Out of the green mountains and lush winding roads of the Upper Galilee, emerges
a city steeped in the history and mysticism of the Jewish people. Tzfat, one of
Judaism’s four Holy Cities, is well known as the center of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) in Israel, where around each turn of the cobbled streets lies another mystical shop welcoming you in for a taste of 16th century spirituality. This Holy City on a hill is also home to ancient sites with panoramic views, hearty homemade yemenite food, and vibrant art galleries. Whether you come for the history or hiking, of all the things to do in Israel this magical city will undoubtedly leave an impression on your mind–and maybe even on your soul.
The Old City of Tzfat
The Tzfat Kabbalah Center is a center for Kabbalah, Jewish studies, and spirituality in the Old City of Tzfat. People from around the world have participated in their courses, workshops, and diverse range of Kabbalistic activities-available at the center or online. The Kabbalah Center aims to make Kabbalah more “user friendly” in order to reach a wider audience, while still maintaining its authenticity. All are welcome to stop by and learn from the wisdom of Kabbalah, whether you only have time for a short tour, or are available to stay for a seminar.
Originally built by the British, the Great stairs run up and down the mountain on which Tzfat is built, dividing the Old City and the Artist Quarter and providing a beautiful view of the city. As you reach the top of the several hundred stairs that make up the walk, the old British watchtower built to guard the stairs can be seen, with the searchlight and gun placement slits still visible. The Great Stairs are rooted in history, and a must-visit for those interested in Tzfat’s history.
The Citadel, or Metsuda, is the highest point in Tzfat. Situated in the center of town, it was an important site in efforts to occupy the area, from 1102 CE to the War of Independence in 1948; in fact, this historical site was the spot of the most important Crusader administrative post in the Middle East. Today, guests can walk through the archeological digs taking place here, or picnic on the grassy lawn. The Citadel affords a beautiful view of the mountains, and on a clear day, the Kinneret.
The Abuhav Synagogue houses the oldest Torah scroll in Safed, a scroll associated with many traditions and legends. It is only taken out for readings on Yom Kippur, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah. The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century, with its design taking roots in Kabbalistic principles. Its southern wall contains three Arks, the bima is located in the center, with benches for the congregation arranged around it. The interior dome is decorated with depictions of musical instruments used in the Temple in Jerusalem, symbols of the tribes of Israel, and four symbolic crowns. This historical synagogue is a majestic sight to see, and is commonly shown to tour groups visiting Safed for its beauty.
Tzfat Candles, located in the old city, sells hand-dipped, woven and sculpted candles for Jewish ceremonial purposes and beyond. In addition to brightly colored beeswax and paraffin candles for Shabbat, Havdalah, and Chanukah, Tzfat Candles creates artistic pieces sculpted from beeswax. Visit the shop to marvel at creative scenes depicting biblical events, Jewish caricatures, religious ceremonies, smiley Hassidic faces, Jewish stars, and Hamsas, among other Judaica offerings. Tzfat Candles is committed to using environmentally-friendly materials in all their products. If you stop in at the right time, you might even get to watch one of the artist's hand-twisting or sculpting a new candle.
HaMeiri Tzfat Dairy is the first dairy to be established in Israel, producing gourmet cheeses from the purest sheep and goat milk since 1840. Sitting on a majestic mountain, surrounded by the charm and mysticism of one of Israel’s most enchanting cities, guests will be moved and impressed by the beauty of the stories of Tzfat and the HaMeiri family. During the tour, visitors learn about cheese production in addition to sampling some of the fine, creamy creations from HaMeiri. The tour is only available in Hebrew, but the cheese tastes great, no matter what language you’re speaking.
Beit Hameiri is a historical museum documenting the life of the Jewish community in Tzfat over the past 200+ years, in a building that partially dates back 400 years. On each of the museum’s floors a different aspect of the community’s daily life is presented to visitors. The building hosts artifacts from Tzfat’s history including a 16th century mikveh, an abandoned synagogue that served the Persian community, a garden, religious objects, utensils and tools, documents, images, paintings, and more. Guests will learn the history of Tzfat, including stories of its liberation.