The ancient city of Safed is considered one of the “Four Holy Cities of Judaism,” because it was here in the 16th and 17th century where the Kabbalah – mystical Judaism – developed. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the Ottoman Empire opened its arms to Jewish refugees, many of whom found their way to Safed.
The Old City of Safed has changed little in the recent centuries, its ancient lanes leading to several small and medium-sized historic synagogues - each more beautiful than the next. Safed’s altitude (3,000 feet, highest in Israel) and crystal clear light have made it a haven for artists, the old town is full of galleries, studios and artists painting on easels.
With endless views that extend into distant horizons and pristine mountain air, Safed will instantly captivate you the moment you arrive. Known as the capital of Jewish mysticism past and present, this breathtaking ancient hilltop city is the highest in the Galilee and all of Israel – geologically and spiritually. One of the four sacred cities in Judaism, Safed offers a palpably mystical journey that will leave you in awe of its profound energy.
A short drive from the revered Sea of Galilee, Safed welcomes you with quaint cobblestone alleys and numinous architecture. Listen as the many souls of history share their secrets through an old fortress erected by the Crusaders, the Mamluk, Ottoman and British influences, the War of Independence Monument, as well as a deep sacred history embodied by extraordinary synagogues and ancient tombs.
The Eternal Kabbalah Capital
From Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai, the 2nd century author of the foundational work on the Kabbalah known as the Zohar, to Ari HaKadosh, the father of contemporary Kabbalah, Safed has been home to Judaism’s highest mystics and their devout students. It was 16th century when Ari HaKadosh “democratized” Kabbalistic teachings by bringing in a new understanding – one that allowed Kabbalah to reach the laymen.
As you walk from one synagogue to the next, you’ll feel just how Safed became the unchanging home for such a long lineage of spiritual aspirants, regardless of all that history threw their way. The Abuhav Synanogue whose architectural elements embody numerical mysticism, the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue dedicated to Ari HaKadosh, and the Yosef Caro Synagogue will all transport you through time and into mysticism’s upper worlds.
An Inspirational Old City
Add more unforgettable moments to your trip by walking the winding cobblestone alleys in the Old City, viewing unique stone buildings and continuing on to the Artists’ Colony. Home to quality galleries that will introduce you to the exquisite works of local artists, including a wide variety of Judaica, this part of the Old City is for lovers of all things art. The Doll Museum and the Museum of Printing Art are special must-see for the culture-hungry.
Safed can be as nourishing for your body as it is for your soul – the Old City’s eclectic food offerings promise to please every taste and budget. From Yemenite pancakes and street food to unexpected delicacies at sit-down restaurants, you’ll find all that you’re looking for and more in this gracious city of deep traditions.