Historic Rosh Pina and Rosh Pina Stream
A visit to the restored, historic upper town of Rosh Pina, now an artists’ village, is a delightful activity. Rosh Pina was one of the first Jewish agricultural settlements to be established in Palestine. It was the first to be rescued from bankruptcy by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and he subsequently supported many other settlements established during the First Aliya. Evidence of his involvement can be seen throughout your visit to this part of town. A walk along the Rosh Pina Stream in the nearby park is a wonderful way for rounding out your visit.
TOURING HISTORIC ROSH PINA
Directions: Your destination within Rosh Pina will depend on parking availability. 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 in Rosh Pina and take a 20-minute walk up to the old neighborhood along David Shuv St.
Public transport: Enter "Rosh Pina" into Moovit. There are frequent buses between Kiryat Shmona and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Safed.
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 can be difficult to appreciate that establishing a settlement in this location in the late 1800s was a tough proposition. The first attempt was by a number of yeshiva students from Safed who came here 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 plus a few from Russia who were members of the Chovevei Zion movement settled here together with two of the remaining families from Safed, a total of 140 people. Chovevei Zion was an East European Zionist movement that promoted immigration to Palestine and their immigration was part of the First Aliya. The settlers 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 built 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 (see below).
The Baron’s approach was thorough and very hands-on. He was determined to make all his “investments” succeed. He paid off the debts of the settlers and they received 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 Galilean 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. The town took off in a major way in the late 1980s when artisans sought inexpensive old homes they could convert to studios and art galleries. Rosh Pina subsequently, became a tourist haven.
You are welcome to step inside the home of Dr. Mer, the settlement's physician.
The is 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 1880s, Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) received urgent requests from Chovevei Zion members for financial support to prevent the immanent collapse of the farming villages of Rishon LeZion, Zikhron Ya’akov and Rosh Pina. The Baron responded by underwriting all the expenses of these settlements. Thus, began for him a lifetime of enthusiastic 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). The Baron approached his projects not as charity but as business ventures. He brought European agricultural experts to advise the settlers. His support was pivotal in planting vineyards and starting major wineries in Rishon LeZion and Zikron Ya’akov. These wineries became among the largest in the world for that time. (It is from these beginnings that the wine industry developed as a major industry in Israel. The grape varieties grown in Palestine were imported from France – which is why so many of the wines made in Israel still have French names). He supported the beginning of the industrialization of the country, including a glass factory for making bottles for the wines, this being the first Jewish factory in Ottoman Palestine. He also supported the development of factories for agricultural products and the construction of power stations. It is estimated that his support came to the equivalent of over 50 million dollars in today's currency.
He promoted the use of Hebrew in schools. He also encouraged members of the First Aliyah to maintain their connection to Judaism. He said: “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 excellent 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.” In actuality, his agricultural enterprises employed Arab labor, and this encouraged large scale Arabimmigration into the country from surrounding countries, even more than Jewish immigration. Some of these families would indeed become refugees when they deserted their properties during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
Twenty years after their deaths, he and his wife were re-interred from France in Ramat HaNadiv Memorial Gardens near the towns of Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina Givat-Ada. He supported both these towns and both are named in his honor – Yaakov (James) was the name of his father and Ada (Adelaide) his wife. This garden, incidentally, is a beautiful place to visit and shows an inspiring movie about his philanthropic activities in Palestine. 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:
As you go up the hill, Derech Shuv St. merges into HaHalutzim St. The cobbled pavement indicates that you are now in the historic part of Rosh Pina. After passing Gan HaBaron (the Baron's Garden) on your left, turn left onto HaBoulevard to view buildings of historic interest.
The first house on the left is the home of Professor Gideon Mer who moved to Rosh Pina in 1929 (A). You can enter his home and workshop.
