July 21st 2013
It should come as no surprise that the mystical city of Tzfat, located high up in the mountains of the Galilee, is a magnet for Jewish artists and craftspeople. The ancient city’s kabalistic bent and picturesque environs have generated a bona fide hotbed for visual artists of all varieties, and visitors to Israel have been drawn to Tzfat’s galleries for generations. Located in what was historically the Arab Quarter of Tzfat, the Artists’ Quarter is now home to some of Israel’s best contemporary artists, particularly those interested in the spiritual dimensions of art.
Artists live and work in the subdivided large, ancient structures that line the windy, narrow, cobblestone streets of the neighborhood. Enter an open studio and observe local artists at their looms, easels or candle-dipping stations. Peer into display windows that showcase paintings and artifacts representing some of the best religious art in the country.
The relationship between Tzfat and Judaism’s mystical tradition, known as kabbalah, goes back to the 16th century. A significant group of artists who make Tzfat their home today specialize in artistic media inspired by kabbalah. Some regularly speak to individuals and groups, both about the kabbalistic influences on their work and also about spiritual topics more generally. American-born artist Avraham Lowenthal is especially well known for speaking to groups of young adults who are on quests for meaning.
Other artists found in the Tzfat Artists’ Quarter include silversmiths, cartoonists, candle and wax sculpture artists, mural painters, weavers, microcalligraphers, potters, sculptors and more. Works of art are displayed both in private studios and also in communal galleries.
The best known communal gallery in Tzfat is the General Exhibition. Located in the old Market Mosque near Arlozorov Street, the General Exhibition shares a large courtyard with a number of smaller artists’ studios. The whole courtyard, including the Maximillian Café, is a delightful spot to spend browsing. The Dadon Gallery is located in a minor alcove below the Yosef Caro synagogue where Rabbi Yosef Caro is believed to have written the classic Code of Jewish Law during the 16th century.
For those who wish to stay on a little longer to further explore why the city inspires so many spiritual, creative souls, the Artists’ Colony Inn is a charming boutique bed and breakfast hotel located right in the heart of the neighborhood.