Where We Be
The hillside town of Tzfat has been a spiritual
center since the 1600s when it was the center
of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. Tzfat is still a
highly religious place, filled with orthodox Jews
in their traditional black hats and suits, curled
sideburns, and beards. During our time here we
got to visit two medieval synagogues and also
had time for quite a bit of shopping. If you like
galleries and artist studios, this is the place for
you. The narrow cobblestone lanes are chock-
full of silversmith, painter, and sculptor shops.
Located in Northern Galilee, Tzfat sits on top of
a hill at just under 3,000 ft (900 m), making it the
highest city not only in Galilee but all of Israel.
Considered one of the four holy cities in Israel
(along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Tiberias), it
offers an interesting mix of art, religion, and
tourism in one small package. The town's name,
by the way, can be spelled Safed, Zefat, Tsfat,
Zfat, Safad, etc. Pronunciation-wise, it's a single
syllable that sounds more or less like "Tsfaht."
|The old city is chock-full of quality artists' studios. Many in our group wished they could spend more time here.
|This photo sums up Tzfat in many ways as an orthodox Jew makes his way past a jewelry store and a religiously themed art studio
|One other thing makes Tzfat special: its collection of historic synagogues
|We're not all that familiar with synagogues, so we really enjoyed seeing the little touches of beauty and symbolism throughout
|The dangling piece of "art" in the photo at right is actually a piece of shrapnel from a Katushna rocket that exploded here in 2006
|Ancient books like these make you wonder what mysteries you might discover within
|The historic synagogues in Tzfat are especially beautiful
|Robin covers her shoulders with a shawl and I wear a paper yarmulke during our visit to the two synagogues
|Note the binding of the books, which is on the right side. Hebrew texts are read from right to left.
|From Tzfat's hilltop perch in the Upper Galilee you get quite a view of the surrounding countryside
|Art is everywhere in Tzfat, even on simple storage doors
|The artwork is rustic but powerful in its own way. You can see the pained expression on Abraham's face as he prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac.
|Beit Alfa is a famous 6th century synagogue known for its mosaic floor. The largely intact mosaic was uncovered in 1928 by a local kibbutz.
While the synagogue is located south of Galilee and we saw it on a different day, we think it belongs best with the historic synagogues on this page.
|Many orthodox Jews make their home in Tzfat, the center of Kaballah or Jewish mysticism
|This sign certainly grabs your attention!
|A Jewish adaptation of the zodiac makes up the central portion of the mosaic. Such zodiacs were apparently standard in synagogues of the time.