Region: Golan & Galilee
Location: Northern Israel in the Galilee, 900 meters (3200 feet) above sea level in the mountains of the Upper Galilee
Driving Directions to Safed (Tzfat): In the Galilee off of highway 89. From Tiberias take highway 90 north to highway 89 west.
Cities/Town Close By: Akko, Haifa, Karmiel, Katsrin, Kiryat Shmona, Ma'alot, Nahariya, Shaghur, Tiberias
Population: approx. 35,000
Landscape: Rolling hills and mountainous area in the Northern Galilee.
Modern Day: Travelers who are looking for a mixture of history, tradition, spirituality and art will enjoy a visit to Safed, a small mountaintop town located in northeastern Israel. Safed, also known is "Tzfat" is referred to as the "City of Kabbalah" and is one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities.
Jews have lived in Tzfat for thousands of years but the town grew in the 16 th century when Jews, who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal, began to return to the Land of Israel. Many settled in Tzfat, among them, many of the great rabbis and Kabbalists of the era. The study of Kabbalah developed in Tzfat during this time and the atmosphere of the city is still heavily influenced by religious Jews who study, work and pray in the town.
Visitors can tour the city with their own guide, with a local tour organization or on their own. Each visitor will want to see sites of personal interest, but a suggested walk through the Old Jewish Quarter and Artists Quarter -- no more than 20 minutes from one end to the other -- can include a variety of points of interest.
Tzfat Tourist Information Center -- a visit to Tzfat can begin at the Tzfat Tourist Information Center, located on Alkabetz Street below the Ari Ashkanazi synagogue. Within the Center tourists can receive maps and access touring information. A 10-minute movie about the History of Tzfat runs continuously and provides an overview of Tzfat's history from the 16 th century until today. The Center is coordinated with the Municipality of Tzfat and is operated by theLivnot U'Lehibanot Israel Experience Program, a volunteer/hiking/study program for
young Jewish adults. The program has been a Tzfat institution since 1980 and, as part of their community service, participants conduct archaeological excavations in the Old City, excavating homes and rooms that were buried by successive earthquakes. Visitors can descend into one of these excavated rooms which is located directly beneath the Tourist Center. An additional excavation has been named a National Heritage Site and is presently
Ari Ashkanazi Synagogue -- The Ari Ashkanazi synagogue is one of Tzfat's oldest synagogues. The present building was erected in 1840, following a devastating earthquake, but is located on the site of the 15th century synagogue. The Ari Ashkanazi synagogue was once a synagogue for Jews who undergone forcible conversion while still living in Spain. Following
their escape from Spain they made their way to Tzfat where they were not initially accepted into the community. They established the "Girgoros" synagogue which eventually became the known as the Ari Ashkanazi synagogue. The Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the great Kabbalist of the 16th century, initiated the Kabbalat Shabbat service in the field next to the synagogue
and after his death, the synagogue was renamed in his memory.
Abuhav Synagogue -- The Abuhav synagogue is a center for Tzfat's Sepharadi community. It was first built in the 15th century and rebuilt twice after the destructions of the 1759 and the 1837 earthquakes. Original Torah scrolls which predate the first earthquake survived both earthquakes and are still housed in the synagogue and are brought out on specific holidays.
Abuhav is known as the "Blue Synagogue" because it is painted blue with intricate detailed etchings which surround its blue dome.
Yosef Caro Synagogue -- According to legend Rabbi Yosef Caro wrote his epic Code of Jewish Law in a cave under the present-day Caro synagogue. Today this cave, where Rabbi Caro is believed to have sat with the "maggid" -- angel -- is open and can be accessed by walking outside of the synagogue, to the right and down the stairs. The Yosef Caro synagogue itself was reconstructed on the site of the original synagogue after the 1837 earthquake. It houses an extensive geniza -- archive of holy books -- which can be viewed from the glassed in shelves which line the synagogue walls.
Ari Sepharadi Synagogue -- The Ari Sepharadi Synagogue is located below the Old Jewish Quarter, on the road above the Old Tzfat Cemetery. The synagogue dates back to at least the 15th century when it was known as the Elijah the Prophet -- Eliyahu HaNavi -- synagogue. The Ari prayed in this synagogue and, in a small cave which can still be seen on the side of the main sanctuary, studied Kabbalah with Elijah himself who taught the Ari new inspirations
and understandings of ancient Jewish mysticism. Below the synagogue, to the left of the cemetery, visitors can see the Ari Mikve -- ritual bath -- where ritual immersion is believed to bring miracles.
There are a wide range of additional sites of historical, cultural and artistic interest for visitors to enjoy. Dozens of artists make their homes in Tzfat and work in the small galleries which pepper the town's lanes and alleyways. Safed can be experienced in a few hours or, for people who really want to explore the town, over the course of several days. Events tours, including Bar and Bat Mitzva tours and other Heritage Tours, have become a popular attraction in recent years.
History: The city of Safed appears in Jerusalem Talmud as one of five elevated spots where fires were lit to announce the New Moon and festivals during the Second Temple period.
After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, many prominent rabbis found their way to Safed, among them the kabbalists Isaac Luria (Arizal) and Moshe Kordovero; Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulchan Aruch and Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, composer of the Sabbath hymn Lecha Dodi. Safed rose to fame in the 16th century as a center of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). The influx of Sephardi Jews made Safed a global center for Jewish learning and a regional center for trade throughout 15th and 16th centuries.
Parks/Forests: Baram National Park, Korazim National Park, Har Meron.
Holy Grave Sites: Ari HaKodesh holy grave, Rashbi holy grave
Museums: Meiri Museum of Safed History, Printing Press Museum, Doll Museum, Frenel Museum, Hungarian Jewry Museum, Eliyahu Ben-Ze'ev Gallery, Kabbalah Art Gallery, Safed Candles Gallery, Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art, Canaan Workshop
Festivals: Safed (Tzfat) Klezmer Festival, Safed Classical Music Festival (Tzfat-Rosh Pinna Music Festival)
Attractions/Places of Interest: Artists colony, Old City of Safed, Safed Winery
Things to Do: Hiking, Biking, Spiritual, Visit graves of famous Rabbis.
Dining: click here
Lodging: click here
City Website: click here
Synagogues of the Old City: click here