Safed

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Safed is a city in the Galilee region of Israel, and is one of the oldest centers for Jewish learning and spirituality, home to the Kabbalah movement which is popular with celebreties. Located at an altitude of 900 meters (2,953 ft), Safed, is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high altitude, Safed, experiences pleasantly warm summers and cold, and often snowy winters

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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
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  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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Points of Interest in Safed

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

  • The Ari Ashkenaz and the Ari Sephard synagogues both in memory of Rabbi Isaac Luria. The Ari Ashkenaz is normally open for visitors on weekdays and boasts an ornate ark. The Ari Sephard synagogue is only open for prayers on the Sabbath.
  • 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.
  • The "Caro" synagogue is another popular landmark, established in the 16th century on the site of a yeshiva run by one of the chief rabbis of Tsfat, and a compiler of the Shulchan Aruch, a book of Jewish law.

Both of these synagogues follow Sephardic traditions, and both, along with all the synagogues in Tsfat, and most around the country and the world, expect all visitors to be dressed appropriately; this means one must have legs covered (no shorts or short skirts), no bare shoulders/upper arms, and all men must cover their heads. (Synagogue personnel provide head coverings and shawls for travelers who come to visit the sites).

The Ancient Cemetery is the burial place of many famous Rabbis and is a common destination for visitors to Safed looking for answers to their prayers. Some famous Jewish personalities buried there include:

  • The Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria), the famous kabbalist of the 16th century.
  • Rabbi Joseph Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, the definitive code of Jewish Law.
  • Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (the Ramak), a famous kabbalist predating the Arizal.
  • Chana and her seven sons, the martyred family from the time of the Temple.

Some other places to see in Tsfat that shouldn't be missed :

  • HaMeiri Museum for Safed History
  • Artist colony in the Old City including the Exhibition Centre in Safed Big Mosque
  • The Crusader Fortress
  • Statue Garden and the Gallery of sculptor Moshe Ziffer
  • The Red Khan - a significant Mameluk palace
  • Cave of Shem and Ever (Ma'arat Shem Ve'Ever) - According to Jewish sources, Shem (son of Noah) and his great-grandson Ever ran a yeshiva (house of Jewish study). There is a tradition that this unimpressive-looking cave in Safed was the site of their yeshiva. How did this cave come to be identified as such? The Torah is divided into two parts - hidden and revealed - and one might assume they were not studying the revealed Torah, since Moses had not yet been born. So they must have been studying the hidden Torah. And where better to do that than in Safed?
  • Livnot U'Lehibanot, Rehov Alkabetz 17,  (050)8939-042,972-4-6924427, e-mail: laurierappeport@gmail.com. Many tourists try to stop in the Safed Tourist Information Center [4] for their first overview of Safed. The Center provides maps and guidebooks as well as information about tour guides, accommodations, and other information for Safed. There is a 10-minute movie that gives an overview of the history of Safed, as well as 500-year-old antiquities which, now uncovered, offer visitors an opportunity to see the original rooms and buildings of Safed of the 1500s and 1600s, which have been excavated by the Livnot U'Lehibanot Israel Experience Program. Through the Information Center, individuals and groups can experience Safed through hiking, Tzfat-Theatre, storytelling, musical tours, discussions and lectures about Judaism, sessions of Ask the Rabbi, and explanations of mysticism in Safed. There are also interactive workshops and seminars which include writing tefillin, challah-baking, candle-making, tying Tzitzit, songs, etc.
  • The city also boasts a growing number of small, private art galleries, many of which have little cafes or tourist shops attached, selling postcards, t-shirts, and other basic tourist goods.

Around Safed:

  • Pekiin - an ancient town of mixed ethnicity including Druze sites, orthodox churches and a synagogue. There is a spring at the town centre.
  • Amirim - a vegetarian settlement with developed rural tourism infrastructure
  • Rosh Pina - a beautiful 19th Century old town with many restaurants
  • Korazim - a talmudic town with a synagogue watching over the Sea of Galilee
  • Church of Beatitude
  • Tel Hazor - a World Heritage Site. A Biblical tel with an extensive underground water system. At nearby Ayelet HaShahar there is a museum dedicated to the site.
  • Hula Lake - the best site in Israel to watch migrating birds. Find out in advance which is the best time to visit the site. There is an informative film shown at the site.
  • Tel Hai - a site of one of the most iconic struggles between Zionists and Arabs before the establishment of Israel
  • Manara Cliff - a cable car leading to a beautiful park watching over Lebanon
  • Tel Dan - a beautiful nature reserve with Israel's largest spring. It also contains a Biblical tel and Abraham Gate which is one of the world's earliest attested arch constructions. Nearby Osishkin House is a museum documenting the tel and its natural environment.
  • The Museum of Prehistoric Man at Maayan Baruch
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Popular events in Safed in the near future

