Monday, December 27, 2010

Researchers Claim to have Found Graves of the Tribes

The following article appeared in the NRG/Maariv website yesterday.

Researchers have found the tombs of the tribes at Mt. Arbel
After years of researching documentation, Yossi Hertzberg and Israel Stepansky are convinced that they know where Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Dina -- the children of Jacob are buried.

Adi Hasmonai and Moshe David Ahikam 26/12/2010 7:47

A pair of scholars are convinced that the graves were located on the Arbel -- Jacob's children - Reuben, Simeon and Levi and their sister Dinah. Israel Hertzberg, an Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem, and Yossi Stepansky, formerly a senior archaeologist for the Northern District of the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted a study that lasted 11 years and included collecting and validating records of the sources of 120 pilgrims' journey logs from the past 200-1000 years.

They were entitled to investigate rare documentation at Israel's National Library at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where they found documents and dates of visits to the tombs by Jewish tourists. Joining their research was Israel Meir Gabbai, Chairman of "Ohalei Tzaddikik" or organizations which deals with rebuilding tombs and their research was approved by the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

"In the Writings of the Ramban and in all the ancient travel diaries of pilgrims, they described the same path of visiting the graves of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, their sister Dinah, and even of Seth, Adam and Eve's child," said Israel Herzberg -- the journey went from the grave of Nabi Shuaib to the Arbel [mountain].

In journals, its describe how the graves of the righteous see the magnificent high synagogue, and the tombs are North of the ancient village, where the synagogue is located in the center.

According to records there is a cave with stairs leading down it it,to the grave of Seth and he was near the tombs of the tribes in the field which have large markers. Pilgrims describe Dinah's grave as having a myrtle/Hadas bush growing out of it.

Since in the modern era, that area is not plowed, it took us six years to find the graves. When we arrived we were amazed to discover in the cave, the Hebrew names of these pilgrims were engraved, dating back some 600 years ago.
I was rather skeptical of this discovery, so I went to the authoritative book on graves in Eretz Yisrael, the 2 book compendium "Holy Graves in Eretz Yisrael" by Israel Prize Winner, the noted geographer Ze'ev Vilnai (first edition, 1951. I use the third edition from 1985)

He notes the following; Page 88.
In the middle ages, Jews showed the grave of Shet, in the area of Tiveria, near the ruins of ancient Arbel. The pilgrim, [Rabbi] Shumel Ben Shimson who visited the area in 1210, writes about "the tomb of Shet, which we saw." In this same area, Rabbi Yaakov Ben Netanel HaCohen passed through and wrote: "And one marker was built like a house, memorializing Shet the son of Adam, and there is a well inside the house." The Ramban's student also went through that area in the early 14th century and writes about holy graves in the area of the Arbel: "And near there is another tzaddik's [righteous person] and a water pier flows over his grave, and is covered with sand and a building, and the water falls as if from a waterfall into a well in the building, and they say that is Shet the son of Adam." In another list of holy graves, the Arbel is mentioned as "Arbelata": "On the western side, Shet the son of Adam is buried, and near his grave is a large myrtle tree." The ruins of ancient Arbel are known to us today in the Arabic as "Irbid." Near them are the new settlements of Arbel and Kefar Hittim. In the entire area of the Arbel, there are no findings of any marker or grave of Shet the son of Adam."
When Vilnai researched his book in 1951, and then in the second and third publications of it, the house with the well had not been found.

