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A Truly Unique Experience: Visiting the Enchanting Safed

Posted by Gil Travel on Feb 5, 2019 7:25:00 AM

A Truly Unique Experience Visiting the Enchanting Safed header

For your escorted tour to Israel, we recommend visiting this gem located in the Upper Galilee. Safed is visited by countless people every year who come for its beautiful sites and spiritual atmosphere. Safed was mentioned in a text as early as the 1st century CE, but not much is known before the Crusader conquest in 1099. The city had been occupied by many different forces, each one merging their culture and architecture with the existing ones, thus creating a magnificently rich and unique place of historical sites, diversity, and a growing art community.

The Old City and the Citadel

The Old City is famous as the birthplace of Kabbalah. It’s the center of art and Jewish culture,as well as the center of the city’s 16th-century architecture. Wander through its winding cobblestone streets, check out the local galleries, visit the marvelous old synagogues, and try some traditional foods. After that, take a rest in the Citadel – a beautiful, historically significant park, which contains the remnants of a Crusader castle. Since Safed is Israel’s highest city, and the Citadel is Safed’s highest point, you are guaranteed an awe-inspiring sunrise scene, as well as fascinating views of the Sea of Galilee and the mountains of the Upper Galilee.

The Saraya and the Red Mosque

For more history and culture, visit these two amazing places. The Saraya was built in the mid-1700s by a Bedouin Sheik of the Galil. In the late 1800s, it became ‘Saraya’ (headquarters or center) of the Turkish government, and the clock tower was added in 1900. Today, it houses the Wolfson Center, the Noam synagogue, a music conservatory, and a museum dedicated to the pre-Holocaust life of Hungarian Jews. Built in 1276, the Red Mosque (or the Red Khan) is one of Israel’ oldest Mameluke buildings. It was constructed in the Egyptian architectural style, with its impressive stone gateway and the original inscription in the stonework. Its minaret, unfortunately, collapsed in an earthquake. Today, the Red Mosque is an art and culture center.

Great Stairs and Midrachov

Originally built during the British Mandate period as a heavily-guarded boundary between the Arab and the Jewish Quarters, the Great Stairs now form a path from the Artists’ Quarter and its galleries to the Old City and its synagogues. They will also take you to the Midrachov street where the antiquity, the modernity, and the art meet and merge to present various galleries, ancient passageways, shops, cafes, and the spectacular views of Mount Meron and the countryside.

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Ancient Synagogues

The Great Stairs will lead you to many historic synagogues. The Ari Sephardic Synagogue is the oldest in Safed and was a favorite prayer site for Rabbi Isaac Luria in the 16th century. He also prayed the Kabbalat Shabbat service in the 16th-century Ashkenazi HaAri Synagogue, home to the Holy Ark crafted from olive wood. Another beautifully restored 16th-century synagogue you ought to visit is the Yosef Caro Synagogue, after which we recommend the Abuhav Synagogue built in 1490, home to the oldest Torah scroll in Safed, as well as the Tzaddik HaLavan Synagogue, which was built above Rabi Bannai’s gravesite.

Artists’ Quarter

Some of the most amazing contemporary creatives are situated in the historic Arab Quarter, also known as the Artists’ Quarter. This city especially draws those who are fascinated by the spiritual realm of art. There are artists and craftspeople of all kinds here, including painters, photographers, sculptors, cartoonists, mural painters, micro-calligraphers, silversmiths, weavers, potters, silverwork, jewelry, and glasswork creators, and many more. Since many of the artists live and work in the Quarter’s old buildings, you can enter open studios to observe them creating their masterpieces, visit the many galleries, or join workshops and conversations with the artists.

HaMeiri House

The HaMeiri House tells the story of Safed and its Jewish community over the last two hundred years. Its founder, Yehezkel Hameiri, spent thirty years restoring the building so that visitors can see a different aspect of the community’s history on each floor. In the museum’s center are two large hundred-and-fifty-year-old halls housing paintings, images, documents, utensils, etc. In the rest of the museum, you’ll find numerous tools, art pieces, ritual objects, what used to be the first Hebrew school in Safed, the Reconstructed Room showing a typical home in this city, and many other valuables.

Miriam’s Well Art Gallery

Located in the Old City, Miriam’s Well Art Gallery was founded on the idea of peace and coexistence by Judy Paikin, a ceramic artist, and Chaya Ben Baruch, a stained glass artist. Soon two more women joined them, bringing their creativity to the team: Jodi Sugar, an award-winning photographer, and Rita Ackert, a jeweler who creates silver clay jewelry using a unique technique that allows her to create pieces that are .99% silver. The goal of this women’s cooperative is to offer a place for women to express themselves through any form of art they enjoy, and to provide a place for their work to be sold. They also represent musicians, authors, and graphic designers, among others.

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