Glimpses of Israel - Safed

by Joseph Hunting

Although Safed is not mentioned in the Bible it is one of the most important towns in northern Galilee. Safed, also called Tsefat, is located on Mt. Canaan just north and west of the Sea of Galilee. I recall an evening in 1960 by the shores of Lake Kinneret which is about 800 feet below sea level. The sun had set and dusk had already shrouded the shores of Kinneret. The last rays of the setting sun illumined the buildings of Safed high above on Mt. Canaan. I recalled the words of the Messiah: "A city set on a hill cannot be hid."

On the other hand the views from Safed are spectacular. On a clear day Lake Kinneret is like a blue sapphire shaped like a harp. To the north is a magnificent vista of the Huleh valley, and beyond Mt. Hermon lifts its massive snow clad peak that is Israel's most northern boundary.

Safed is remembered for its rabbis who lie buried nearby. The first printing press in the Middle East, and indeed all Asia, operated in Safed and in 1578 the first Hebrew book was printed.

Safed abounds with art galleries tucked away in secluded narrow alleyways. In 1948 a small bank of Jewish fighters attacked the strongly defended Arab town of Safed. The Jewish soldiers had a weapon aptly named "Davidka". It was a home-made mortar which was more feared for its noise than effectiveness. A fortuitous clap of thunder accompanied the firing of the Davidka. The startled Arab garrison fled. Today the Davidka is Israel's war memorial in Safed.