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Abuhav Synagogue
Tzfat, Zefat, Zfat, Safed, Tsfat, Zefas, Tzfas, Tsfas and Zfas
Other Names:
City of Kabbalah, World Center of Jewish Mysticism
A city in the Galilee, Northern Israel.

Safed is a city nestled in the Upper Galilee of Northern Israel located approximately 45 minutes from Tiberias. The city perches on a mountaintop and enjoys mild weather in the summer and a cold rainy climate in the winter. Tzfat is known as the “City of Kabbalah,” one of Judaism’s four Holy Cities, due to its history as the region where contemporary Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, developed. Today Tzfat is enjoying a revival as a center of Jewish and Kabbalah study, a hub of quality art and Judaica and a meeting place for people of different cultures and backgrounds who are drawn to this historic mountaintop town.


[edit] History

Artifacts have been found that indicate that people lived in Safed as far back as 3500 years ago, but archaeological and documentary evidence of the community begins at the time of the Crusader period. The Crusaders built their “Metzuda”, or citadel, on the Tzfat mountaintop. The presence of an existing Jewish community in Tzfat drew Jews to the area in the Middle Ages as they fled the Spanish Inquisition. By the late 1700s, Ashkanazi, or Eastern European Jews began to immigrate to Tzfat. This created two distinct Jewish community, the Ashkanazis and the Sepharadim (Mediterranean and North African Jews). The Arab community also grew, occupying a neighborhood a few minutes’ walk from the Jewish Quarter.

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[edit] Origins, Spelling and Pronunciation

The origins of the name "Tzfat" are unknown but may refer to either of two Hebrew verbs which are similar to "Tzfat" -- "L'tz-a-pot", meaning "to anticipate" or "L'tz-pot" meaning "to look out." Tzfat has many different spellings which derive from the Arabic, Sephardic Hebrew and Ashkanazi Hebrew pronunciations.

Common spellings of Tzfat include Tzfat, Tsfat, Tzfas, Tsfas, Safed, Zefad, Zfat, Zefat, Zefas, Zfas, Zfad and more.

[edit] Synagogues and Holy Sites

Jews come from all over the world to pray at Tzfat’s ancient synagogues and other holy sites. In addition to the shuls where the scholars and rabbis lived and worked, the Tzfat cemetery houses the gravesites of rabbinical leaders and scholars who lived and worked in Tzfat. Men come from throughout the world to immerse in the Ari Mikve, a ritual bath with legendary powers.

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[edit] Places to Visit

The streets of Tzfat are full almost year-round with visitors who come to experience various aspects of Tzfat. Travelers can view the tourist sites of Tzfat including the ancient synagogues, the art galleries, the ruins and modern centers indicating the town’s renaissance. Centers exist where people can stop in for a quick class in Torah or Kabbalah, learn about the ancient art of working as a Hebrew scribe, make their own pottery piece or listen to an artist’s life story.

[edit] Learning Centers

Visitors have a variety of options to explore if they want to learn more about Tzfat, Judaism or Kabbalah. Different groups offer drop-in classes and libraries which are open to the public. The International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah, a rabbinical-approved Center for the study of Jewish Mysticism, offers tours, movies, written materials and seminars that fit the interests of people of all ages. The Tzfat Tourist Information Center provides written information about the city along with maps, a movie about Tzfat’s history and an opportunity to visit some of the underground tunnels that show Tzfat’s history.

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[edit] Kabbalah in Tzfat

Arch in Old City
Among the Jews who returned to Israel in the Middle Ages were some of the era’s greatest Kabbalah scholars. They were drawn to Tzfat because the first Kabbalists studied and taught in the surrounding region 1500 hundred years previously. During this time Tzfat became known as the “City of Kabbalah”, a name that it is still known by till today. Tzfat today is a center of modern Kabbalah study for scholars, students and people who are simply curious about the subject matter.

[edit] Weather

Rainy day in Tzfat.
It often rains in Tzfat during the winter.
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