As The Spirit Moves
Aliza Bashkovitz is a woman whose enthusiasm for the city of Safed comes through in every word she speaks. Born in the coastal city of Rehovot, Aliza left that town for her university studies in Jerusalem. Today, Aliza teaches English in a local Safed school and her American-born husband, Shalom, is a Torah scholar.
As a young couple, Shalom and Aliza enrolled in a program called Meretz in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion. At the end of the program, couples were to move to a development town where the teaching skills they learned could benefit the residents. Shalom and Aliza chose Safed.
One of the key reasons the Bashkowitzes chose the town was due to the fact that a group of Meretz graduates were already living in Safed, and as Aliza put it, "It's always easier to have a group when you're going to a new town."
Another reason Aliza really liked the idea of Safed was the climate. After just one year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Aliza found visits home to steamy Rehovot unbearable. The cool, dry climate of Jerusalem, and later, the couple's six years in a suburb with similar weather, meant that Safed was an ideal choice. Safed has weather perhaps just a bit more extreme than that of the Jerusalem area and is colder, windier, and drier. Aliza says that the cold "settles in your bones," but that this is preferable to the humidity of Israel's coastal region.
When asked to compare life in Jerusalem to life in Safed, Aliza refers to what the Torah says about the special qualities of these two cities, both holy to Jews. "Jerusalem is 'Esh,' fire, but Safed is 'Ruach,' spirit or wind."
Aliza explains that in Safed there is a feeling of being, "above reality," and comments that the Hebrew name of the town, "Tzfat," shares the same root as the word, "LaTzoof," to float. Being in Safed, says Aliza, is to float above it all, above reality. Jerusalem felt holy to Aliza, but Safed, she says, has the same holiness, without the pressure. Safed is, "spiritual, beautiful, and relaxed."
Aliza also compares the quality of life of the two towns in very down-to-earth, financial terms. In Mevasseret Zion, the Bashkowitzes paid $500 a month for a 2nd floor apartment with 4 bedrooms. In Safed, the family is paying the same amount for a 2 story duplex with a garden. After living in Safed for decades, the family can state with certainty that they are getting much more for their money than they had ever dreamed. For the Bashkowitzes, Safed is home.
*Names have been changed for this story.