Zfat: A City of Hebraic Tradition
It is impossible to tell the story of Israel without telling the story of the Jewish people. To tell this story through attractions, one would be doing a disservice without including the amazing synagogues of Zfat, one of the four holy cities in Jewish tradition, which has been central to its history since the times of the Maccabees to this very day. Zfat has a unique religious atmosphere that not even the multicultural and partly secular Jerusalem can offer; it is a city of uncompromising religiosity, which makes it interesting both for Jewish travelers who want to discover their heritage and for non-Jew travelers who want to experience true Jewish culture.
Where Jewish History Comes to Life
The city of Zfat is considered to be the capitol of the upper Galilee area, and for a good reason: though small, Zfat has upwards of a one and a half thousand people per square mile, and that’s not even counting the booming tourism scene in the city.
Established in 8th century B.C. by Jewish settlers, Zfat has been through a lot. It is one of the four holy cities of Judaism, and contains graves of Tzdikim, holy people, as well as more synagogues than any other city in Israel.
The most beautiful synagogue you should visit is the Abouhab temple. This temple has been eracted in the early 16th century, and when Zfat was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century it was one of the only synagogues to leave a remnant: its southern wall has been preserved completely, and the temple was built anew and resurrected to its former glory. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and emotionally thrilling synagogues in the world, and is well worth a visit.
Another worthwhile synagogue is The Spanish Ha’Ari synagogue, one of the best preserved temples in Israel. Dating back to the 14th century, it is considered a place of intimate connection with Jewish tradition and with people like the Ari, Rabi Isaac Luria, who used to pray there. The most exciting element of this temple’s history, though, is that it is considered to be a place where the prophet Eliahu (Elijah) himself has prayed before God. So you know that when you pray there, you are in very good company.
The beauty of Zfat is not limited to the synagogues, though. This city itself has many beautiful ancient streets, and a visit is not complete without taking a walk to see the marvels of Zfat. So after seeing the sites, keep some free time for roaming.
What to eat: Ha’Ari 8 stands in close vicinity to the synagogue and the entrance to Z’fat. Kosher and nutritious, this is a great place to get into Israeli cooking. Ha’ari street 8.
Where to sleep: Ruth Rimonim hotel is located in a partly restored building with some relics from Z’fat of old. A beautiful, relaxing hotel with great service.