“Off we go,” said our Israeli guide—a gangly and grinning man—who herded our family group off the paved road, through a gate, down an isolated dirt driveway to nowhere.

We stumbled over rocks hidden between the parched brush in the shadow of a municipal building, which I vaguely remembered he said was a water-purification plant. Workers peered through the windows, adding to my discomfort.

We had arrived from America a week earlier to attend my son’s wedding to an Israeli woman. During the week of sheva brachot celebrations, we planned day trips to the holy sites to bring Torah stories alive for my younger children.

A former friend of my husband from his yeshivah days had offered to treat us to a deluxe tour of Tiberias (Teveria), the city where he lived. So far, however, the day’s outing had been aimless and full of meaningless jokes. I regretted our decision, convinced we had wasted our day.

After a short distance, my husband’s friend stopped abruptly in front of a wide recessed hollow. I inched close to the edge of the circular opening, my hands spread wide to protect my little ones from falling in. A stone ledge encircled the perimeter of the cavity. On the ground, faded mosaic tiles peeked out between the weeds.

Our guide stretched his 6-foot-plus frame erect. He towered over us, his chest swelled with pride.

“Teveria is the last place the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rabbinical court of Jerusalem, functioned as a governing body,” he explained. “They went into exile after the destruction of the Second Temple, relocating 10 times over the next 300 years.”

“In 2004, Israeli Archeologists confirmed this when they uncovered a huge structure just south of modern Tiberias, thought to be the site where they governed openly and wrote the Jerusalem Talmud. Afterwards when the sages learned of an impending decree to disband the Sanhedrin forever, they undertook the monumental task of establishing an eternal Jewish calendar to ensure the nation’s ability to observe the Jewish festivals in their proper time, according to the cycle of the lunar months, without having to rely on the Sanhedrin’s monthly proclamation of the new moon.

“Following this achievement, the Roman soldiers dispersed the members of the Sanhedrin and pursued them. From time to time, some of the judges met clandestinely in the city of Tiberias and in the caves of Mount Berenice overlooking the city.” He pointed in the direction of the mountains.

My enraptured children soaked up his words with wide-eyed wonder.

“When workers from the government building discovered this site on their property, they called in the Israel Antiquities Department to examine it, as Israeli law demands. The archeologists confirmed it to be one of the places where the Sanhedrin met.”

Then our guide, with a dramatic flourish of his hand, pushed aside a scraggly bush and pointed to a plaque that had been affixed to the ground by the Israeli authorities. My husband read it aloud: “Stone Atrium of the Sanhedrin in Exile.”

Our guide resumed his talk. “This might have been the last place the Sanhedrin met, and according to tradition, Teveria will be the first place the Sanhedrin will reappear when Moshiach arrives.1 The Jewish nation will greet them here and accompany them on their triumphant return to Jerusalem.”

As we snapped pictures at the site with my children sitting on the stone bench, my 7-year-old shouted with glee, “I can’t wait to tell my class about this!”

Our group turned back one by one through the gate, while I lingered behind at the site.

My former disappointment and uneasiness had morphed into awe. The wise sages once trod upon the dirt now under my feet to reach their hiding place. Did the Sanhedrin ever imagine that centuries later there would be observant Jews standing here in the same spot, continuing to live by their calendar? Did they realize that the rulings that they last issued would ensure the continuity of Judaism?

In this quiet place, those sages sought to make a difference in my life. Out of the limelight, they continued to preserve the truth and ideals of the Torah to enhance the spiritual lives of Jews they would never meet.

This smidgen of holy land in its quiet way had touched me deeply, different from the way I had viewed the towering Western Wall (Kotel), the graves of tzaddikim and the ancient synagogues. This unknown spot boldly proclaimed the truth of Jewish existence for all to see—the enduring effect of small acts of sacrifice for another. This hush-hush place had aroused in me a deeper desire, a desire to live a more meaningful existence.

Red-faced, I cocked my head towards our kooky tour guide, realizing that he had just done the same. He had offered to give my family—a family he had never met until a week ago and might never see again—an experience full of meaning and connection to Torah by taking us to this cherished spot. He had taken our group off the regular route to this out-of-the-way site, and in doing so, had demonstrated to my family how one leads a more meaningful life. And it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering.

I flashed back to last Rosh Hashanah envisioning the flustered lady who sat next to me in shul. I had paused my prayers several times to shuffle through the prayer book to find the correct pages for her. Was that my small part in doing something meaningful? Or last week, despite being late for an appointment, I stopped to help an older lady in the parking lot use the new-fangled parking meter.

I ambled back to the gate, filled with a yearning to see this prophecy fulfilled. Here’s where I want to be standing with my family when the Sanhedrin reappears. And, like our guide, we’ll swell with pride as they march triumphantly on their return journey to Jerusalem.