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Safed

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Safed [1] (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.

Located at an altitude of 900 meters (2,953 ft), Safed, is the highest city in the Galilee and arguably in Israel. Due to its high altitude, Safed experiences pleasantly warm summers and cold, and occasionally snowy winters.

Understand[edit]

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[edit]

The Egged bus company runs direct buses from Haifa, Jerusalem, Bnai Barak - see their website [2] for travel times and fares. Other companies run buses to various Galilee locations, but you will have to use the national bus web site [3], which is Hebrew only, to get information.

Israel Railways [4] only get as close as Akko. From Akko, it is possible to take a cheap bus or an expensive cab to Safed.

Ayit Airways has 3 daily flights in each direction between Tel Aviv (Sde Dov Airport) and Rosh Pina. The price is ₪260 per person or ₪185 for residents of the north. Sundays - Thursdays, no weekend service. [5]. From Rosh Pina a ₪50-60 cab ride gets you to Safed.

Get around[edit]

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 in, 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, Nateev Express, that runs several local lines to the town's new neighborhoods. 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.

See[edit][add listing]

Crusader ruins in Safed

Synagogues - there are a number of old, beautiful, and unique synagogues in Tsfat, 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 1490's 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 Tsfat 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 :

  • Artist colony in the Old City. This includes the Exhibition Centre in Safed Big Mosque, and 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.
  • The Crusader Fortress - at the top of the Old City hill. Some interesting walls and buildings are visible, but unlike most Israeli archaeological sites, do not have helpful explanatory signs. The top of the hill boasts an incredible view of the surroundings. If your legs are strong enough, visit during the day to see the see the surrounding forested mountains, and visit again at night to see the ring of lights around the Sea of Galilee. Beware that the access path to the top is somewhat under construction (as of August 2012) - there is no fence at the path's edge, and no lighting at night.
  • HaMeiri Museum for Safed History
  • Statue Garden and the Gallery of sculptor Moshe Ziffer
  • The Red Khan - a significant Mameluk palace
  • HaGdud Hashlishi Street - The upper parts of this street have a view similar to that from the Crusader fortress, except that from here you can also see the Crusader fortress and the old city spread out beneath you. Perhaps the finest view in the entire eastern Galilee. There is a promenade along the upper part of the street, a great place for a stroll or picnic. Take the 3 bus up here and walk down.
  • Stop in the Tzfat Tourist Information Center [[6]] for your first overview of Tzfat. The Center provides maps and guidebooks as well as information about tour guides, accommodations, and other information for Tzfat. There is a 10-minute movie that gives an overview of the History of Tzfat, as well as 500-year-old antiquities which, now uncovered, offer visitors an opportunity to see the original rooms and buildings of Tzfat of the 1500s and 1600s. Through the Information Center, individuals and groups can experience Tzfat through hiking, Tzfat-Theatre, storytelling, musical tours, discussions and lectures about Judaism, sessions of Ask the Rabbi, and explanations of Mysticism in Tzfat. There are also interactive workshops and seminars which include writing tefillin, challah-baking, candle-making, tying Tzitzit, songs and much more. 972-4-6924427 or laurierappeport@gmail.com

