Saraya Safed

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Saraya of Tzfat
Saraya Safed
Other Names:
Saraya Community Center, Saraya Building, Wolfson Community Center
A community center in Tzfat, Israel.

The Saraya is a landmark in Safed. The large two-story building whose clock chimes every hour is an familiar site on the outskirts of the Artists Quarter. It is, for many visitors, the first view of Old Tzfat that they see as they drive into the city.


[edit] History

“Saraya” -- "palace” in Turkish was built in the 1700s during the rule of Dahar El Omar, an Ottoman ruler, who commissioned the construction of the building as a government administration building. After the British defeated the Turks during WWI and undertook the administration of the British Mandate on Palestine, they began to use it as their own headquarters.

[edit] Shelter

Saraya entrance.
During the Arab riots of 1929, Jews who escaped from the Jewish Quarter took refuge in the Saraya but the British did not adequately protect them. Even in the midst of the British army, the Arabs managed to climb onto the Saraya roof and shoot into the crowd of Jews who were huddled in the Saraya courtyard.

[edit] War of Independence

When the British evacuated Tzfat they turned the Saraya over to the Arab forces which, at that time, included Syrian and Iraqi soldiers. The pre-State underground, Lehi, managed to blow up part of the building, demoralizing the Arabs.

[edit] Post-Independence

After the Liberation of Tzfat the Center was used as a home for the elderly. A synagogue was established in the building and the area in front of the Saraya was used as the weekly “shuk” -- open-air marketplace -- of Tzfat. In 1975 the building was renovated as a community center, thanks to the efforts of Sir Isaac and Lady Edith Wolfson. Today the building is alternately referred to as the “Wolfson Center” and “the Saraya.”

[edit] Saraya Today

The Saraya is a two-story stone building with an inner courtyard. It is built in an “L” shape with offices and classrooms located throughout the building. There are three small, unattached buildings that exist in the Saraya courtyard.

[edit] Community Center Administration

The administration of the Tzfat Community Center Association is centered at the Saraya.

[edit] Activities

A wide variety of groups use the Saraya for their activities. Children’s after-school activities take place at the center as well as youth group meetings. Exercise classes for girls and women operate almost nightly and various civic groups meet in the building. There is a side-tower where the community center association offers music classes for local schoolchildren.

[edit] Additional Organizations

Several additional independent organizations use the Saraya premises.

[edit] Noam Synagogoue

The Noam synagogue operates morning “minyans” -- prayer quorums -- as well as Sabbath and holiday services, classes and different types of activities to meet the needs of the religious community in Tzfat.

[edit] Memorial Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry

The Memorial Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry operates in a small building in the Saraya courtyard. It is open during the week and provides information and exhibits that offer a glimpse of the pre-Holocaust and Holocaust-era Hungarian-speaking Jewish world.

[edit] Dance Studio

A dance studio occupies a second free-standing building in the Saraya courtyard. Groups of girls and women meet throughout the day and evening for yoga, stretching exercises, hip hop dance and other forms of movement.

[edit] Music School

The Community Center music school offers classes to Tzfat schoolchildren in a side tower of the Saraya. Children can learn whichever instrument they choose and the older children often perform at municipal and other cultural events in bands and youth symphonies.

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