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  • Yehuda Folberg

Moshe David Shuv

1854 - 1938.

David Shuv was an Orthodox rabbi and a Proto-Zionist and was among the founders of the city of Rosh Pinna. Below is his incredible story!

David Shuv, source: Wikipedia. Public Domain.

Moshe David Shuv stood at the harbor of Beirut with his wife after a journey marked by both sorrow and determination.

Arriving from their hometown of Buhuși, Romania, they carried the weight of a recent loss—the passing of their newborn child just hours before reaching the Beirut port on their journey to Safed. Fearing the scrutiny of Ottoman soldiers at the port, Shuv instructed his wife to conceal their grief and pretend to nurse their lifeless infant. The soldiers permitted their passage, unaware of the heartache hidden beneath the surface.

Shuv's story embodies the spirit of Rosh Pinna, vividly illustrating this initial hardship- a testament to the unwavering spirit he would later instill in the community.

As he recounts in his book 'Memories of the House of David':

“The ship anchored at the shore of Beirut to drop off a few families there. Among them was my family. On the way, between Constantinople and Beirut, my young daughter fell ill on the ship, and before the ship reached Beirut, she passed away. All the passengers told me they had never seen anyone like her in beauty and alertness, and she was praised and marveled at by everyone. They said she died only because of the evil eye. However, they feared that the authorities might quarantine all the passengers on this ship and force them to stay in Beirut for who knows how long. Therefore, they pleaded with my wife to conceal the death of the child with all her might, to suppress her grief, and to carry the dead child in her arms as if she were alive, so the guards at the shore would not notice. It is easy to imagine how much my poor wife and my elderly mother suffered, who, in addition to their sorrow and pain, had to restrain their tears for the sake of the passengers. Thus, the unfortunate mother carried the dead child until they were inside the city, where they then took her for burial. This was my first sacrifice upon my family's arrival.”

In 1882, Shuv arrived not only with his family and community but also with a vision. The ship "Thetis" carried not just passengers but also the seeds of a new future. Their final destination was Gei Oni, at the foothills of Safed, a place ravaged by despair and abandonment but begging for a second chance at renewal. 

They began by renaming it Rosh Pinna, meaning "keystone" in Hebrew, inspired by Psalms 118:

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."

Gei Oni was founded in 1878, four years before Shuv’s arrival. The first residents descended from Safed towards the foothills overlooking the Hula Valley. They were desperate for a change: from relying on charity funds (more details) to earning their livelihood from the land, its fruit, and their own efforts.

However, due to drought, hunger, diseases, lack of experience, and a shortage of funds, they quickly encountered significant difficulties, forcing them to abandon Gei Oni and return to Safed in humiliation. But despite all the challenges, three families—Friedman, Kellar, and Schwartz—remained, and their descendants still live there today, living off the land and its fruits.

Years later, the legacy of Moshe David Shuv still echoes in Rosh Pinna, notably along the historic road that bears his name—David Shuv Street. This route, still serving as the primary connection to Safed despite a new and modern highway, retains its significance, much like Shuv's pivotal role in establishing Rosh Pinna.

Shuv's influence extends beyond Rosh Pinna and has also left its mark on Israel's education system. In 1886, Baron Rothschild appointed Shuv as the principal of Rosh Pinna's school, marking the establishment of the first Hebrew school in the region.

He introduced a groundbreaking teaching approach, teaching "Hebrew in Hebrew" despite facing significant challenges and controversy.

Moshe David Shuv was not only a pioneer and leader but also an Orthodox rabbi and a Proto-Zionist.

His vision, like others in his generation, was born from the long history of Jewish exile, persecution, and pogroms, and was also inspired by the rise of nationalism. Shuv, like many in his generation and in contrast to over a thousand years of Jewish life in exile, did not want to wait for a miracle; he wanted to take action ‘to strike the rock’ just like Moses in the desert and return with his people to their ancestral homeland, realizing the centuries-old yearning to return to Zion.

Today, David Shuv Street in Rosh Pinna is a testament to this spirit. This historic route, bustling with life, still connects Rosh Pinna and its neighbors to Safed and beyond, echoing the footsteps of a leader whose journey from tragedy to triumph leaves an everlasting mark on Israel's history.

On the 23rd of Adar, 5698 (1938), Shuv passed away in Jerusalem, leaving behind a profound legacy of dedication to the Land and people of Israel, and was laid to rest in Rosh Pinna.

Today, one hundred and forty-two years later, Rosh Pinna is a thriving community, home to over 3,000 residents, a center for the neighboring communities, with many restaurants, shops, galleries, cafes, and more.

More details about the Old Yishuv period are on this link.

Article Written by Yehuda Folberg

Tour Guide in the Galilee and Israel

Contact details for local tips: Instagram & Linkedin


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