Meyron was Jewish until the 12th Century and resettled from the 18th / DR.Rivka Lissak

Meyron (ancient Marrom) is situated at the foot of Mt Meyron on the Acre-Saffed road. A cooperative settlement was established not far from ancient Meyron in 1949 by Jewish Hungarian and Polish members of the “Hapoel Hamizrahi” organisation. The settlers lived on the ancient site for the first three years before moving to the present location in 1952. They worked in forestry and stone clearing. Meyron has a population of 500 to 750 people, a religious high school and a Yeshiva. Meyron’s residents work in regional factories and plants for packaging, eggs, dry fruit, and car maintenance, as well as farming and tourism.

Mayron’s name is derived from “Imrin”, meaning “flocks of sheep” – referring to the rich dairy productivity of the place in ancient times.

The Late Canaanite Period (1550BCE – 1200BCE)

Ancient Meyron is situated in a strategic location south-west of modern Meyron, on the slopes of Mount Meyron. It controlled an important road intersection in ancient times and is mentioned in conquests lists of various rulers who attempted to control the Land of Israel as an important junction between the north of the Fertile Crescent and its south. The Canaanite city Marrom, identified as Meyron by modern scholars, is mentioned in the lists of Thoutmes III (15th century BCE) and Rameses II (13th century BCE). A mural in Rameses II’s palace describes the conquest of Marrom and shows an Egyptian soldier leading three of the city’s shackled inhabitants by ropes tied around their necks.

Joshua won a battle against Yavin, the king of Hatzor and his supporters at the end of the 13th century BCE, by the spring (Mey Marrom) near Marrom/Meyron.

The First Temple Period (1000BCE – 586BCE)

Following the division of the Kingdom of Israel under Rehabam, Marrom/Meyron was included in the northern Israel kingdom. The Assyrian King Tiglath Pileser III listed Marrom among the Galilean cities he conquered from the Kingdom of Israel in 732BCE, and whose inhabitants he exiled to Assyria. Its mention in the inscription testifies to the existence of an Israelite settlement there during the First Temple Period. The ruins of a Canaanite fortress from 1000BCE can be found on Mt Meyron.

The Second Temple Period (538BCE – 70CE)

Archaeologists who excavated the buildings of the site in 1978, determined that Meyron was resettled as a Jewish town during the Second Temple Period. Together with Gush Halav, Meyron was famous during that time for its dairy products, thanks to the rich pastures surrounding it. The Jerusalem Talmud mentions that a certain man from Meyron owned 100 wine and 100 oil barrels, a testament to the city’s economic strength. Meyron was surrounded by mountains and precipices and was fortified by Josephus Flavius on the eve of the Great Revolt (66CE).

The Roman and Byzantine Periods (70CE – 640CE)

Meyron survived the Great Revolt and was an important city during the Mishna and Talmud period. Following the destruction of the Temple, priests of the Yehoyariv clan settled in Meyron, which had become the Head Quarters for the 3rd Roman Legion that was encamped in the area. During the 2nd century CE it was home to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and his students.

The site has been excavated several times: Charles Wilson excavated in 1868; a German team led by Heinrich Kohl and Karl Watzinger excavated in 1905; and an American team led by A. Myers excavated between 1972 and 1977.

The remains of a synagogue have been found in Meyron and dated, based on coins and ostraca found on site, to the 3rd century CE. One of the largest synagogues in the Galilee, its structure is oblong while other synagogues were usually square in shape. Its western wall was carved into the rock. The southern wall of the synagogue survived and so did remnants of the ark and the bimah, the raised platform on which the Torah was read. Remains of steps, by which worshippers coming from the valley from the direction of Gush Halav entered the synagogue, were found on the eastern side, and the entrance has been reconstructed by Israel’s Department of Antiquities.

Excavations conducted on the site in 1978 uncovered the remains of homes, workshops, a food storehouse and jugs containing food remnants.

