Discover the mysteries of the ancient city of Safed
Welcome to the web-site of the ancient city of Safed (also spelled Safed, Zefat, Tsfat, Zfat, Safad, Safes, Safet, Tzfat, etc.). A rather small town located in Northern Israel, 900 meters (3200 feet) above sea level in the mountains of the Upper Galilee, it commands magnificent views east to the Golan, north to the Hermon and Lebanon, west to Mt. Meron and the Amud Valley, and south to Tiberias and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
For a long time Safed has been a well kept secret, even to most Israelis. However, according to the great mystics of the past, Safed is to play an important role in the final redemption. The Meam Loez, in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, says that the Messiah will come from Safed on his way to Jerusalem. The Ari HaKodesh said that until the Third Temple is built, the Shechinah (God's Manifest Presence) rests above Safed.
Its past is also rich and great. According to legend, Safed is where Shem and Ever, son and grandson of Noah, established their yeshiva where Jacob (Yaakov Avinu) studied for many years. According to other sources, the town was founded in 70AD. The city flourished in the 16th century, when many famous Jewish religious scholars and mystics moved to Safed following the Spanish Expulsion,, fleeing from the horrors of the Inquisition. Safed then became the spiritual center of the Jewish world, where Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) reached the peak of its influence. Kabbalists, such as Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (Ha-Ari HaKadosh) and Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (author of Lecha Dodi) and Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch) just to name a few, made the city famous. It was here that the first printing press in the Middle East was set up, publishing in 1578 the first Hebrew book to be printed in Israel. At that time the town was also a thriving trade center.. However, Safed suffered terribly during the ensuing years due to earthquakes, plagues and Arab attacks. In modern times, the liberation of Safed was one of the most dramatic episodes in the 1948 War of Independence.
Safed is one of the four holy cities in Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. The old part of town consists of narrow cobblestone alleys revealing artists' galleries, medieval synagogues, private homes and small guest houses. Despite its small population (ca 27,000), Safed is once again making its mark on the map.
Thousands of Russian and Ethiopian immigrants have made Safed their home in the past decade. There is also a small but vibrant community of Baalei Tshuva. By definition, these are people who made the effort to connect to their Jewish soul and heritage and Safed is definitely a town with a Jewish soul. The conditions in Safed are ideal for immersion in Torah study. Excellent Torah classes are available for whoever seeks to learn, in either Hebrew or English, especially for those new to the path of yiddishkeit. There are very few distractions, and relations between religious and secular residents are good . The famous mountain air is conducive to clear thinking and excellent meditation. The nearby forest and nature reserve provide the seclusion and serenity needed for powerful communion with God. Many Tzaddikim (righteous holy people) are buried around here. Afterall, as our sages are quick to point out, a Tzaddik never dies. These graves tend to be located in some of the most scenic locations in the Land of Israel and most are easily accessible by foot or car. Many have been transformed into houses of prayer. For the more adventurous, a number of famous gravesites are found as one explores our nature reserve anywhere in the north. For example, just a half hour's walk from Safed's Old City, depending on the time of year and amount of rainfall, you can encounter a virtual paradise, resplendent with fruit trees, waterpools and olive groves.
Despite its natural beauty and charm, to truly appreciate Safed requires an intimate, holy and Jewish connection, which requires work. Like a beautiful yet modest woman, her real charm is hidden and only made available to the special few who merit her attention. Yet it is this modesty, humility and sense of purpose that makes Safed special.
Safed is the balance where the spiritual meets the physical, where the East meets the West, where Hashem guides you along the path but your efforts allow you to merit the reward. Everyone is invited to experience and appreciate the challenge.