Tzfat (also spelled Safed) is a small town in Northern Israel, situated 3,200 feet above sea level in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. Tzfat is one of Judaism’s four holy cities, the other three being Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hebron.
Tzfat has a colorful history. According to Jewish tradition Shem and Ever, son and grandson of Noah, established a school in Tzfat where the patriarch Jacob later studied. Later, the city became famous for being the home to many Torah scholars and Jewish mystics—a place of deep spirituality. Famed Jewish mystics including the holy Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz who authored the Lecha Dodi prayer, and Rabbi Yosef Karo who authored the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) all lived, studied and taught Torah there.
The history of scholarship and spirituality continued throughout the ages. Notably, Tzfat was the location where the first printing press in the Middle East began operating in 1578. It was used to publish the first Hebrew book printed in Israel, enabling words of Torah to spread to more people. Tzfat also is thought to play a significant role in the future of the Jewish people. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will come from Tzfat before continuing on to Jerusalem.
The physical atmosphere in Tzfat complements the sense of spirituality that has always permeated and defined the city. According to Jewish mystical sources, Tzfat is associated with air. Fittingly, Tzfat is perched high above sea level, enabling its inhabitants and visitors to enjoy fresh mountain air and incredible views of the Golan Heights to the east, the Hermon Mountain and Lebanon to the north, Mt. Meron and the Amud Valley to the west, and Tiberias and the beautiful Sea of Galilee to the south. Beautiful forests are also situated just outside of Tzfat, adding to the mystical feeling.
In the quaint Old City of Tzfat, visitors can enjoy wandering in the winding alleyways, visiting eclectic artists’ galleries, and viewing the many ancient synagogues, Jewish ritual baths, and the ancient cemetery where many renowned rabbis and great Jewish thinkers are buried.