“Give me Yavne and it’s sages” said the 1st century Jerusalem sage to Vespasian, the Roman Chief of Staff (later emperor), as he layed the siege on Jerusalem that eventually led to the destruction of the 2nd Temple.
This will lead to the evolution of the Oral Torah over the next several centuries. The sages, members of the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious leadership) will break down the commandments of the Torah to small minute details for implementation in daily life.
The man that will finish compiling all the books of the Mishnah is Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi. He lived in the second century, and when you visit Israel next I would love to show you where he learned, lived & was later buried. It’s fascinating to walk through these sites. Next to the modern day town of Kiryat Tiv’on (not far from the port city of Haifa) we can visit the study center (Bet Midrash) that he studied in. Next we travel to Tzipori National Park (in the Lower Galilee). There we can visit what may have been the beautiful home that Rabbi (that’s his nickname, I’m serious..) lived in. That’s only one of the many points that we can experience in Tzipori, though. This site has so much to offer. My favorite is to show off its many colorful mosaics, the most beautiful in Israel, in my opinion. One of the central mosaics in Tzipori is its 1,500 year old mosaic that’s in the middle of its synagogue. We’ll get back to synagogues, though, in a little bit. From here we’ll go to Bet She’arim National Park (next to our above mentioned Bet Midrash), with its burial caves that hold many sarcophagus inside of them. This is where Rabbi and his wife were buried upon their passing circa 200 CE.
During these centuries, from the time of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and over the next several centuries, 3rd-7th centuries, is the golden age of the Jews in the northern areas of Israel. The Galilee & Golan Heights. Roughly 100 synagogues have been found in these regions, showing a rich & meaningful life for Jews in these areas. The synagogues are adorned with many artistic motifs, amongst them the 7 branched menorah which adorns our synagogues today. All synagogues faced the direction of Jerusalem, in the spirit of “If I forget Jerusalem may my right hand whither..”.
Some of these synagogues have been rebuilt. They are very impressive physically, not to mention that visiting them can be a very meaningful experience.
Unfortunately, the Jewish golden age in the Galilee came to an end 1,300 years ago (8th century) with the Muslim conquest of the land of Israel. From this point on there will always be a small population of Jews in the land, but not until the 20th century will they constitute a majority once again.