Regarding Dina, he wrote on page 220:
"The Jewish tradition for the burial place of Dina, the daughter of Yaakov is in Israel" According to our sages, "Shimon [her brother] took her bones, and buried her in the land of Cna'an" [Breisheet Rabba 80:11] Jewish Pilgrims in the Middle Ages were shown her grave in the area of Tiveriya, at the Arbel, which is near Moshav Kefar Hittim. The Ramban in his explanation of the Torah writes: "And her [Dina's] grave is know to this day through Kabbala, and it is in the city of Arbel...and its possible that Shimon mercifully brought up her bones [to Israel for burial] or the children of Israel brought her with all the the bones of the tribes [sons of Yaakov] as was mentioned by our Rabbis." [Ramban, Breisheet 34:12] Also Rabbi Yaakov Ben Netanel HaCohen passed through the area in the end of the 12 century and mentioned her grave. A student of the Ramban, who visited the area at the beginning of the 14th century wrote: "And near the Arbel are 3 of the tribes of Yaakov and their sister Dina. Next to the grave is a large, nice myrtle tree, and no one is allowed to take a branch from it - neither Jew or Arab, lest they be punished." In the list of the Holy Places, Arbel is mentioned, " the North are buried 4 of the tribes...including Dina the daughter of Yaakov, and all the graves are covered with large stones, and how is it possible than a man could have moved those stones?" [implying the stones are very large and heavy].

Today there are no signs of these graves, tombs or markers in the entire Arbel area...which is now called "Arbid" which has a nice, large ruin of a Beit Knesset, though any remains of graves or markers have vanished."
This appears to corroborate the discovery of the researchers.

1. Though written about centuries ago, the cave building / waterfall / well which is the traditional burial place of Shet, was not found till recently by the researchers. Vilnai knew it was written about but no one knew where it was.

2. The manuscripts of the Jewish pilgrims who wrote about the burial place of Shet, Dina and the other tribes were reviewed by the researchers, who found the names of the pilgrims and the dates they were there in the cave building which is ascribed to Shet, thereby corroborating it being the correct place.

3. The myrtle tree and large stone coverings of the graves match the document's brought by Vilnay. could very well be that based on the texts quoted by Vilnai, the researchers have indeed located the grave sites mentioned by the Jewish pilgrims and rabbis of the 12th-14th centuries.


I'll update this post a bit later with Vilani's comments on the graves of Reuven, Shimon and Levi.

On my next trip up North to the Arbel area, I will have to try and locate them as well, and take some pictures.

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JoeSettler said...

This is fascinating.

2 posts about graves of ancient people on the same day.

Rafi (S) said...

It still doesn't mean that these really are the graves of the people they are purported to be - only that the graves are likely to be ones attributed several hundred years ago to be that.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi S: It means the 900 year old Masoret is true. Whether there's any basis to the validity of the graves prior to that, is beyond the scope of this post...

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

How long before someone builds a mosque there?

Neshama said...

I'm so excited about this and so very proud of them for bringing Dina a"h with them. It speaks volumes.

I have this feeling that we're so close to the Geula, and Hashem is sending us messages: 1) increase observance in the Land (an outcome of the fire near Haifa), and that it was so near to Eliyahu's kever, and that it stopped short of eruvim of Shomer Shabbos moshavim, 2) so much concerning graves around the world being bothered, 3) discovery of 4 of our ancient family ... 4) And Hashem's servant, 'nature', behaving so aggressively - first in far away places, but now in our Land closer to Yidden, all to wake us up to the fact that Hashem wants to bring the Geula, but we have to deserve it, b'emes,

Philo said...

I don't believe that the sons of Ya'akov actually existed. But like with any sacred tradition, this is still deeply significant in that medieval travellers believed this to be their graves.

Pinchas Giller said...

About 20 years ago I spent a day looking around the Arbel for signs of the traditional gravesites. It was very hard, half the stones on the Arbel look like Matzevot, and unlike other sites (Parod, for example) you can't really get the tzurah of the old shrine.

The period when these sites were identified, and the record of the journeys of Petachiah of Regensburg who recorded the mesorot, is a very fascinating and enigmatic time in which Eretz Yisrael was closed to the outside world, and the mesorot of these kevarim are very old. This is the first we hear of Meron in connection with Shimon Bar Yochai (forty years before the "revelation" of the Zohar). Vilnay is indispensable for these purposes. Your post gave the the old desire to take a long tiyul through the backroads of the Galil.

Shmilda said...

Just out of curiosity, what does Zev Vilnai say about קבר דן בן יעקב? That was always mocked in my day.

Anonymous said...

