A Visitors’ Center, a Museum and a Synagogue tell the story of the family and of the Jewish community in Peki’in, through experience yielding activity.
Margalit Zinati is the guardian of Jewish tradition in Peki’in. Margalit says that her family lived in Peki’in from the times of the destruction of the Second Temple, namely 2,000 years. Peki’in was home to a large Jewish community until 1938.
The 1938 events forced community members to abandon their homes in Peki’in and they dispersed throughout the country. The Zinati family also left Peki’in following the events, but contrary to others, they returned after a while to the village, and Margalit, who never married, has been here ever since, guarding her family legacy and the legacy of the Jewish community of Peki’in. She is guards the old synagogue and is in charge of it. She opens and closes its gates, and shares the story of her family and of the Jewish community of Peki’in with the many visitors frequenting her home and the small museum adjacent to it as well as the synagogue.
A tour of the Jewish area in Peki’in starts at the Zinati House (Beit Zinati) Visitors’ Center adjacent to Margalit’s house and to the synagogue. The house, comprising the visitors’ center, was purchased for the family by Rachel Yana’it Ben-Zvi, the wife of Yitzhak Ben Zvi, who was tied to Peki’in with bonds of love. The house comprises a small museum welcoming visitors free of charge. Immediately following the visit at the museum, visitors are welcome to the Zinati house where Margalit lives, and where a play is performed by theater actor Uriel Rosenblum alongside Margalit Zinati. The play tells the life story of Margalit and her family. An audio-visual presentation and a film about the Jewish community of Peki’in are also displayed.
In the small modest museum, visitors can see photos of the Zinati family to its generations, a bible inscribed by Ben-Gurion, photographs of Peki’in Jewish community members, teacher diaries from the year 1936 with exact registration of children’s names, attendance or absence from a lesson alongside the reason for any absence. It is a fascinating and instructive document written in the language of the period. The diaries are accompanied by a photograph of the teacher Shlomo Levi Geula and the students of the Hebrew School; photographs of Yitzhak Ben Zvi and the people of Peki’in at Rashbi’s Cave in 1920, an old Parochet (ornamental curtain covering the synagogue ark), a Torah Scroll case and other old findings. The museum also features a joint photograph from 1937 showing Peki’in’s Jewish Community members, a year before they were forced to abandon Peki’in.
In the paved courtyard of the old synagogue, a giant mulberry tree bears fruit. The synagogue was renovated for the last time 150 years ago. It is one of the oldest synagogues in Israel and according to tradition was established in the days of the Tanna’im (rabbinic authority in the time of the Mishnah). Hewn stones engraved with a Menorah can be seen on both sides of the synagogue walls; according to tradition these stones were brought here from the temple. The Ark of the synagogue is ancient and contains a centuries old Torah Scroll. The Peki’in synagogue’s ancient door appears on Israel’s 100 Shekel bill.