Last night, in the darkness, we couldn’t see the kibbutz grounds, and today we woke up to a glorious view of rolling hills and manicured gardens outside our window. From Kibbutz Lavi, we drove through the Galilee to see the excavated ancient town of Tzippori. The Galilee is magnificent with its hilly topography and lush vegetation. I am surprised it’s not more developed here. You would think people would flock to these glorious hills. We passed mainly Arab villages, looking quite prosperous. There is a million Arabs living in the Galilee today. They are descendants of the 100,000 Arabs who were living here at the creation of the state of Israel. This is what happens when a man has 3-4 wives, each one bears 7-8 children, and they all survive thanks to modern medicine.
In Tzippori, we saw amazingly well-preserved mosaic floors of an excavated synagogue and of a private house. The house belonged to a wealthy man who commissioned this custom-made mosaic floor. The man was thrifty and had a fancy mosaic made only in the areas that were not be hidden by his furniture. Now we know exactly where his sofas stood because those areas have plain tiles instead of elaborate pictures.
Apparently, it was customary in those times to create a mosaic portrait of the lady of the house and have it as a part of the whole mosaic picture, just like hundreds years later wealthy homeowners commissioned oil portraits of their families and placed them on the walls of their living rooms.
Miraculously, the mosaic portrait of the lady of this house survived intact. The man who made it was clearly a great artist, not just a craftsman. There is a reason why they call her the Mona Lisa of the Galilee – the look of her eyes is haunting! The tiles that form her face were chosen with great are to reflect the various shades of her delicate face, and even a shadow that her chin cast on her neck was not overlooked.
I love figurative paintings of the past. I feel I connect to the person depicted in the painting. I try to guess their feelings and thoughts, and the kind of life they led. This was the first time I connected to a mosaic face. We were standing in a living room of this woman who lived here more than 2000 years ago! Did she die young? Was she Jewish or Roman? Are her descendants still around???
From the glorious hills of the lower Galilee we descended to one of the poor cities populated mostly by Israelis of North African origin. We had a visit with troubled teenagers at an ORT school and spoke to their very dedicated teachers. It was amazing to meet these altruistic educators who devoted their lives to helping troubled teenagers have another chance in life!
After the visit, we got on the highway to Jerusalem.