Glimpses of Israel - Tzefat

Located in the mountains of Naphtali, in upper Galilee, just east of Mt Meron and several kilometres NW of Lake Kinneret lies the highest city in Israel, Tzefat, or Safed. Its links with Jerusalem and the children of Israel are significant and mystical.

The city was first established following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. And then, following the expulsion of the Jewish population from Spain in 1492, when thousands fled to Tzefat the small upper Galilee village became a city of importance, again.

It was in Tzefat, during this period, that some of Israel's greatest spiritual leaders and thinkers emerged; Rabbi Moses Cordovero and Rabbi Isaac Luria were two. Another, Joseph Caro was the last great codifier of rabbinic law. He lived in Tzefat from 1536 to 1575 during which time he wrote the codifier entitled, Shulhan Aruk . Tzefat grew rapidly during the 16th century as many came seeking the wisdom of the learned men and teachers. It was in Tzefat, in 1578, that the first Hebrew book was printed in Israel.

The Jewish community, in Tzefat, steadily declined through the centuries because of earthquakes, famines and regular Arab attacks. Finally, in 1929 the Arabs forced them to leave. However, the Jewish community returned following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when Tzefat was restored to Israel.

Today Tzefat provides a vital link to the past. Enter the narrow alleyways and streets where spiritual men long ago danced to the singing of the Psalms. See the quaint, dusty buildings where learned men moved rhythmically in prayer and gathered to study the Word of God in the early hours of the morning. The many museums and synagogues provide a window in times past, while a thriving community of artists produce ceramics and crafts for tourists and visitors.