Safed

Location of Safed

Safed (Hebrew: צפת Tsfat) 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 celebrities.

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

Understand

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.

Get in

There are direct buses from Haifa, Jerusalem and Bnai Barak. See the Nateev Express website for information on travel times and fares.

The Israel Railways only get as close as Akko, but from there it is possible to take a bus to Safed.

Ayit Airways has 3 daily flights to/from Rosh Pina and Sde Dov Airport for 260 NIS per person or 185 NIS for residents of the north. Sundays - Thursdays, no weekend service - from there a 50-60 nis cab ride gets you to Safed.

Get around

Safed's old city is built in a circular fashion around a hilltop, and new neighborhoods 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, consisting of 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 HaGardom" staircase which goes up and down the hill. This staircase was built by the British during the 1936-9 riots to separate what at the time were the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. (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 hilltop) to the staircase, go up or down the staircase as necessary, and take another alley to your destination.

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 Safed is really only accessible by foot.

See

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:

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:

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

Around Safed:

Do

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

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, 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.

Learn

There are several Daf Yomi classes in Tsfat in several languages. There are also many women's classes offered at various locations throughout the city which offer a variety of Jewish perspectives. Visit the Tzfat Calendar www.safed-home.com/SafedCalendar.html to find out what is happening in the city.

Ascent of Sefad runs lectures and seminars on kabala, and there are numerous Yeshivot, some of which might offer informal classes or the opportunity to attend classes or learn with students. Just ask inside.

In addition, there are several museums in Tsfat, honoring and sharing the town's important place in Jewish history and culture. The Museum of Hungarian Jewry and the Beit Hameiri Museum, which chronicles Tsfat's local history.

The city is also known for the extensive galleries and artists that reside in Tsfat. Each gallery is in and of itself a story, waiting to be explored. The owners/curators of the galleries bring the pieces that they feel represent their gallery and the atmosphere of Tsfat itself.

Buy

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.

Eat

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

Drink

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

Sleep

Most people staying overnight in Tsfat choose to stay at the small guest houses located throughout the Old City, Artists' Quarter and the South of Tsfat. You can also stay in nearby Amirim.

Go next

Safed is an ideal location for basing many day trips in the northern area of Israel. Buses, cabs, and seasonal organized group travel are available to many locations within an hour or so drive such as Rosh Haniqra, Nahariyya, Akko, the Golan Heights, Tel Dan, Monfort Lake, Tiberias, Gamla, Qiryat Shemona, Mount Hermon, and Metulla. Especially for the "mehadrin" or "glatt" traveler, basing northern trips in Safed is adventageous with the availability of mehadrin lodging and food.

For the religious traveler, there are separate beaches available in Nahariyya, Tiberias, and Haifa (Hof Hashaket/Quiet Beach).

From Akko, trains are available to many destinations, including a direct line to terminal 3 of Ben Gurion International Airport. Buses and cabs are available regularly from Safed to Akko, now making it possible to get to the airport in the middle of the night at public transportation prices.

Ayit Airways has 3 daily flights to/from Rosh Pina and Sde Dov Airport for 260 NIS per person or 185 NIS for residents of the north. Sundays - Thursdays, no weekend service. - from there a 50-60 nis cab ride gets you to Safed.

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