Khan of the White Donkey Safed
|החאן החמור הלבן
|Ha-ha’an Ha-ha’more Ha-lav’an
|The Inn of the White Donkey
|A Safed center of hospitality and culture.
The Khan of the White Donkey serves as a central Safed meeting place for local residents and visitors alike. The Khan offers public services as well as a venue for events and attractions.
 A Tzfat Landmark
The Khan of the White Donkey, is located in a renovated building which sits on the edge of the Artist Quarter, just to the south of the Artist Quarter’s General Exhibition.
 Structure’s History
The Khan is one of the oldest original buildings standing in Safed today. Archaeologists estimate that the structure dates back to at least the 14th century, though the possibility exists that it is even older. The structure’s groined barrel vault ceiling is typical of Crusader buildings, leading experts to conclude that it may have been built by the Crusaders or, alternately, was planned by the Crusaders and built the Mamukes who ruled Tzfat after the Crusaders. Archaeologists believe that the building was used as a travelers' inn and marketplace for merchants as they traveled through the area, bringing their goods back and forth from Damascus to Acco, Jerusalem, Egypt and other commercial points. An adjoining area was used as the stables for the donkeys and mules that accompanied these merchants on their travels. The Khan withstood the 1759 and 1837 earthquakes which leveled many other buildings in Tzfat.
Beginning in 2008 builders, architects, engineers and individuals specializing in environmentally-safe building methods joined forces to begin renovating the structure. The renovations were undertaken, whenever possible, using traditional Middle Eastern building methods and natural materials. These methods included strengthening the inside walls with lime and filling in gaps in the outside walls with a straw and mud mix which was then sealed with linseed oil. Both of these methods substituted for the cheaper and more commonly-used cement mix. The floor of the Khan is the largest poured lime floor in Israel. It was poured using a special lime mix which was imported from Venice to adapt to the wet Tzfat winter conditions.
 Environmental Building
The restoration planners used a variety of ecological building systems when they undertook the renovations. These included a grey water recycling system and a low energy heating system. All recyclable trash is recycled and live matter is composed.
 The Name
The name, the Khan, means “Inn.” It brings a connotation of hospitality and a welcoming atmosphere which reflect the impression that the Khan’s developers wanted to convey when they named the structure. The term “White Donkey” relates to a kabbalistic belief regarding the Coming of the Messiah. “The Zohar”, the book that forms the basis of Kabbalah knowledge and study, reveals that when the Messiah arrives he will travel from Mount Meron (the gravesite of the Kabbalist Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of The Zohar) through Tzfat on his way to Jerusalem, riding a white donkey.
 Cultural Events
The Khan functions as a center of culture and education in Safed. The Khan hosts weekly Thursday night concerts which feature local musicians as well as nationally-known Israeli bands and artists. A number of classes and workshops operate at the Khan including yoga classes and a storytelling hour for children.
 Community Services
The Khan serves as the home of the Halavav Environmental organization which promotes ecology in Tzfat through special projects and work with the local educational authorities. A weekly Alternative Health Day takes place at the Khan. The Public Health Day offers subsidized non-conventional health care treatments and consultations such as acupressure, acupuncture care and nutritional consultations.
 Private Events
The Khan is also available for private events. The venue can accommodate over 60 guests at a sit-down affair or over 120 people for a concert or lecture.