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About Safed

Background

It is the birthplace of Lurianic Kabbalah, and one of the main bastions for Torah study and the like during the centuries of Ottoman rule. It is one of the four holiest cities in Judaism, along with Hebron, Tiberias, and of course Jerusalem. While there are many stories about 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.

It is a cute, quaint city in the north of Israel. In more recent times, thanks to its beautiful setting surrounded by pine forests, and its agreeable, mild summers, Safed 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, its nature and its pleasant summers.

Activities

  • Dreams and Visions Gallery, Tet-Vav St. #7, Artist's Colony, Safed, ISRAEL (Near the bus parking lot, across from the General Exhibition.),  054-571-1676. 9AM-6PM. A graduate of Princeton University, Safed artist, Sheva Chaya draws on her professional artistic training to bring Dreams and Visions to life through her vibrant artwork. Sheva Chaya utilizes glassblowing demonstrations and her lively watercolor paintings to elucidate Jewish mystical concepts and traditional liturgy which inspire her work. Small and large group presentation topics include: The Kabbalah of Glassblowing,

The Precious Land of Israel, Expressionist Watercolor, and Women's Wisdom.

  • SouzaKohn Gallery, 51 Bar Yochi St., Old City, Safed, ISRAEL (Near 'Defenders Square' and 'Messiah Alley'.),  055-660-0196. 9am-6pm Sunday - Thursday, and 9am - 2pm Friday. Keren SouzaKohn graduated from the Ravensbourne College of Art and has since been exhibiting her prints, drawings, watercolours and oils widely, both in London and internationally.

Her work references among others that of El Greco, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, Matisse, Hilton, Eva Hesse, Sandra Blow and Philip Guston. Keren is the daughter of the late Francis Newton Souza. Aware of her heritage she is able to forge new ground, speaking a new beguiling but poignant Language of our time. She is interested in abstracted figuration, in the co-existence of divinity within our physical planet. Her love of colour is evident. Hot, spicy or cool. A juxtaposition of the unexpected produces dramatic composition with a strong narrative, sometimes subliminal, sometimes overt, obvious and for the taking. Dreams and journeys, moments seen and caught, sometimes struggling to emerge, revisited through further drawings and paintings. In 2012, Keren moved to Safed, Israel.

After Jerusalem, Tsfat is probably one of the best places in the country to get cultural and religious items, as well as quality artwork. A narrow cobblestone street is lined with open-air shops selling everything from menorahs to mezuzahs, Seder plates and Shabbat candlesticks to swords and other historical/cultural items. These shops are also known for pictures that are made up of the words of songs or Scripture. At the end of this shopping street is a shop called "Nerot Tsfat," or Safed Candles. They sell beautiful candles in every size, shape, and color, as well as displaying a number of scenes in wax, including David & Goliath, Noah's Ark, and a wedding. For a more intimate experience of the inspiration behind Tsfat's artwork, seek out artists' private galleries throughout the Old City and Artists' Colony. One such example is the Dreams and Visions Gallery [5], located near the bus parking lot, across from the General Exhibition. Here, resident artist, Sheva Chaya utilizes glassblowing demonstrations and her lively watercolor paintings to elucidate Jewish mystical concepts and traditional liturgy which inspire her work. A bit further down Tet-Vav alley, you will find the Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art, where artist Avraham Loewenthal brings the ancient study of Kabbalah to life with his artwork. In the old Jewish Quarter, you will find the kabbalistic galleries of Yoseph Saban and David Friedman on Bar Yochai St.

Food

Falafel, shawarma, pizza, and other basic foods are relatively cheap, and very good here.

Drinks

As a famous scholar will say: "Drink wata, many many wata. It is good for you! Drink many wata."

Shopping

Buy quality artwork direct from the artist. Don't miss the opportunity to spend time with local artists and buy their quality art. Hear their stories and get a sense of how traditional Jewish sources inspire their work.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Safed on Wikivoyage.

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