April 7, 2017
The authors of the Passover Haggadah will be at the focal point of a new interactive trail - the first of its kind in Israel. The Sanhedrin Trail is currently being constructed in Tiberias and will be 70 kilometers long! It will cross the Galilee from Bet Sheʽarim to Tiberias and will pass between sites that are associated with members of the Sanhedrin. Work on the first section of the trail has already begun with students and volunteers.
In recent weeks thousands of high school students have been taking part in archaeological excavations along the cardo - the main street of the ancient Roman city of Tiberias. This in preparation of the Tiberias section of the Sanhedrin Trail - a project initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the National Religious Education Administration (Hemed) of the Ministry of Education, financed by the Landmarks Project of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, and in conjunction with the councils and towns through which the trail runs and environmental organizations. As part of preparing the Tiberias segment of the trail, a visitor's center will soon be built in the city which will afford the public an opportunity to better understand the project and participate in the excavations, while getting to know the city's ancient heritage.
The Sanhedrin trail, which at c. 70 kilometers is slated to be among the longest trails in Israel, will be divided into five segments that can be covered during the course of five days of walking. It will be suitable for families and will also include circular routes. The "smart" trail will communicate with the hikers using an innovative, augmented reality-based application that will create an extraordinary and first of its kind travel experience on the trail. The application will enable the virtual reconstruction of heritage sites, will integrate figures that will guide the children along the trail and will "bring back to life" the Sanhedrin scholars and the sages of the period, etc.
The Sanhedrin Trail will cross the Lower Galilee by way of many of the sites that were inhabited during the time of the Mishnah and Talmud. The activity of the Sanhedrin - the foremost body of Jewish leadership and supreme authority during the Second Temple period - was exiled to Yavne after the destruction of Jerusalem, and from there to the Galilee following the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. From the difficult identity crisis that the people experienced in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, and led by the seventy sages and the president of the Sanhedrin, a renewed work of Jewish law, philosophy and culture was developed. The Oral Law was recorded for the first time, and the Mishnah and Talmud were written. As part of this activity, the Passover Haggadah was also written, which cites the dialogue of a meeting of the members of the Sanhedrin after the destruction of the Temple in which they discussed the appropriate ways to mark Passover outside the ruined Temple and laying out the new spiritual path of the people of Israel ("It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a seder] in B'nei Berak. They were discussing the exodus from Egypt all that night, until their students came and told them: "Our Masters! The time has come for reciting the morning Shema!").
According to Israel Hasson, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The trail project, which is dedicated to the Sanhedrin sages, will extend over 70 kilometers and will be dedicated to the State of Israel in its seventieth year of independence. Tens of thousands of pupils and volunteers will bestow the respect due the Sanhedrin sages, and they will provide a spectacular and enjoyable interactive trail for tens of thousands of hikers that will connect the hikers to their past. We are calling on any citizen interested in volunteering to help set up the trail to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will meet with the heads of the councils through which the trail passes and together formulate a plan of action that will involve the local community and youth".
Michal De-Hann, pedagogic deputy in the National Religious Education Administration said, "A student who excavates and exposes ancient remains and receives an explanation about the finds, connects deeply to the continuity of our country's life and heritage. The program offers significant extracurricular learning that exposes students to Jewish ideas, values and creativity".
According to Yair Amitzur, the IAA antiquities inspector for the Eastern Galilee and one of the initiators of the idea, "People such Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi, the members of the Sanhedrin who were active here 2,000 years ago, determined to a great extent much of how our lives are run today. It is according to these religious laws that we marry or conduct funeral ceremonies, and even administer Jewish law. The establishment of the trail and walking on it will connect those who live here today with the atmosphere and frame of mind of that period. In walking along the Galilee trails while using the application that will be developed specifically for the sake of this project, the trail will afford visitors a learning experience about the Mishnah and Talmud period and connect them to the world of the sages who shaped Judaism in the religious houses of learning".
Gilad Cinamon, Anastasia Shapiro and Yair Amitzur, Shmuel Magal,
courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority