of the death of his son, Joseph. The Arabs therefore call the cave "Place of Mourning", and they believe that the messenger lies buried here.
The cave is presided over by an old man who recites prayers, after which he expects a donation.
Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.