Around Safed

Snowfall on Mount Meron
  • Amirim - Vegetarian village with vegetarian restaurant and even vegetarian tourism
  • Tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai - the religious leader Bar Kochba revolt against the Roman Empire and the second most visited Jewish holy site after the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the shrine located in Moshav Meron in the outskirts of Mount Meron, there is an ancient synagogue ruins near the shrine and in the past it was believed that it was built by Simeon Bar Yohchai himself.
  • Mount Meron Nature Reserve - one of the oldest and biggest nature reserves in Israel, in winter you can also find some rare trees which are native to Lebanon. Mount Meron is the second highest mountain in Israel
  • Nahal Amud - nice stream to walk.
  • Naburia Synagogue and Biriya Forest - not far away from Safed there are ruins of Byzantine-era synagogue and big forest called biriya.
  • Peki'in - the only village in Israel that his Jewish native residents never used to leave, three families from there are also the part of High Priest dynasty, one of them is still living with coexistence with her Muslim, Christian and Druze neighbors, the synagogue of the village currently reconstructed on the ruins of Byzantine-era synagogue that probably built on 70AD+ more older synagogue, the village also hosts Gamila Secret which is a olive made soap famous in Far-Eastern countries. you can also found Churches and Khalwat (Druze prayer houses), holy places to Judaism and Druze religions and very good restaurants.
  • Gush Halav/al-Jish - the only Maronite majority village in Israel, a peaceful area that hosts some religious Jewish shrine of Shmaia and Avtalion and many more, there are some Churches and Mosque in the village, the village hosts the best Arab restaurants in Israel which are from the Lebanese cuisine (the origins of al-Jish residents is from Lebanon), nearby the village there is a stream which hold the old name of the village, Nahal Gush Halav, you can find also in the trail the remains of the 5th century synagogue of the ancient Byzantine-era village Jewish settlemet which built near the older one from the Roman times (first century AD)
  • Bar'am/Kafr Bir'em - the origins of most of the Maronite residents of the village of al-Jish (Gush Halav) was from here. the village includes ruins a homes, the cemetery that still in use and the 18th Maronite church that opened only in special events, near the church there is a synagogue, Bar'am synagogue was the synagogue of the village, this Byzantine-era synagogue took elements from Byzantine Basilica architecture and used to be the base of Tiferet Yisrael synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

Do[edit][add listing]

Beit Knesset Abuhav, one of the city's historic synagogues

Tsfat's most prominent and famous quality, undoubtedly lies in it's historical connection to Kabbalah. No trip to Tsfat is complete without experiencing a Kabbalah session.

  • "Kabbalistic Codes", is the most distinguished and notable Kabbalah session in Tsfat by renowned Bible Code Kabbalist Rabbi Eliyahu Kaye. Offered in English (and Hebrew), With the Kabbalistic Codes, you find the exact place your name is encoded in the Torah (Bible). Hence the ability to reveal the reflections of your personality and character traits in the content of the verses and words where the letters of your name where found. Rabbi Kaye’s evaluation and method is based on the foundation of Kabbalistic teachings passed down by the elders and kabbalists in Tsfat. This is a number one stop for anyone who visits Tsfat. Website - [7]


After Jerusalem, Tsfat may be the best place in the country to get Jewish 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. For example:

  • "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.

  • 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.
  • 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, [8]. 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.  edit
  • 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 amongst 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.  edit

Learn[edit]

  • There are several Daf Yomi classes in Tsfat in several languages. There are also many womens' classes offered at various locations throughout the city which offer a variety of Jewish perspectives. Visit the Tzfat Calendar [http:// www.safed-home.com/SafedCalendar.html] to find out what is happening in the city.
  • Ascent of Safed [9] 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.
  • There are several museums in Tsfat, honoring and sharing the town's important place in Jewish history and culture. For example: 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[edit][add listing]

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[edit][add listing]

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

  • Safed Restaurants, Safed, Israel, [10]. There are a wide range of restaurants in Safed ranging from simple falaffel, schwarma and pizza to more upscale restaurants including the dairy Gan Eden, the meat HaAri8 and the combined catering/restaurant Araleh's. A new sushi eatery is opening in January 2013 and a Yemenite "Lachuch" street eatery is open in the center of the Old Jewish Quarter on Alkabetz Street.  edit


Drink[edit][add listing]

Few bars and restaurants are located in Jerusalem road. For a bottle of wine and amazing view all over the Galilee, try Bagdad Cafe, which also serves vegetarian cuisine. In the evening the Jerusalem street is only place alive in Safed, you will meet lot of friendly people there.

Café Isidora - located in Artists colony (i.e. left from the main Old City stairs, when you look from Jerusalem st.), great and cheap art café with garden full of grown trees providing so desirable shade in hot summer day. Coffee or mint tea costs 10 NIS, bottle of red wine is 80 NIS.

And don't forget: as a famous scholar will say: "Drink wata, many many wata. It is good for you! Drink many wata."

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Most people staying overnight in Tsfat choose to stay at the small guest houses [11]located throughout the Old City, Artists' Quarter and the South of Tsfat. You can also stay in nearby Amirim.

  • Artist Quarter Guesthouse (www.artistquarterguesthouse.com), Artist Quarter, Old City, Tzfat, 054-776-4877, [12]. The Artist Quarter Guesthouse (B&B) is centrally located in the heart of the Artist Quarter of the Old City of Tzfat. The guesthouse combines ancient Tzfat charm with modern amenities. It has newly renovated 200-year-old stone domed rooms, with Moroccan lights, stained glass windows, AC/heat, kitchenettes and free Wi-Fi. The rooms are beautiful, clean, light and airy. The guesthouse is open daily and equipped for Shabbat. The rate is ₪500/couple for a week night or ₪600/couple for Shabbat, and for the suite the rate is ₪650/couple for a week night or ₪750 for Shabbat. Women's Swedish massage and catered Mehadrin Shabbat meals are available. http://www.artistquarterguesthouse.com  edit
  • EcoGreen Guest House, Tet Vav 60, 972-52-431-7156. The Eco-Green Guest House of Safed (http://www.safed-home.com/EcoGuesthouseofTzfat.html) is a small budget-priced guesthouse with lovely outdoor area leading into comfortable and quiet Guest Room. One double bed and 2 single beds. A/C, WiFi, coffee corner/fridge. Friendly atmosphere, centrally located within a five-minute walking distance to the cafes, galleries and historical sites.  edit
  • Artists' Colony Inn, Yud Zayin 9, 04 604 1101, [13]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Boutique hotel, has four rooms with jacuzzis or large showers, air conditioning, heating, inner courtyards, and views of the mountains of the Galilee, the majestic Meron Mountain and the old Artist Colony of Safed. Large, comfortable beds, bathrobes, LCD televisions and a lobby with a cafe, library, and wireless internet connection. Their kosher Israeli breakfast (Rabbanut Safed Israel) includes locally made cheeses and jams. from $195.  edit
  • Ruth Rimonim Hotel (Ruth Rimonim Hotel), Artist Colony Road, 04-6994666 (fax: 04-6920456), [14]. In the Galilee Mountains. All rooms are air conditioned, have a cable television, private toilet and bath, telephone, and an internet connection. There is a restaurant and cafe, room service, and safe deposit boxes. Tours from the hotel are also available.  edit
  • Tzfat Pad, 94 David Remez St. (Right next to Abu Chatzerah Shul), +972-545-683-040, [15]. checkin: after 9AM; checkout: 4PM except sat. Guest apartment owned by an artist that only occasionally visits Safed. Apartment has large floor to ceiling windows in the living room and master bedroom with views of the Galil and Sea of Galilee. There is an additional bedroom that has a window to the other side. ₪100-150 per person.  edit
  • Villa Galilee Hotel (Villa Galilee Hotel), Hagdud Hashlishi 106 Har Cnaan, +972-4-6999563, [16]. Villa Galilee has spacious penthouses with a terrace overlooking the view and is furnished with a jacuzzi, a swimming pool and a flower garden. Also has a restaurant that offers French-inspired food and a bar. Spa treatments also available in-house.  edit
  • Beit Yosef Bed and Breakfasts (Beit Yosef of Safed), Artist Quarter, Safed, 972 4 6922515, [17]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. Stunning private Bed and Breakfast units, each one individually decorated and apportioned. Units for 2-15 guests. Each unit includes a kitchen with kosher amenities and amenities for Shabbat. A/C, Cable TV, WiFi. Many of the units have private porches and courtyards. $185.  edit

Get out[edit]

Tel Hazor

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.

  • 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

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

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