In Jewish Sites
Gravesite of Rav Avdimi
In a corner of the old cemetery in Haifa, at the very edge of the port, lays the grave of one of the greatest of our Amoraim – Rav Avdimi d’min Haifa.
According to tradition, the burial place of the great Rav Avdimi is in the old cemetery in Haifa, which today is located on Yaffa Street in the city. In this same cemetery also lay the graves of Rav Yitzcak Nafcha, and Rav Shimshon of Shantz – author of ‘Tosfos Shantz’ on the Talmud. Some claim that the holy Ramban was also buried here. Of important note is the fact that during this period, the Jews of Akko were accustomed to bury their dead in the old cemetery of Haifa, since Akko was not considered to be within the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael.
The Structure over the Grave:
A description of the structure over the grave of Rav Avdimi is found in the Sefer ‘Netiv haChesed’:
“The gravesite ascribed to Rav Avdimi is found in the Old Cemetery inside a building of stone close to the fence (6/15 meters). In the building there are three rooms, of which two are domed and the third has a flat ceiling – it is a later addition. The north-western room, where the actual grave of Rav Avdimi lays, measures 5/5 meters. The ceiling is arched and rests on four pillars. In the room there are seven graves. Above four of them rest arched tombstones, and the others are flat. The grave of Rav Avdimi is the second from the end and is covered with a curtain, on which is embroidered the words ‘Rav Avdimi d’min Haifa’. On the headstone appears the inscription: ‘Memorial to the G-dly Tanna Rav Avdimi d’min Haifa zy’a’ (No date). In the adjacent room lay four headstones… and in the third room, [built] later, there are five headstones. This room serves today as storage for geniza.”
Many of the travellers and pilgrims from the Middle Ages who frequented Haifa, pointed out this place as the gravesite of Rav Avdimi. The traveller Reb Yitzchak son of Yosef Chilo, a Jew from Spain who arrived in Eretz Yisrael in the year 5093 (1333) wrote in his diary: ‘…Haifa sits opposite Mt. Carmel and is the birthplace of Rav Avdimi d’min Haifa. In this city there is a community famous for its piety. And all who travel to the Holy Land come to visit the Jewish cemetery, because therein lays buried many of the wise men of Israel… who died in Akko.’
In a similar vein, in the letter “The Righteous of the Holy Land”, written in the year 5386 (1626), the city of Haifa is described at length: “And in the cemetery there is an alcove made of stone, and [there lies buried] Rav Avdimi d’min Haifa and Rav Yitzchak Nafcha, and nearby – on the slopes of the mountain, is a large cave for Eliyahu z’l”. This document actually aroused confusion as to the true place of burial of Rav Avdimi, since the letter mentions a ‘stone alcove’, whereas the monument today looks considerably different. In addition, the tombstone over the grave of Rav Avdimi is similar in style to tombstones of a more modern era, and also the inscription on it does not appear to be from early times. There are those who reconcile these conflicting facts by claiming that the gravesite of Rav Avdimi was moved from its original place, which was indeed by a ‘stone alcove’, to its present location. There are others who are of the opinion that the tombstone and the structure were actually built over the stone alcove, where Rav Avdimi and the other Tzadikim lay buried.
In recent years, many Segulos and Yeshuos were publicised with regards to those who pray at the gravesite, and the site has become a focal place of prayer.