Meyron was home to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai (80–160 CE), one of the greatest Jewish sages in the 2nd century CE. His grave is located on the ancient city site. After his son, Rabbi Elazar, passed away, the people of Meyron fought with the people of Gush Halav over his burial site. The Meyronites removed his coffin from Gush Halav and buried the son near his father in Meyron. Rabbi Joseph Kissama, Hillel the Elder, and Rabbi Yohanan the Shoemaker are also buried in Meyron.

Teko’a, a Jewish settlement, grew from a suburb of Meyron, and in its ancient site (Hirbet Shama) are the remains of a synagogue that was damaged in two earth quakes, in 306CE and 418CE. The site also contains the remains of ritual baths, workshops, and graves, including a mausoleum.

Scholars disagree on when Meyron ceased to exist. According to “Guide to Israel”, Vol. 2 (edited by Raffi Frankel), Meyron was deserted in 361CE, during the reign of Emperor Constantine II, because the Jewish farmers could not sustain the tax burden, and later on the town was destroyed in an earthquake. Joseph Brasslavski reached a different conclusion. In his book “Do You Know the Country”, Vol. 1, he writes that the synagogue in Meyron was in use up to the end of the 12th century. Yitzhak Ben Zvi, in his book “Shear Yeshuv”, which preceded the above two publications, was also of the opinion that Meyron remained Jewish at least until the Crusades, i.e., until the 12th century.

The Arabic Period (638CE – 1099CE)

Ben Zvi and Brasslavski decided that Jewish Meyron still existed during the Arabic occupation.

The Crusader Period (1099 – 1260)

According to Brasslavski, although the Crusaders massacred Jews during their conquest, the rural Galilee was not affected as the Crusader massacres took place in the urban centres, such as Acre and Haifa.

Jacob son of Nethanel HaCohen visited Meyron during the second half of the 12th century (before Saladin’s Battle of Hattin against the Crusader army) and tells of a school operating there. Rabbi Shmuel son of Rabbi Shimshon visited Meyron in 1210/11 and met a Jewish community of some 20 people. Among the remains of the synagogue, on the synagogue door post, he read: “This [was] made [by] Shalom Ben Levi”. Prof. Klein proposed that Shalom Ben Levi of Meyron was brother of Yossey Halevi Ben Levi of Bar’am. Rabbi Shmuel also reported that more than twenty men (two “minyanim”) from Meyron welcomed the Head of the Diaspora on his visit to the Land of Israel.

Documents from the Cairo Genizah (Jewish Archives) also attest to the existence of Jewish settlements in Saffed and its environs during the 13th century.

The Mamluke Period (1260 – 1516)

It seems that Jewish Meyron ceased to exist at some stage in the transition from the Crusader to the Mamluke rule. Rabbi Yehiel from Paris who immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1260 (i.e., the second half of the 13th century) travelled in the Galilee and listed the Jewish settlements there. Meyron was not one of them. According to the geographer Al Damaski (died 1327), celebrations in honour of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai were still held at the Rabbi’s grave, attracting Jews from settlements near and far. An anonymous traveller from Candia (Crete) visited Meyron in 1473 and reported that the Jews had left it because of a water shortage. He found the synagogue and Old Hillel’s grave, as well as a grave he identified as that of Rabbi Shamay. He reported that more than 1000 Jewish people, mostly from Saffed, participated in the celebrations honouring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai.

The Ottoman Period (1516 – 1917)

Moshe Bassoula who visited the country and toured the Galilee in 1522 did not find any Jews in Meyron but reported that the synagogue’s façade was still standing. According to Bassoula the celebrations in honour of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai were still taking place, and he too reports that 1000 Jews participated in a celebration during his visit to Meyron.

Zeev Vilnai, referring to Rabbi Joseph Soffer who visited Meyron in 1762, wrote in the Ariel Encyclopaedia that during the 18th century Jews were living in the Arabic village Mayroon (the Arabic name of Meyron) whose population was comprised of Muslims and Christians. These were several dozens of Jewish families from Kurdistan who settled on a 1750-acre area purchased by Rabbi Shmuel Abou in order to encourage Jews to return to farming.

