Tzfat Old City & Artist Quarter
One of Judaism's four holy cities of Israel, picturesque Tzfat is a crucial stop on your tour of the Holy Land. The Old City here dates back to the 16th century, when Tzfat was the mystical and spiritual center of the Land of Israel. The charming mountaintop neighborhood features cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, medieval synagogues and cemeteries, and compelling contemporary art galleries.
Visit the old Turkish headquarters of Tzfat, called the Saraya. It was originally built by a Bedouin Sheikh for his own family's residence, but it later became the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire's government in the city. It was attacked in Israel's War of Independence by Lehi fighters and was rebuilt after the war. Today the building serves as a community center.
During the British Mandate period, the city of Tzfat was divided into Arab and Jewish neighborhoods by a large staircase going all the way up the hill. You can still see this staircase today. Nearby is a model of the Davidka canon, which was used to defend the city of Tzfat from the region's Arab armies during the War of Independence of 1948. The homemade mortar made lots of noise and scared the enemy, despite the fact that it was extremely inaccurate.
To walk in the footsteps of the mystical and rabbinical leaders of 16th century Tzfat, visit the Ari Synagogue. Learn about Jewish mysticism (kabbalah) and the miraculous survival of the synagogue during the War of Independence. The Abuhav Synagogue is home to a medieval Torah scroll as well as three holy arks. See original manuscripts dating back hundreds of years at the Yosef Caro Synagogue, named after the compiler of the famous Shulchan Aruch (medieval code of Jewish law, still in use today).
Many artists have made their homes in the winding alleyways of Tzfat and have opened galleries to sell their work in the Artists' Quarter. Stroll past galleries displaying every possible medium, from photography, painting, micro calligraphy, sculpture, and ceramics to jewelry design and Judaica.