Top 5 reasons why Tzfat is worth visiting

August 24th 2012

Israel’s highest city elevation-wise, and a center of kabbalah and mysticism, Tzfat (also spelled Tsfat and Safed) is well worth a visit. This sleepy artists’ town is an idyllic place to spend a few hours or a few days with gorgeous views, great eats, and plenty of spirituality. Plus, it makes a great base for touring the surrounding area, which offers incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure, wine tasting, historic exploration and more.

1. Kabbalah
One of Israel’s four holy cities, it has been a spiritual heart of Judaism, and in particular Kabbalah, since the 1600s. Visit the International Center for Kabbalah and the Ashkenazi HaAri Synagogue to learn more about Jewish mysticism. Kabbalists often head to the Tzfat Cemetary to pay their respects to the tomb of Rabbi Isaac Luria, one of the founders of kabbalism. Other notable individuals buried at the cemetery include Rabbi Yosef Caro (author of the Shulchan Aruch) and Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (author of the hymn Lecha Dodi).

2. Ancient Synagogues
Besides kabbalah, Tzfat has been a center of all facets of Judaism and thus is home to some amazing ancient synagogues. Dating back to the 1500s, Ari Sephardi is the oldest synagogue in the city, and is where Rabbi Isaac Luria prayed in his day. The Abuhav Synagogue is home to a torah scroll from the Middle Ages and has three holy arks, and the Avruth Synagogue miraculously survived the massive 1837 earthquake. Also visit the tomb of the great sage Rabbi Pinhas Ben Yair and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who is known as the compiler of the Zohar and a rebel against the Romans.

3. History
Ancient and modern history abounds in Tzfat. Check out ruins of a Crusader citadel at the top of the city, which is also home to a monument in honor of those who gave their lives to protect Tzfat in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Military history buffs will get a kick out of the Davdka cannon, which played a pivotal role in defending the residents of the city in the War of Independence.

4. Art
As the art capital of Israel, Tzfat is a must-visit for art lovers. Spend an afternoon wandering the charming cobblestone streets (the main one is appropriately named Gallery Street) of the artists’ quarter and visiting the shops and studios of local artists. The city is known for exquisite jewelry, spiritual paintings, hand-painted pottery, and world-famous Tzfat candles. This is one of the best places in Israel to find a unique and memorable souvenir to bring home.

5. The views
As the city with the highest altitude in Israel, a visit to Tzfat is worth it for the views alone. Look out from any point over the gorgeous Galilee region, with lush forests, healthy vineyards, Mount Hermon, and the glistening Sea of Galilee. And since it’s up in the mountains, the weather is likely to be perfect year round.