According to a report by Laurence Olyphant who visited Meyron in 1883, Jews from Morocco had settled in Meyron in the 1880’s. Olyphant wrote that most of the village belonged to Rabbi Shmuel Abou who settled 6 families of Moroccan Jews in the village to encourage Jewish farming. According to Olyphant there were 12 Muslim families living in the village, and the relations between them and the Jews were harmonious.

Hamaggid newspaper published a story in 1883 by Michael Goldshmidt, a Jewish traveller who visited the country and found Jewish families in Meyron who were supported by a Rabbi who encouraged Jewish settlement. Rabbi Shmuel Abou’s call to Jews to return to farming in the Land of Israel was published in the newspaper HaHavatzelet. The Rabbi mentioned the land he bought in Meyron, the availability of its spring water for irrigation, and its growing farms.

A Jewish pioneer who settled in the Galilee reported in 1892 that in Meyron there were Mougrabi Jews, i.e., Jews from North Africa, and that half the village was owned by Sephardy Jews.

The French Consular Archive contains documents telling of the Ottoman attempt to confiscate Meyron’s lands from its Jewish owners and the Jews’ deportation, but this was foiled through the intervention of the Abou family. According to these sources, during the Ottoman period it was very difficult for Jews to purchase land and hold on to it following the purchase because of objections mounted by Ottoman bureaucrats. The Abou family served as French consular agents in the Galilee and its status gave it an advantage over other Jews who lost their lands under Ottoman rule.

An Arabic source (see below) confirms that about half the village lands belonged to Jews.

It is not known when Arabs began settling in Meyron after it had been abandoned. Seeing as in 1522 Meyron was still unpopulated, and in 1762 it was already populated by Arabs, it makes sense Arabs settled there at some time between the mid-16th century and the second half of the 18th century. During the 17th century a Bedouin tribe from the Northern Syrian Desert took over the Galilee, replaced in the 18th century by a Bedouin tribe from the Arab Peninsula.

The British Mandate Period (1917/8 – 1948)

The “Palestine Remembers”(a Palestinian site) notes that during the Mandate period about half of the land of the Arabic village Mayroon belonged to Jews (1691.25 acres belonged to Arabs and 1459.75 acres to Jews), but it does not mention any Jewish population. The Mandate Government’s 1931 census counted 158 Muslim Arabs in Mayroon, occupying 47 homes, and no Jews. “Palestine Remembers” reports that in 1931, 189 Arabs were living in Mayroon, but according to Yitzhak Ben Zvi these 189 were comprised of 158 Muslims and 31 Jews. Zeev Villnai also reports Jews in Mayroon during the Mandate period. According to “Palestine Remembers” there were 290 Arabs in the village in 1945 and on the eve of the 1948 war they numbered 336 in 83 homes. Villnai reports that the few Jews who were still living in Mayroon at that time were forced to flee before the battles began.

A note of interest: “Palestine Remembers” mentions Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and calls him a “Palestinian Jew”.

The State of Israel

As war broke out in 1948, Mayroon had been taken over by Kaukji’s Rescue Army, and his soldiers targeted Saffed from there. The village was conquered by the Israeli Defence Forces during the Hiram Operation on October 31, 1948 and its inhabitants fled. “Palestine Remembers” claims that Mayroon’s population was deported in two waves: On the 10.5.48 and on 30.10.48. Benny Morris wrote in his book, The Birth of Palestinian Refugee Problem, that the Arabs fled on 10-12.5.48 ,after hearing that Saffed and other locations had been taken over by the IDF.


Israelites were living in Marrom/Meyron during the First Temple period until they were exiled by the Assyrians. Jews were living in Meyron during the Second Temple period and throughout the Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, and Crusader periods. At some point in the transition from Crusader rule to Mamluke rule Jewish Meyron ceased to exist, but from the 18th century Jews were returning to the place, which had turned into the Arabic village Mayroon. The Jews were made to flee Mayroon when battles began in 1948. Thus Jewish continuity in Meyron spans some 3000 years (when counting the First Temple period).

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