Safed, in Hebrew is “Safed,” from the word “tsofeh,” “scout.” It refers to the city’s unique place perched on a steep slope high in the Galilean hills. One of the four holy cities in Israel, Safed represents the element of air. (Hebron represents earth, Jerusalem fire, and Tiberias water.) According to the Zohar, its pure mountain air is also the holiest in Israel.

Sources date the city back to the time of Joshua ben Nun (1355- 1245 BCE) and archeological findings confirm dwellings back to the Second Temple era.

Safed grew with an influx of refugees from the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th-century, when it reached its zenith as a center of study of Torah and Kabbalah. After a massive earthquake in 1834 that killed thousands of Safed’s inhabitants and destroyed many of the buildings, only a small community remained. But the city was soon rejuvenated by early Chassidim who settled in its holy environs.

Abuhav Synagogue

Established in the 16th century by Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav of Spain, the synagogue houses an ancient Torah scroll written by the holy Rabbi Abuhav himself.

The synagogue’s origins are also the stuff of legend; it is said to have been moved mystically by the power of Rabbi Suliman Ochana from Spain to Safed. Much of the original building was destroyed, however, with the earthquake of 1759, and again in the earthquake of 1837. The Abuhav synagogue was the first synagogue the Italian philanthropist Rabbi Yitzchak Goyatos (Guetta) rebuilt in the 1840s. Its reconstruction was done with the help of the greatest architects in Israel, and with consideration for the original design.

Ari Ashkenazic Synagogue

Built on the spot where it is said that the Ari and his holiest disciples gathered every Friday to greet the holy Shabbat Queen as she entered the city, the synagogue was built many years later. It became known as the Ashkenazi Ari Shul because chasidim from Eastern Europe comprised its congregation in the 18th century

The synagogue is known for its beautiful Holy Ark, intricately carved from olive wood by a Galician craftsman in the beginning of the 19th century. A small gouge in the lectern was caused by flying shrapnel during the War of Independence, from a bomb that exploded in the courtyard just as the congregation prostrated themselves out of harm’s way during the silent Amidah prayer.

Childless couples have often prayed for the blessing of children on the legendary Elijah’s chair in the back of the synagogue.

Ari Sefardic Synagogue

The most ancient standing synagogue in Safed, the Ari Sefardic synagogue, was originally built in the 14th-century. It is said that the Ari frequented it, not only to pray, but to study with Elijah the Prophet in a small alcove in the eastern wall. The synagogue’s interior was designed according to Kabbalah. There are four Holy Arks, six steps to the bimah (lectern), a white marble floor and light blue walls, each number and color signifying a kabbalistic concept.

The durably built synagogue was used as a defense position in the War of Independence (1948), when the Torahs were removed and fortifications were set up on the roof of the building.

Today, it is once again a place of Torah learning, and a small group of men study there all day in a kollel (yeshiva for advanced studies).

Artist’s Colony

In its narrow stone streets, artists from all over the world have gathered to this corner of Safed’s Old City to be inspired by its innate spirituality and stunning views.

Ascent of Safed

The Chabad-affiliated Ascent program, established in Safed in 1983 by American émigrés eager to help wandering and wondering tourists, has become synonymous with the recent mystical rejuvenation in the city of Safed.

Now housed in a former hotel, the Ascent Hostel can host some eightyfive weary travelers. It is a place of spiritual as well as physical revitalization, and visitors are offered a number of classes and courses on mysticism and Judaism. Ascent’s array of programs is highlighted by an inspiring Shabbat program culminating in a concert on Saturday night by a local band. Travelers in search of the sacred don’t mention the old city without some further reference to its spiritual steward, Ascent.

Cave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

The white-domed roof of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the seminal Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, is one of the most beloved destinations in the world for Jewish pilgrims.

Tens of thousands of people stream to the tomb on Lag BaOmer, the traditional death date of Rabbi Shimon. They sing, dance, light bonfires, feast and study Kabbalah. Many have the custom to give their threeyear old boys their first haircut at this holy spot.

A disciple of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid from the Roman authorities with his son in a cave for thirteen years where they were miraculously nourished by a carob tree and a stream of water. They merited frequent visits of Elijah the Prophet who revealed to them the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah.

A path from the southern part of his tomb complex leads to a cave and the spring of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The cave is also known as the Cave of Hillel, according to a 12th-century tradition identifying a tomb in it as that of Rabbi Hillel the Elder. According to tradition, only the righteous could witness a miracle in the cave: the sudden appearance of water. When such people beheld this event, their prayer requests would be answered.

Chanah and Her Seven Sons

One of the great heroines of the Chanukah story (in 151 BCE), Chanah inculcated her children with such a love of G-d that they were willing to die at the hands of the Syrian emperor Antiochus rather than bow down in service of his idols. Antiochus tried to fool the youngest and last surviving son by throwing his ring in front of the idol and asking the child to retrieve it. The child, too, steadfastly refused and was killed in front of his mother’s eyes; she then jumped to her death from the rooftop.

