Safed Spellings and Pronunciation

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Tzfat Spellings
Safed Spellings and Pronunciation
Other Pronunciations
Different thoughts about how to spell and pronounce the name of the city Safed, Israel

Visitors to Tzfat are often confused by the various spellings and pronunciations of the city’s name which include include Safed, Safet, Tsfat, Tzfat, Tzefat, Tsefat, Safes, Tsfas, Tzfas, Tzefas, Tsefas, Zfas, Zfat, Zefad, Zefas, and Zefat.


[edit] Etymology

The origins and historical development of the name for the northern Israeli city of Tzfat are unclear although it was likely named after Biblical Tzfat.

[edit] Meaning

The word “Tzfat” is the Hebrew root of two verbs which could explain the origins of the city’s name. The word “L’tza-pot” -- to expect -- may refer to the Kabbalistic belief that the messiah, whom Jews await, will, when he appears, pass through Tzfat on his way to Jerusalem. Another possible verb, “L’tz-pot” -- to view -- developed as the name of the city because of Tzfat’s location on a mountaintop overlooking the entire expanse of Northern Israel.

[edit] Historical References

The first references to the city that scholars presume to be Tzfat comes in the Talmud Yerushalmi where, in Masechet Rosh Hashana, an area termed “Zefath” is named as one of the five elevated spots where local residents would light fires to mark a “Rosh Chodesh” -- new month.

In the first century A.D. the historian Josephus wrote that, while serving as a general of the Jewish forces, he stationed a battalion of his soldiers in a city that he called “Sef-feth” which historians generally believe signifies the present city of Tzfat.

[edit] Pronunciation

Different pronunciations of the word “Tzfat” have emerged over time.

[edit] Arabic

The Arabs pronounced the name of the city with a soft “S” sound at the beginning of the word and a “D” sound at the end -- “Safed.” This pronunciation and spelling was adopted by the British when they ruled the area between 1918 and 1948. Subsequently the “Safed” spelling/pronunciation became accepted and is still used widely today.

[edit] Ashkanazi

“Ashkanazim” -- Jews whose families originated in Eastern Europe -- generally pronounce the “ת” -- the “”taf,” the last Hebrew letter in the word “Tzfat,” with an “S” sound. They pronounce the first letter, the “צ,” the letter “Tzadi” with a “TZ” sound. Ashkanazim therefore pronounce the city’s name as “Tzfas” -- also written as “Tsfas,” “Zefas,” “Zfas, “Tzefas,” etc.

[edit] Sephardi

“Sephardim” -- Jews whose descendants came from North African and Mediterranean countries pronounce the ”ת” -- the “”tav,” the last Hebrew letter in the word “Tzfat,” with an “T” sound. Sepharadim also pronounce the first letter of Tzfat, the “,צ” with a “TZ” sound. The Sephardic pronunciation is the pronunciation used by the majority of Israelis, resulting in the “Tzfat” pronunciation being the preferred pronunciation among the majority of Israelis. Various spellings include “Tsfat,” “Zfat,” “Zefat,” “Tzefat,” etc.

[edit] Spelling

Guidebooks, websites and even Israeli road signs mix and match the various pronunciations of the city’s name. It is possible to find “Tzfat” spelled with “S”, “Tz”, “Ts” or “Z” at the beginning of the word and “D,” “T” or “S” at the end. Some of the usual spellings include “Safed,” “Safet,” “Tsfat,” “Tzfat,” “Tzefat,” “Tsefat,” “Safes,” “Tsfas,” “Tzfas,” “Tzefas,” “Tsefas,” “Zfas,” “Zfat,” “Zefad,” “Zefas,” and “Zefat.”

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