After all that, we weren't going to leave the north without finding Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. So we drove to Mt. Meron (much faster than hiking). Having seen numerous graves in the area, we were under the naive impression that this one would be basically the same: a small monument at the side of the road, albeit one that gets huge crowds once a year on Lag Ba'omer.
Yes, naive indeed. Little did we known that the grave is a massive complex, at the epicenter of a whole industry.
Rashbi Pizza is open 24 hours:
I'm confused. Is this a photograph of Rebbe Nachman himself, or an actor? And if it's an actor, is that sort of thing common?
The Breslovers seem to be dominant, but they're not the only ones there. B'nei Akiva also has a presence:
"Please know (f.s.)! That immodest dress causes pain to the soul of the tzaddik, harms the holiness of the camp of Israel, and disturbs the acceptance of prayers - chas veshalom. PLEASE ENTER (f.s.) THE HOLY PLACE WITH MODEST DRESS."
Ok, I have to say that on behalf of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, I'm insulted. Even among rabbis of the Talmud (who were all larger than life), dude was pretty badass. He evaded the most powerful empire on earth for 13 years, and then went around zapping people with his eyes. If you really think that, after all that, he's going to be harmed in the least by immodest dress, you must not hold him in such high esteem. (And besides, he's no stranger to immodest dress: the whole time that he and his son were in the cave studying medieval Spanish and writing the Zohar, they were NAKED!)
Ah yes, I should have anticipated this:
An eruv map. Apparently people stay over for Shabbat.
An opportunity to perform the mitzvah of shiluach hakein, sponsored by an institute dedicated to that purpose.
"The shrine of the divine tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai."
Much of the structure on the men's side is a synagogue, which had at least 4 minyanim going on simultaneously. Yes, it was about 10 AM, seemingly late for weekday shacharit, but these were Chasidim. I don't know whether it's this crowded every day or whether people go especially for Rosh Chodesh Nisan. But it was fun to see the different groups all at different points in the Rosh Chodesh service: in one corner they're doing hagbah, in one corner they're doing hallel, in one corner they're all taking off their tefillin at the same time, etc.
A much more typical tannaitic grave, part of the same complex:
In retrospect it's probably a good thing that we didn't show up all dirty in our hiking clothes.