Historic Rosh Pina and Rosh Pina Stream
A visit to the restored upper town of Rosh Pina, now an artists’ village, is a delightful family activity. Rosh Pina was one of the first Jewish agricultural settlements to be established in Palestine and the second to be attempted in the Galilee (the first attempt near Mount Meron failed). It was also the first settlement in Palestine to be rescued from bankruptcy by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and you will see evidence of his involvement as you walk through the village. There are also wonderful views from lookout points of the valley below and the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon in the distance. A walk in the park along the Rosh Pina Stream is a wonderful way of rounding out your visit.
TOURING HISTORIC ROSH PINA
Directions: Your destination depends on where you will be able to find parking. If there are not many visitors, there may be parking on HaBoulevard off HaHaluzim St. Enter “Ha-Boulevard” into Waze and click on “Ha-Boulevard, Rosh Pina.” Otherwise, park further down the hill in parking areas on Derech HaYekev or Derech Hamerkaz. Enter “Derech HaYekev” into Waze and click on “Dereck HaYekev Rosh Pina.” You can also park at one of the two malls and take the 20-minute walk up to the old neighborhood along David Shuv St.
The House of the Clerks. From these offices, Rothschild’s clerks administered this settlement and others in the Galilee.
Rosh Pina – tough beginnings
Rosh Pina is located in the Eastern Upper Galilee on a plateau on the side of Mount Canaan. Walking through this idyllic village, it takes some imagination to appreciate that establishing a settlement here in the late 1800’s was an extremely tough venture. The first attempt was by a number of yeshiva students from Safed who came with their families to engage in agriculture rather than relying on charity. In 1878 they purchased about half the land of the Arab village of Jauneh. Their settlement was called Gei-Oni and was situated close to the Arab villagers. However, within two years all but a few of them had returned to Safed following a year of drought.
The next attempt was in 1882 when Jews mainly from Rumania and a few from Russia who were part of the First Aliyah and members of the Chovevei Zion Zionist movement settled here together with two of the remaining families from Safed, a total of 140 people. They called their moshav Rosh Pina (Corner Stone) after the verse in Psalms (118:22): The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Their homes were in what is now the “top road.” They attempted a number of agricultural ventures but knew very little about farming and were unsuccessful in all of them. Their money ran out and they only managed to survive by mortgaging their land and property to creditors. They sent out emissaries for assistance. Baron Edmund de Rothschild from Paris responded and agreed to sponsor their settlement. This was the first of many ventures he would support throughout Palestine.
The Baron’s approach was thorough and very hands on and he was determined to make all his “investments” a success. He paid off the debts of the settlers and they were paid a monthly stipend. He bought more land, built an Ashkenazi synagogue, a house for the settlement teacher and doctor, and two office buildings for his clerks. These buildings would become the administrative center for all the Upper Galilee towns he subsequently supported. A rural school was also established.
New immigrants settled in Rosh Pina in 1948 after the War of Independence and there was further growth after the Six Day War. However, the town really took off in the late 1980’s when artisans sought inexpensive old homes that they could convert to studios and art galleries. Subsequently, Rosh Pina became a tourist haven.
You can still step inside the doctor Dr. Mer’s home.
The synagogue built by Baron Edmond de Rothschild for the early settlers.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild – HaNadiv HaYadu’a (the Known or Famous Benefactor)
In the early 1880’s, Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) received urgent requests from Hovevei Zion for financial support for the pioneers of the farming villages of Rishon LeZion, Zikhron Ya’akov and Rosh Pina to prevent their immanent collapse. The Hovevei Zion was an East European Zionist movement that promoted immigration to Palestine and that participated in the First Aliya. The Baron responded by underwriting all the expenses of these settlements. Thus, began for him a lifetime of philanthropic work in Palestine and for the Yishuv the crucial support needed for Jewish settlement in Palestine.
The Baron was born in France, a third child to the founder of the French branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty. He was not involved in the banking business but pursued artistic and philanthropic interests, including supporting several French scientific institutes.
He and his descendants would support 44 communities in then Palestine, including kibbutzim, moshavim and moshavot (farming villages). He sent European agricultural experts to advise the settlers. His support was pivotal in starting major wineries in Rishon LeZion and Zikron Ya’akov and planting vineyards. These wineries were among the largest in the world at that time. From these beginnings, the wine industry became a major Israeli industry. The vines grown were imported from France – which is why many of the wines made in Israel have French names. He supported the beginning of the industrialization of the country, including a glass factory for providing bottles for the wines. This was the first Jewish factory in Ottoman Palestine. He also supported factories for agricultural products and built power stations. It has been estimated that his support came to over $50 million.
He promoted the use of Hebrew in schools. He also encouraged members of the First Aliyah to maintain their connection to Judaism: “Religious yearning is a principle among Jews …. Only a sense of religion can unite all parts of the people …. You were the first to show the way of agriculture to those who will follow you. It is your obligation to show them the way of the Jewish heart.”
He maintained good relationships with Arabs on his lands and this paid off during the Arab disturbances. In a letter to the League of Nations in 1934 he wrote: “The struggle to put an end to the wandering Jew, could not have as its result, the creation of the wandering Arab.”
Twenty years after their deaths, he and his wife were re-interred from France in what is today called Ramat HaNadiv Memorial Gardens near the towns of Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina Givat-Ada, both of which he supported and both of which are named in his honor – Yaakov (James) was the name of his father and Ada (Adelaide) his wife. This garden is a beautiful place to visit. The family’s later charitable foundation was called Yad HaNadiv.