WHile one can argue about the sons of Ya'acov and DIna, there is no logical way Seth is burried in Israel. The garden of Edenwas in in Irag acording to all beliefs and there is no reason for someone to have traveled that far at that time, given the geography and the agricultural needs of ancient man. While it's a nice tail...let's get real people

Anonymous said...

I read this all already on Matzav. Did you copy it from there?

jonathan becker said...

yaakov died before dina (and his other children). he specifically requested to be buried in eretz yisrael. shimon did not live to be a part of the exodus.

are we to believe that he brought his sisters bones to israel (and returned to egypt) without taking his fathers bones, which were only brought by moses with the exodus, 300 years or so later? what am i missing here?

Mrs. S. said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this!

@Jonathan Becker - I think you're confusing Yaakov and Yosef. All the brothers brought their father Yaakov's remains up to Eretz Yisrael after his death (see Breishit 50:7-14). And then, during the Exodus, Moshe took Yosef's bones with him.

JoeSettler said...

Yosef's bones were brought out of Egypt by Moshe. Not Ya'akov's.

Yakov was brought out when he died.

There probably was no problem with the bones of the other brothers being brought out when they died as they weren't venerated leaders of Egypt.

jonathan becker said...

thanks for the corrections. i do tend to mix up the avot. but i still see the basic question here (now redefined as "how could yaakovs other children (including, apparently, yaakov himself) have been brought for burial in eretz yisrael BEFORE yosef's own death?"

(i understand yosef was the second youngest and may have lived the longest, i'm more than a bit hazy on the details). this of course implies that whoever (shimon?) made the actual trip, left egypt and returned numerous times.

i'll try to answer my own question. i know that there are scholars much greater than i here, so: maybe, by the time of yosef's death, the israelites had already morphed from "honored guests" to slaves? this seems highly unlikely, as yosef retained his high position in egyptian society at least until his death, and therefore the israelites would have been free to come and go as they pleased- and, by implication of the text, for some time AFTER his death as well. so, why did the other "tribes" merit early burial in eretz yisrael so many hundreds of years before yosef himself?

again, i will try to answer my own question: perhaps his brothers (and their progeny) still hated his guts?

i'm sorry, are these stupid questions/answers? there are many learned people here, and i am not averse to tochacha, so please, help me see how these recently discovered "graves" might jive with the biblical narrative.

jonathan becker said...

joesettler: i understand your point that the egyptians themselves may have prevented the removal of yosef's remains, due to his local power/veneration, etc. however, due to the same reasons, it might reasonable to think that his wishes would be respected by the egyptians.


"Yakov was brought out when he died.

source, please? (please remember i'm doing this without a text in front of me, or google, just surfin', ya know, so i may be missing something really obvious.)

jonathan becker said...

oh, sorry, missed mrs.s's reference above. never mind, please forgive me, etc.

Anonymous said...

jonathan becker, I am confused by your question

"how could yaakovs other children (including, apparently, yaakov himself) have been brought for burial in eretz yisrael BEFORE yosef's own death?"

indeed, people aren't buried alive.

The famous rashi at the end of breshit says Yosef died before all his brothers.

I may have misunderstood your question.

rhecht said...

Anything's possible!

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Joe Settler-
Just a side note, but per tradition Yosef's brothers' bones were brought out when his were brought out. Yerushalmi Sotah 1:10 and Bereishit Rabbah 100:11. Also cited in the same Ramban where Dinah's bones are mentioned.

jonathan becker said...

i am an idiot, and, truly, grateful for my "internet friends" for pointing this out so gently. it is a great help to me in my quest to be, uh...not an idiot.

Anonymous said...

This is all bullshit.
I have grown HIGHLY skeptical to the methods they used to "determine the age"
Israel's earliest artifacts are barely placed at 25,000 years old, while other countries like Africa and Russia have real human remains that date 41,000 - 56,000 years ago.
Then they state they found a tooth dating 400,000 years ago in Israel.. but NO remains found between that (outrageous) number and the remains from 25,000 years ago.. I have grown very wary of these religious findings.
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