Kikar HaMeginim Safed

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Kikar Meginim Tzfat
Kikar HaMeginim Safed
כיכר המגינים
Ki-kar Ha’Meg-in-im
Other Names:
Central Square of Tzfat, The Kikar
Defender’s Square
Central plaza of Tzfat’s Old Jewish City.

Kikar HaMeginim, the central plaza of Tzfat’s Old City, is a popular gathering place for residents and visitors. People sit in the sunny square eating ice cream, enjoying a meal or simply sipping a drink while they watch the slow pace of Tzfat life and imbue the atmosphere of the hundreds-year-old homes and buildings which surround the plaza. Few people know that the square itself is a major historical landmark of the city.


[edit] History

Ashkanazi Jews began to immigrate to Tzfat in large groups after the 1759 earthquake. The Ashkanazi community was built further up the hill, north of the existing Sepharadic community, below the main commercial street, Jerusalem Street. The new neighborhood was built surrounding a public square which the residents called the “Kolin Platz” -- Coal Square. Coal for heating and cooking was sold here.

[edit] War of Independence

Tree of Life sign.
During the early part of the Arab siege on Tzfat, the Jewish defenders were headquartered in The Kikar from where they could maintain civilian and military control over the Jewish Quarter. Although the main headquarters later moved to a more defensible position (the home of Ya’akov Mizrachi, father of the first casualty of the Battle for Tzfat), many of the “Haganah” -- defense forces -- communiques and other commands continued to come from a branch of the headquarters which remained in The Kikar throughout the Battle for Tzfat.

After the war the square was renamed “Kikar HaMeginim” -- Defender’s Square.

[edit] Location

Bar Yochi St. leading to the Kikar.
“The Kikar,” as local residents call it, is set in the center of the four main lanes of upper Tzfat. These include Bar Yochai Street, HaMeginim Street, Tarpat Street and Hatam Sofer Street. These four streets all converge at the Kikar. The Kikar is approximately 50 square meters in circumference.

From the Kikar, stairs descend to the southern part of the Old City. The stairs pass the Ari Ashkanazi synagogue on the right and end at Alkabetz Street in front of the Livnot-U'Lehibanot organization.

[edit] Venues

There are three restaurants in the Kikar, the Tree of Life vegetarian health food restaurant, a falaffel shop and a “schwarma” -- slivered lamb meat -- stand. In addition there is a stand for drinks and ice-cream. Shade is available during the hot summer days but there’s plenty of sunshine for people who wish to sit out and relax in the sunny fresh air. In addition there is a Breslev music shop with discs of Breslev bands and Breslev literature.

[edit] Activities

Most of the activities in the Kikar take place on an impromptu basis. Local English-speaking teens and students gather in the Kikar in the evenings to socialize and play music. On Friday nights the local “Hesder Yeshivah” -- pre-army yeshivah -- come to the Kikar to dance and sing the Kabbalat Shabbat service. During the annual Klezmer festival many street musicians set up their own stages and play spontaneously as people meander around the city.

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