Tzfat


Tzfat


TZFAT (Hebrew) is a city in the Galilee region of Israel, and is one of the oldest centres for Jewish learning and spirituality and home the KABBALAH Movement, which is popular with celebrities.


Safed Israel


Located at an altitude of 2,935ft, it is the highest city in Israel.  Due to its high altitude, it experiences pleasant warm summers and cold, often snowy winters.  It is one of the four holiest cities in Judaism, along with Hebron, Tiberia and Jerusalem.  While there are many stories about it when it was founded and by whom it truly grew to prominence in the late 15th century when it became a refuge for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition.


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It is a cute and quaint city.  In more recent times, thanks to its beautiful setting surrounded by pine forests and its agreeable mild summers, TZFAT has developed into a summer holiday resort, much frequented by Israelis and also foreign visitors.  It has also become popular as an artists’ colony, apart from its religious significance.


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TZFAT’s old city is built in a circular fashion around a hill top, and new neighbourhoods lie on adjacent hills.  The Old City which is the main destination for visitors, is really only accessible by foot.  It is small, but quite hard to find your way around, as there is a maze of pedestrian alleys with few markings of street names or house numbers.  The best way to get around is to base yourself on the broad OLEI HAGAR DOM staircase which goes up and down the hill.  This staircase was built by the British during the 1936 – 1939 riots, to separate what, at the time, were the Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods.

To this day, most synagogues and Jewish sites are found north of the staircase, while most art galleries have since located to the south.  The “staircase”, unlike most other places in the Old City, is equipped with many signs and maps indicating the way to major sites.  The best way of getting from one place to another is often to take an alley (circling the hill top) to the staircase, go up or down the staircase as necessary, and take another alley to your destination.

Tzfat stairs


There is a local bus company, NATEEVE EXPRESS, that runs several local lines around the town.  Unofficially, cabs take a set fare for any destination in the town.  This is usually cheaper than the metered value.  Even more unofficially, you can get SHERUT SERVICE with the cabs at the price of the bus fare on SHERUT, the cabs travel the bus routes only.  The Old City of TZFAT is really thoroughly accessible by foot.

There are a number of old, beautiful and unique Synagogues in TZFAT, some of them rather famous world-wide among the Jewish community.  These include :

Safed Israel Synagogue


*The ARI ASHKENAZ and the ARI SEPHARD Synagogue, both in memory of Rabbi Isaac Luria.  The first one is normally open for visitors on weekdays and boasts an ORNATE ARK.  The second one is only open for prayers on the Sabbath.


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* The ABUHAV Synagogue is probably the most unique, most beautiful and most famous.  It was built in the 1490s according to KABBALISTIC Architectural and Spiritual beliefs.


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* The CARO Synagogue is another popular landmark established in the 16th century, on the site of a YESHIVA (house of Jewish study), run by one of the Chief Rabbis of TZFAT and a compiler of the SHULCHAN ARUCH (a book of Jewish law).

The Synagogues in TZFAT and most around the country and the world expect all visitors to be dressed appropriately, this means legs should be covered (no shorts or short skirts), no bare shoulders / upper arms, and all men must cover their heads.

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Other places of interest are : HAMEIRA Museum, Artists’ Colony, the Crusader Fortress, Statue Garden, the Red Khan (a significant MAMELUK PALACE), Cave of SHEM (son of Noah) and EVER (great grandson of Noah), MANARA CLIFF, Church of Beatitude, Hula Lake, TEL DAN ( a beautiful nature reserve with Israel’s largest spring).  Then there is TEL HAZOR ( World Heritage Site) —— an extensive underground water system.  AMIRIM (vegetarian settlement with developed rural tourism infrastructure.  ROSHPINA, a beautiful 19th century old town with many restaurants and PEKLIN (an ancient town of DRUZE sites, Orthodox Churches and Jewish Synagogues.

According to Eric Weiner, TZFAT may not be Heaven, not exactly, but the soft air and unhurried atmosphere lend a lightness to an otherwise heavy land.  TZFAT is one of those places people visit for a few days, on a lark, and, next thing they know a LIFETIME HAS PASSED.
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