Safed Israel is an ancient Israeli city in the Galilee. It is Israel’s highest city at an altitude of 850 meters, and also one of the coldest. It commands a spectacular view of the Galilee and the Golan Heights including Mt Hermon.
The name of this city can be pronounced and spelled in many ways, like Zfat, Tzfat, Tzefat, Sefad and Safed. This is a picturesque city and spirituality can be felt in every corner of it. Wrapped in mysticism and mystery, this city embraces visitors with a warm welcome as they wander around the charming stone houses with the studios and workshops of the many artists.
Fine Art Gallery in Safed's Artist Quarter
The Artists’ Quarter
The artist’s quarter is located on the ancient Arab quarter of Safed. The artists, who reside in the old houses where they work, exhibit their art that can be seen when you walk through the narrow alleyways of the old city. The city is adorned with iron gates and verandas. You may feel you are wandering through a painting of an artist’s city with a long history and tradition.
Safed Israel is one of Israel’s four Holy Cities, together with Hebron, Jerusalem and Tiberias. It was during the late 15th Century when Safed started to be an important Jewish Center. The city is never mentioned in the Bible and it was settled only in the times of the Romans. It became a center of Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism, where the kabbalists lived studied, taught and wrote. The city has many graves in memory of these great scholars
The Crusaders erected a citadel in the city that eventually came under the control of the Muslim conqueror Saladin in the late 12th century. The Crusaders returned a half century later and built the largest Christian fortress in the East, but that eventually fell to the Mamluks in 1266 under Sultan Beibars, who cut off the heads of the men and sold the women and children into slavery.
Tzfat Kabbalah Center
A center for Kabbalah
After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 may Jews came and settled in Tzfat. One of the most recognized of the Jewish Mystics associated with Kabbalah was Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, known as “Ha’ari”, the Lion that taught and lived in Tzfat. The most important book of the Kabbalah, the Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and later in Spain by the 12th century scholar Moises de Leon in Spain.
This special city was home to many other Jewish scholars and spiritualists, including Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Salomon Alkabetz, the composers of the Shabbat Hymn Lecha Dodi; and Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulchan Aruch.
For over 400 years it was a thriving Jewish community what developed in Safed, but after the Arab riots of 1929 with its violence, the city saw a significant decline in its populations. When in 1948 the British withdrew from Palestine and handed over the citadel to the Arabs, that wanted to control the city, the remaining Jews with the help of the Hagana were able to keep it as part of the new State of Israel.
One more pilgrimage site, just outside the city is the village of Meron. This ancient city is mentioned in Egyptian texts of more than 3,000 years ago. A synagogue dating more than 1,700 years was also found there.
Lag Baomer celebrations in Safed Israel
Lag Baomer Celebrations
On the feast of Lag BaOmer thousands of Israelis hike up to Mount Meron at an altitude of more than 1,200 meters to the tombs of Rabbi Bar Yochai and his son Eliezer. Many believe the Rabbi died on this day and people celebrate his life with picnics. The following morning many three year old boys get their first haircut. Har Meron is also the final resting place to great Talmudic teachers Hillel and Shamai.
Safed Israel is the perfect venue where to immerse you in Judaism. There are excellent Torah classes available to everyone who seeks to learn in either Hebrew or English. Many Jewish youth that want to make an effort and connect to their Jewish Soul come to Safed for this unique experience. The mountain air is a great place for quiet meditation and the Communion with God.
Annual Klezmer Festival held in Safed Israel
Things to do in Safed Israel
Kleyzmerim are the traditional eastern European Jewish musicians who used to play in weddings and other events. This music is the Jewish "Blues" music. It developed from the religious hymns of the Jews of Eastern Europe, the birth place of the Hassidic movement. Part of the Hassidic ritual is music and dances in which the followers go into almost a state of trance. From all of this developed this music. The most prominent musical instrument associated with this music is the clarinet with its sound resembling a weeping person.
During the War of Independence in 1948, many battles were fought in front of the British Police Station. The building still shows the bullet holes on the façade of the building
Several plates show names of members of the “Meginei Tzfat”, the Safed defenders who lost their lives in the War of Independence in 1948. A hand holding a burning torch above the two peaks of Mount Meron is the emblem of the group.
This is one of the first Mamluks buildings in Israel. It was built in 1276 AD by Beybars, the Egyptian ruler between 1260 and 1278 AD. After conquering Zefat, he set it as the capital of the northern region.
It was built 1n the 14th Century by Mudhafar a-Din Mussa Ibn Haj a-Ruqtai, the governor of Zefat. He died in 1372. Today it serves as a Freemason's lodge.
While walking round Tzfat’s Artists Quarter you will pass many houses with plates telling you which painter or artist lived there. These plates are colored blue.
This Synagogue was named in honor of Rabbi Joseph Caro who was one of the most influential people in the Jewish history. It is located in the old city, right next to the artists’ galleries. The Caro Synagogue features a Torah Scroll that is at least 400 years old.
Experience the view from atop of Mount Meron of the city of Safed, the Kineret and the whole Galilee. The sunrises and sunsets are awe inspiring.
Safed Israel is a must see when you visit Israel. If you live here make sure you plan a long weekend and spend it in the spiritual environment of the Holy City.
Copyright Tuchman Israel Guide
2015 - 2018