This 1- 1.5 km. circular route takes about 2 hours and is recommended all year round. Take modest clothing suitable for visiting synagogues.

H.R tourist organization: tel. 04-6801465

Safed is a city of past and present, shrouded in an atmosphere of pale blue mystery. The number of upheavals it has seen, and the number of intriguing tales woven around it have equalled the (at least) 2000 years of its life. Safed was first mentioned in the writings of Yosef ben Matityahu as one of the Jewish settlements where beacons marking the beginning of each new month were lit. During the period of the Crusades, Safed was the site of fierce fighting and changed hands frequently between the crusaders and the Muslims. Even in later periods, the city underwent difficult times and suffered disasters, battles, epidemics and earthquakes, and yet, despite everything, survived. A Jewish community resided in Safed throughout this entire period, but its significant expansion and “golden age” only began in the 16th century. This walk will focus mainly on this period.

How to get there:

On Road 89, at the Ein Zeitim intersection, take the turning towards Safed and continue along Road 8900 until the Birya intersection. The main road continues on to Rosh Pina, but you will drive into Safed through its main entrance. Drive past the Egged bus station, take the first turning left at Palmah St. and then take a small turning right to Hativat Yiftah St. Drive until you find the parking spots close to the Metzuda Park on your right. Park here and begin the walk.

From the car park go up to the Metzuda Park where traces of Safed as it was prior to its 16th century revival are to be found. Here you’ll see the remains of crusader fortifications, testimony to the determination and ferocity with which its residents fought. A monument to the fallen of the War of Independence stands in the park. From the top of the hill you can look over towards the Kinneret. From this spot, you can understand the origin of the name Safed (Tzfat in Hebrew, from a word meaning ‘to look’) and appreciate the city’s special location at the heart of the Upper Galilee. To the west, the lower part of the Amud stream is visible, where springs flow all year round. The spring water served as drinking water, powered flourmills and was used for building water-powered installations for softening wool. This industry strengthened the economy of Safed in the 16thcentury and attracted new inhabitants, including many Jews expelled from Spain, who formed a community that was both rich in spiritual content and well established financially. After a short stay in the park, return to the beginning of the route and continue the route on foot. As you walk along Hativat Yiftah St. you will pass the municipal museum, and if you’re interested, go and pay a visit. From the back courtyard of the museum, walk down a flight of steps that will lead you to Yerushalayim St. then turn left and at the first fork in the road, turn right on to Bar Yohai St. Now you come to the Jewish quarter, most of which has been rebuilt. Continue on to Meginim Square and then right until you reach the courtyard in front of the Ari Synagogue in the Ashkenazi quarter. To a large extent the personality of the Ari, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi, stands at the very heart of Safed. His religious teachings, his moral standing, his wisdom and the heritage he left behind him are an integral part of the city to this very day. Many stories have been told about his ability to perceive hidden secrets. During his lifetime, the story goes, Jews used to wear their hats pulled low over their faces, because they believed that the Ari could read their hidden thoughts on their foreheads, which they therefore preferred to conceal… Here on the steps above the synagogue, the Ari and his disciples would stand and welcome the Sabbath. It’s well worth going into the synagogue (as well as the other synagogues mentioned below).

Continue along Shlomo Alkabetz Rd. and then wander along the alleyways, especially the narrow ones, which, in parts that haven’t yet been rebuilt, are typically painted in shades of blue. Why blue? To confuse the Satan - when he gazes over Safed, he will perceive the city as part and parcel of the blue heavens and therefore refrain from troubling it. According to a more mundane theory, flies cannot stand the colour blue, so they avoid the town. Yes, it really is a special city…

Continue along the narrow streets, following the signs to the Abuhav Synagogue, home to an ancient Torah scroll written by Rabbi Yitzhak Abuhav. The synagogue was almost totally destroyed in the disastrous earthquake of 1837, and only the southern wall, where the Torah scroll was kept, survived. According to legend, when they wanted to renovate the building and transfer the scroll temporarily to another synagogue, “The men purified themselves in a ritual bath and carried it there, but they did not survive the night and all died.” [Yeshayahu Ashani]

Make your way along Shlomo Alkabetz Rd., which eventually becomes Bet Yosef Rd. to get to ‘”Bet Yosef”, the synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Caro.

Rabbi Yosef Caro wrote the “Shulhan Aruch” in Safed, a compilation of all the laws, statutes and customs central to Judaism.

Continue to the Olei Hagardom stairway, where the Artists’ Colony is situated. It’s well worth a visit.

Return to your car, awaiting you at the Metzuda Park.

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