Worth Looking For
Yosef Caro, the great Rabbi of the 16th century who wrote the Code of Jewish Law, is said to have sat in a small room under the present Yosef Caro synagogue with an angel while compiling his masterpiece. This legend has passed down through the generations, and even today generates heated debate - not over whether Yosef Caro wrote the Code of Jewish Law, nor even whether he sat with the "maggid", the angel, when he was writing. But the existence of a mysterious lower room is hotly debated.
About a hundred years ago, an entrance to The Room was "discovered" by a local historian. Whether or not this area is, in fact, a holy site, is of little concern to a small collective of young artists who have opened a little gallery nearby. What is certain is that the art in this gallery does justice to whomever might have inhabited the corner.
Harel Dadon, son of microcalligraphy artist Moshe Dadon, has gathered various forms of art of 4 young artists in a small nook next to the small room below the Yosef Caro synagogue. Located below the main gallery street, the gallery serves as a workshop for 2 of the artists; two live elsewhere and exhibit their art at Dadon's gallery.
Sigal Avni is one of these artists, who has chosen to make Tzfat her home and raise her family in the town while working and exhibiting her paintings. "Warm, vibrant, soothing" are words that may come to mind while viewing her paintings, which almost jump out of the canvas. Sigal came from Rehovot, and started her artistic career as a sculptor. When she began to become more observant, she decided to stop sculpting because the images seemed to be too immodest, so she first started studying calligraphy, and then moved to painting. When she moved to Tzfat, she began to feel that her art was able to flourish because she was able to express her deepest emotions. "The heart is the artist of the soul" Sigal exclaims. "I want my art to be directed by my emotions, to be directed by my spirituality".
Sigal's art showcases the majestic nature and views of the north of Israel, the lanes and alleys of Tzfat, and some of the unique personalities who live in Tzfat. Yet with all her talk about spirituality and emotions, her perspective is very grounded, as her husband, Ya'akov, directs two of the largest charity organizations in Tzfat, Koach L'Tet ( which recycles used furniture and appliances for the needy) and Meor Panim (a soup kitchen which gives free meals to the impoverished of the town). Ya'akov Avni spends his day trying to help people in the most dire of circumstances, but his life is filled with art as well, in his case, music. Sigal acknowledges that the DNA of two artistic parents has passed down to the next generation - two of her five children show tremendous talent in painting, and two more are budding musicians.
The "cave" where Yosef Caro and the angel supposedly sat when writing the Shulhan Aruch is quiet and empty now - it is opened periodically for visitors, but not on a regular basis. However, the art being produced at the gallery next door is reason enough to call that corner of the Old City "magical".
To contact the Dadon gallery: [email protected]
Sigal's work can now also be viewed at her permanent exhibition on Alorzoroff Street, across from the Judith Gallery. She exhibits together with her husband, Ya'akov. They can be contacted at (052)607-6019.