American Laurie Rappeport lives in Safed, Israel’s “City of Kabbalah”. She takes us on a tour of this historic town where ancient Jewish traditions mingle with a modern expat lifestyle.
When I came to live in Safed (www.zissil.com/topics/safed) in 1985 I was attracted by the friendly, small town atmosphere and the mountain beauty. Now, almost 30 years later, I find myself living in the midst of historic Old Safed and appreciate my life here even more.
When I walk up to my bank I pass 500-year-old buildings which were buried by earthquakes but still stand underneath the newer buildings that have been built on top of the ruins.
READ MORE: Teva Milky Way Camp, Jordan
Walking my dogs, we wander around the Crusader fortress that still sits on the city’s Citadel.
A trip to the supermarket allows me to push my cart alongside my neighbors who represent a wide spectrum of Jewish traditions and customs including people from the Hassidic, Yemenite, