The town of Safed Israel’s highest city at 3,000 feet above sea
level seems to reach from its serene Galilee mountaintop up to the
heavens. This perch has inspired ancient Jewish mystics as well as
new world artists. But as one of Israel’s oldest towns, it is also
due for a face-lift.
When rabbis arrived 2,100 years ago to write long-lasting
interpretations of biblical laws, the Temple still stood in
Jerusalem. They could almost see it from Safed, and could certainly
glimpse the distant Sea of Galilee.
Safed’s mystics took the work a step further developing the
philosophy of Kabbalah, a biblical-based Hebrew numerology, to
reveal a deeper layer of meaning to life and its mysteries. This
mysticism sparked the interests of centuries of philosophers and,
more recently, Hollywood movie stars such as Madonna.
But historical events disturbed the locale’s tranquility.
Throughout the centuries, the Crusaders, Saladin, the Knights
Templar, the Mamelukes and the Ottomans conquered it.
Safed grew with Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th
century. An 18th century earthquake drove many away, and it further
shrank with the Arab riots of 1929. The town revived with the
arrival of survivors from Nazi-dominated Europe and has flourished
since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
Several ancient synagogues are listed on itineraries because
their brightly ornamented decor and architecture reflect two
millennia of history. Some burial sites are popular stops. Many
visitors go to the resting place of the biblical prophet Hosea, and
singles seem to have luck praying for partners at the tomb at
Most tourists are drawn to the Artists’ Quarter in the
labyrinths of Safed’s old city, which houses more than 50 art
studios and eclectic galleries. During the next few years, there
are plans to invest heavily in tourism in Safed, according to
Aharon Domb, director general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
The project includes:
" Installing a Ponycular, a new type of electric cable car, for
transportation through lanes too narrow for vehicles.
" The development of Safed’s most popular areas, such as the
Jewish Quarter and the Artists’ Quarter; the old cemetery; and the
Mezuda Garden, where remains of the largest Crusader Fort in the
Middle East still stand. Many of the crooked streets, bending
lampposts, small synagogues and charming older buildings will be
" New hotels and updating of existing ones.
Suggestion: Information on Safed can be found under Tsfat,
Zefat, Sefat, Tsafat or even Tsfas.
Call 888-77-ISRAEL or 212-499-5640.
Web site: www.goisrael.com.