Dr. Mer moved here in 1929. Born in Lithuania, then part of Russia, he studied medicine in France, but in 1914 gave up his studies to immigrate to Palestine, where he engaged in farming. He was expelled from Palestine by the Turks for being an enemy alien and moved to Egypt. Here he responded to Trumpeldor’s call for the founding of a Jewish brigade and served in the Jewish Mule Corps during World War I. He then returned to Europe to complete his medical training. On his return to Israel, he created a laboratory in his home for the study of mosquitos and malaria eradication. Malaria from the mosquitos was then a major problem in the Hula Valley from the swamps. Lacking volunteers, he was not averse to experimenting on himself and his family with mosquitos. The cages for the mosquitos are still in his office. In 1927, he founded the Malarial Research Station of the Hebrew University in Rosh Pina and also held various military positions. His work on malarial control won him international recognition.
The next building on your left is the House of the Clerks (Beit Hapikud) (B). This is where the Baron’s clerks supervised Rosh Pina and other settlements in the Galilee. Inside is a visual display in Hebrew about the development of Rosh Pina. There is also a movie that can be viewed in Hebrew, English or Russian. (The movie is more of 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. 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 enter Gan HaBaron from the side of the House of Clerks. Planted in 1884, this garden was intended to resemble the famous garden in Versailles. The original is better.
The street turns to the right as Rishonim St. The second house on your left after the turn belonged to Simha Vilkomitch, the principal of the settlement school (C). His school was the first in the world to teach all subjects in Hebrew and it became an educational model throughout the country. His home is now an art gallery and store. Opposite this, on the other side of the street, is the Alter Schwartz Hotel, the first hotel constructed in the Galilee (D). It was built at the end of the 19th century by Altar Schwartz, who was 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 (E). By the 1930s it was no longer in use, but recently it has been holding services. The interior décor is reputed to be impressive, although the building is usually closed.
A visit to Nimrod Lookout, a memorial to a soldier who died in the Lebanon War, is worthwhile. Turn right at the Synagogue onto Hanadiv St. and at its end turn left on HaHalutzim. Then take the first left to the observation point. From here you can see the often snow-covered Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley. The chain of hilltops seen on the Golan Heights are actually extinct volcanoes. The Hula Valley is just beyond your view on the left.
Map of walk in historic Rosh Pina and along the Rosh Pina Stream
A Home of Professor Gideon Mer
B House of the Clerks (Beit Hapikud)
C Home of Simha Vilkomitch, principal of the settlement school, now an art gallery and store
D Alter Schwartz Hotel
E The Synagogue
To follow your location on your smart phone, click on: https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/pvVoIjcZk1 Click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the free app unless you wish to.
A WALK ALONG THE ROSH PINA STREAM IN THE ROSH PINA NATURE RESERVE:
A wonderful way to round off your visit to historic Rosh Pina is a walk along the Rosh Pina Stream in the Rosh Pina Nature Reserve. 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 the side of the building to the steps below. Turn right when you reach the main road Derech HaHelmoniyot. (Above you on your left is the Rosh Pina cemetery).
Go through the gate of the park and walk along the stream riverbed. There are three springs that discharge flowing water year-round. The kids can play in the water. Alongside the path are olive, almond and fig trees.
In November, consider viewing the sternbergia flowers (helmoniyot in Hebrew). Viewing these flowers during their limited flowering season is a bit of an Israeli obsession. Close to the far gate, take the green trail on your right and climb up the steep slope. You will see their yellow flowers in their flowering season. At this stage, there are no leaves on the plant, just the flower.
Return the way you came back to your car.
Hike from Safed to Rosh Pina along Nahal Rosh Pina:
It is also possible to hike along the Nahal Rosh Pina wadi from Safed to Rosh Pina and this ends at the Rosh Pina Nature Reserve. 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 Rosh Pina Nature Reserve. It is questionable, therefore, whether it is worth doing this hike rather than just walking in the section in Rosh Pina, especially 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 not be more than about 50 NIS.
The Rosh Pina Stream in Rosh Pina Nature Reserve.
The path along the Rosh Pina Stream in Rosh Pina Nature Reserve.
The upper part of Nahal Rosh Pina close to Safed.