At the ceremony for their reinterment, prime minister Ben Gurion said: “I doubt that, in the entire history of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, a period of 2,000 years, one could ever find a man comparable in stature to the incredible character that was Baron Edmond de Rothschild.”
A WALK THROUGH HISTORIC ROSH PINA
Derech Shuv St. comes to a T-junction as you go up the hill and the right fork is HaHalutzim St. The cobbled streets tell you that you are now in the historic part of Rosh Pina. Turn left onto HaBoulevard. Some of the buildings here are of historic interest. The first house on the left is the home of Professor Gideon Mer who moved here in 1929. His workshop can be visited.
Dr. Mer moved to Rosh Pina in 1929. Born in Lithuania, then part of Russia, he studied medicine in France, but gave up his studies to immigrate to Palestine in 1914 where he engaged in farming. He was expelled from Palestine by the Turks for being an enemy alien and moved to Egypt where he responded to Trumpeldor’s call for the founding of a Jewish brigade and served in the Mule Corps during World War I. He then returned to Europe to complete his medical degree. When he returned to Israel, he made a laboratory in his home into a research station for the study of mosquitos and malaria eradication. Malaria was then a major problem from mosquitos in the swamps of the Hula Valley. Lacking volunteers, he was not averse to experimenting on himself and his family with his mosquitos. The cages for the mosquitos are still in his office. In 1927, he formed the Malarial Research Station of the Hebrew University in Rosh Pina. He also held various military posts. His work on malarial control won him international recognition.
The next building along on your left is the House of the Clerks (Beit Hapikud). This is where the Baron’s clerks supervised Rosh Pina and other settlements in the Galilee. Inside is a visual display in Hebrew on the development of Rosh Pina. There is also a movie that can be viewed in Hebrew, English or Russian. The movie is more a play than a documentary, and its full significance is difficult to appreciate without some knowledge of the history of Rosh Pina. There is an admission charge (15 nis for adults, and 10 nis for children and seniors). The movie is shown at regular intervals on Friday and Saturday (11.00 am, 12.00 pm and 1.00 pm) and no reservation is needed (but check on these times). On other days a reservation is required. Their phone number is 04 693-6913.
You can also go to Gan HaBaron via the side of the House of Clerks. Planted in 1884, this garden was intended to resemble the famous garden in Versailles. It is not worth going out of your way for.
Turn right onto Rishonim St. The second house on your left belonged to Simha Vilkomitch, the principal of the settlement school. His school was the first in the world to teach all subjects in Hebrew and it became a model for education throughout the country. His home is now an art gallery and shop. On the right side of the road is the Alter Schwartz Hotel, the first hotel constructed in the Galilee. It was built at the end of the 19th century by Altar Schwartz, who was also the first postman for the moshav. At the end of the street on the left is the Synagogue, the first public building erected in Rosh Pina. It was no longer in use by the 1930’s, but has recently been functioning. The interior décor is reputed to be impressive, although the building is usually closed.
Do visit the Nimrod Observation Point, a memorial to a soldier who died in the Lebanon War. Turn right at the Synagogue onto Hanadiv St. and at its end turn left on HaHalutzim, and then first left again to the observation point. From here can be seen the often snow-covered Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley. The hilltops seen on the Golan Heights are actually extinct volcanoes. The Hula Valley is just beyond one’s view on the left.
Map of historic Rosh Pina.
Use this link to follow your path: https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/pvVoIjcZk1
A WALK ALONG THE ROSH PINA STREAM IN THE ROSH PINA NATURE RESERVE
A wonderful addition to your visit to historic Rosh Pina is a walk along the Rosh Pina Stream. From the entrance gate to the furthest gate and back is about a 60-minute walk and a distance of 2¼ Km.
Return to the synagogue and take either of the paths by its side to the steps below. Turn right when you reach the main road Derech HaHelmoniyot. Above you on the left is the Rosh Pina cemetery.
Pass through the gate of the park and walk along the stream riverbed. There are three springs and year-round flowing water. The kids can play in the water. Alongside the path are olive, almond and fig trees.
In November, consider viewing the sternbergias (called helmoniyot in Hebrew). Viewing these flowers during their limited flowering season is a bit of an Israeli obsession. After about a 30-minute walk from the beginning of the park and close to the far gate, take the green trail on your right and climb up the steep slope. In their flowering season, you will see their yellow flowers. At this stage, there are no leaves on the plant.
Return the way you came back to your car.
It is also possible to walk from Safed all the way along the Nahal Rosh Pina wadi to Rosh Pina. It takes just over 1½ hours and is a distance of 3½ Km to the synagogue. The beginning of the trail in Safed is at the end of Baraket St. opposite a water tower with the sign Halumot. Enter "ברקת צפת" into Waze. Park on the side of the road. A bit beyond the water tower is a pole with a black band, which is the beginning of the trail.
The hike is not difficult, although the path is stony. It is well-marked with black markings. It is a pleasant but not remarkable hike, with the nicest part being the park along the stream close to Rosh Pina. The question, therefore, is whether it is worth doing this hike rather than walking from Rosh Pina as you will need to get back to your car in Safed. If you have no second car, call for a taxi on Gett. You will usually have to pay for the taxi driver to come from Safed, but the total for the trip should come to more than about 50 nis.
The Rosh Pina Stream in Rosh Pina Nature Reserve.
Path along the Rosh Pina Stream in Rosh Pina Nature Reserve.
The upper part of Nahal Rosh Pina close to Safed.