Chassidic Shuls

Built by emissaries of the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (1789-1866) in 1858, Chabad’s Tzemach Tzedek Shul is among several very old chassidic shuls tucked around the cobblestone alleys of the Old City. Several other chassidic groups including Breslov, Chernobyl (Skver), Chortkov, KarlinStolin, Nadvorna, Kossov, and Lelov are represented by 200-year-old plus congregations still active today.

Genesis Land

Situated in the heart of the Judean Desert, Genesis Land provides the weary traveler with the opportunity to be transported back to the times of Abraham the Patriarch. The Book of Genesis springs to life in all of its vibrant color as you enjoy the warm hospitality of 65 “Abraham” and his household, in a specially prepared tent. All visitors are moved, looking out over the haunting beauty and solitude of the desert as night begins to fall.

Mount Meron

The highest mountain in the Galil at more then 4,000 feet, Meron gets its fame on account of the many great Kabbalists and Talmudic sages buried on it. On the mountain are the remains of one of the oldest synagogues in the country, dating back to the time of the Second Temple. It has three entrance gates all facing in the direction of Jerusalem.

The large domed building is the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who lived in the 2nd century CE, and his son Rabbi Elazar. There are also the gravesites of the great Mishnaic sages Hillel and Shamai, as well as their students. Up to the right is the burial place of Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar.

Otzar HaStam Museum

The Otzar HaStam Museum educates visitors about the craft of the Sofer Stam. The Sofer utilizes intricate calligraphy and specially prepared parchments to produce various ritual Jewish scrolls including Torah scrolls, mezuzas, and tefillin, phylacteries. The interactive tour provides an inside view of the work of the Sofer Stam, explaining the significance of their work and mystical insight into the ancient Hebrew alphabet.

Our Heroes

Israeli soldiers wounded in battle have made enormous sacrifices on behalf of Israel and the Jewish People worldwide. Chabad’s Terror Victims Project volunteers visit them, providing laptop computers so they can stay in touch with friends all over and arranging trips of a lifetime.

These trips take them to countries they would never have the opportunity to see, and learn skills such as skiing, which seem impossible given their disabilities.

CTVP has great faith in these soldiers and knows that with help and support, they can achieve great things even with their disabilities. The emotional and psychological impact of these trips is enormous as they meet people the world over who show their love and respect for these true heroes of the Jewish People.

Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz

Born in Salonika, Greece, at the beginning of the 16th century, the holy Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (1500–1580) was a great scholar. At an early age he authored the first of many important works, Manot HaLevi, a commentary on Megilat Esther, and presented it to his father-in-law as a gift in honor of his wedding. He reached Safed around the age of thirty-five, and once there, formed the group of mystical disciples who would later come under the influence of the holy Ari, including Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (who later married his sister), and Rabbi Yosef Karo.

He is most famous for composing the mystical poem “Lecha Dodi,” the highlight of the Friday night liturgy, which calls the congregation to meet the Shabbat Queen with the joyous refrain: “Come out my beloved, the bride, to meet /The presence of Shabbat, let us greet!”

Rabbi Yosef Karo Synagogue

A devoted mystic as well as a brilliant and systematic halachic authority, Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) arrived in Safed from Turkey some time after the expulsion from Spain. In Safed, he served as chief rabbi and head of the rabbinic court. His halachic compendium, Beit Yosef, was highly regarded around the Jewish world. He later summarized the entire body of Jewish law in his work, the Shulchan Aruch, the foundation of the Code of Jewish Law recognized by all to the present day.

Built in the 16th century of marble and stone, the building was a great synagogue and a center of learning until the earthquake of 1759, after which it was rebuilt as a more modest structure. Early chassidic settlers to the holy city took residence in the synagogue in the 1770s and stayed there through the earthquake of 1837.

Rabbi Yitzchak Goyatos (Guetta), the Italian philanthropist, donated greatly to rebuilding the synagogue as a house of study, and it bears the same type of Italian marble floors of the Abuhav and Ari synagogues.

Reb Yisrael Aryeh Leib Schneerson (1909-1951)

The brother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Yisrael Aryeh Leib Schneerson was a child prodigy and maintained a life-long intense yearning for study. Coupled with his phenomenal memory, he was known for his unique insight in Torah as well as math theory.

With the spread of Communism, the Rebbe’s brother moved to Berlin, Germany, and subsequently to the Holy Land in the early 1930s. Reb Aryeh Leib passed away while pursuing his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at the University of Liverpool, England, and was returned to his beloved homeland to be buried in the Chabad section of the ancient cemetery of Safed.

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