Tuesday, December 15, 2015
|A large "Rabbi carrying a Torah scroll" statue on top of gallery in Zafed (Tzfat) - Israel's artist colony city in the north|
Northern Israel is a mix of different cultures. The most prominent is Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures living in close proximity. While the world around Israel seem to be literally burning, norther Israelis are trying to make a peaceful co-existence a daily routine. One outstanding example is the city of Tzfat (Safed). A small city at the very north of the country. Historically it holds a mystical place to Jewish Kabbalah followers. With a million immigrants from the former soviet republics, the city was designated as first an artists colony, then a tourist destination. Both efforts by the Israeli state left their mark. But unfortunately did not turn out as initially expected. Tzfat today has a small artist population and a few small hotels. To the Jewish Orthodox community it serves as a vacation spot in the north. Some tourism, both Jewish and Christian, make this one of their sites. We visited the city on a rainy Sunday morning. The city was almost deserted with very few tourists. A few art galleries were open and welcoming. A few restaurants were close to business, not expecting any diners. But the old city, with a series of old Jewish Synagogues and small art studios in renovated century old homes was wonderful. The attraction to Christian tourists is close proximity to many original Christian sites in the Galilee, most prominent the Sea of Galilee.Read More...
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
|Safed old city at a cold rainy afternoon, the tourists and locals are staying in...|
Winter rain in Israel keeps the locals indoors. Yesterday at Safed, a beautiful old city in the north, tourists were few and far between. Art studios were empty so one can linger and speak with the artists. Many restaurants did not bother to open, but the soup was hot and tables were easy to find. Israelis would not be considered daring cold weather people. Even when rains come in intermittent waves, walking the narrow streets of the old city was nice. Green hilly views all around were a refreshing break from Tel Aviv concrete jungle landscape. The old city goes back centuries. Some Jewish institutions (synagogues, yeshivas) are still attended by generation long family lines essentially making this city a testament for life here. The remains of the old city are made up of small homes, mostly two stories high with narrow streets. Built for foot traffic more than animal and machine (cars simply do not fit in these narrow streets). Safed was considered a center of Kabbalah teaching and writing since the 16th century (Jewish mysticism). A few restored old synagogues are a great peek into Jewish life here in the last few centuries. History of the city is a fascinating story reflecting the changes (and wars) in the Israeli upper Galilee region. With the Russian immigration during the 1990s the Israeli government encouraged artists to settle here. This accounts for a number of artist galleries open to tourists.