PEKI'IN


PEKI'IN (Heb. פְּקִיעִין, village in Upper Galilee; noted for its tradition of continuous Jewish settlement throughout the ages. Peki'in can possibly be identified with Baca (Jos., Wars 3:39), the town which marked the boundary between the Upper and Lower Galilee. Fragments of reliefs with Jewish symbols are found dispersed in the village, dating from the late Roman period. According to the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, Beqa' was the place where R. *Simeon b. Yoḥai and his son R. Eleazar lived in a cave for 13 years during the Hadrianic persecution of Jews which followed the Bar Kokhba War (132–35). In the Midrash Kohelet Rabbah (10:11), which is the main source of the story, the place is called Peki'in. During their stay in the cave they lived from the fruits of an old mulberry tree. Above the cave stood a giant carob tree and a spring was located below it. Votive gifts and oil lamps were placed in the crevice of the cave by Jews and non-Jews alike. Additional places of importance in the village included the marked grave of the talmudic scholar R. *Abba Oshayah of Tiria, which was located near the spring of Ein Tiria to the west of Peki'in and surrounded by large and hallowed trees, referred to by the Jews of the village as the "groves." Also located there was the tomb of R. Yose of Peki'in, which is mentioned in the Zohar and other sources. The antiquity, mystery, and wonder surrounding the Jews of Peki'in were added to by the presence of Jewish fellaheen in this outlying corner of Upper Galilee and their claim of being the last group of Jews who were never exiled. Their features, their clothing, their language, and their Arabic village life until the second third of the 20th century all added to the character of the village.

The Jews of Peki'in are first mentioned in the travel book of R. Moses *Basola (1522). He refers to them as "fallaḥim" ("workers of the land") and to the village by its Arabic name, "Bukayyʿa." Responsa of the Safed rabbis of the 16th century dealing with mitzvot to be fulfilled only in the Land (of Israel) – the priestly tithes, the levitical tithes, and the Sabbatical Year, all of which concern Jewish farm workers in Galilee – also testify to the existence of Jewish agriculture in Bukayyʿa. The Jews of the village were also engaged in the breeding of silkworms. Sixteenth-century Turkish tax registers from the Istanbul archives, which mention the number of taxable Jewish families in ten Galilee villages during the years 1525–73, include 33 to 45 Jewish families in Bukayyʿa. From time to time groups of Jews engaged in commerce and the leasing and tilling of lands; other groups engaged in the study of Torah and the Zohar "under the carob tree of R. Simeon b. Yoḥai." Peki'in was also a summer resort for urban Jews, especially for those from Tiberias. The Jews of the towns sought refuge there when plagues broke out. In 1602 R. Joseph *Trani of Safed visited Peki'in to instruct the local Jews, who were cultivating mulberries for silkworms.

The name Peki'in again appears during the 18th century. In 1742, the kabbalist R. Ḥayyim *Attar, who during the same year had emigrated to Ereẓ Israel with his disciples, lived there for about two months. After the severe earthquakes of 1759, many of the victims from Safed fled there. The rabbis of Safed also established a yeshivah for some time in the village. The refugees included the son of Rabbi Jacob of Vilna, who was from the group led by R. *Judah he-Ḥasid, which had emigrated to Ereẓ Israel. R. Joseph Sofer, author of Edut bi-Yhosef, lived and died in Peki'in. R. Reuben Satanov, author of Ahavat Ẓiyyon, also lived and studied the Zohar there. In 1783 some members of the hasidic aliyah from Russia and Poland established themselves there after leaving Safed and Jerusalem.

In 1820 only 20 families of Jews were left in Peki'in; their number rose to 50 (totalling 300 persons) in 1832 – mainly Sephardim. In 1856, 50 Jews remained in Peki'in and, in 1900, 11 families of farmers (93 persons). During the riots of 1929, the Jews of Peki'in were compelled to abandon their village out of fear of the Arab gangs. Upon their return to the village, they were occasionally compelled to seek work in the Jewish settlements. After the riots of 1936–39, only one family returned to the village. In 1948 Peki'in's population included 800 Druze, 242 Christians, 68 Muslims, and one Jewish family, Zeynati (from the old inhabitants). In 1948 Peki'in was incorporated into Israel; part of the Arab inhabitants left, and Jews – new immigrants – were settled there. The ancient synagogue and the cemetery were renovated with the assistance of I. *Ben-Zvi and are considered historical sites. The traditional tombs of R. Oshayah of Tiria and R. Yose of Peki'in were also repaired. In 1955, the moshav Peki'in ha-Ḥadashah ("New Peki'in") was established above Ein Tiria. The new settlers arrived from Spanish and French Morocco, from Tangier, Fez, and Marrakesh. In 1968, "Old" Peki'in had 2,070 inhabitants, about three-quarters Druze and the rest Christian Arabs, mostly of the Greek Orthodox denomination. In the mid-1990s the population of Peki'in ha-Hadashah stood at approximately 210, increasing to 290 in 2002. In the synagogue of Peki'in (built in 1873) and on the walls of some of the houses of the village are incorporated fragments of reliefs, showing Jewish symbols such as the seven-branched candlestick (menorah), the shofar and lulav, the vine, etc. These remains prove the existence of a synagogue in the village during the talmudic period.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J. Braslavski (Braslavi), Le-Ḥeker Arẓenu (1954), index; idem, in: BJPES, 3 (1935/36), 24–29; idem, in: Ma'aravoshel-Galil ve-Ḥofha-Galil (1965), 137ff.; B. Lewis, Notes and Documents from the Turkish Archives (1952), 9, 20–21; Goodenough, Symbols, 218–9, 572–3; I. Ben-Zvi, She'ar Yashuv (1965), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 54–55; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. IudaeaPalaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 73, s.v. "Baca, Beca."

[Michael Avi-Yonah and

Joseph Braslavi (Braslavski)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.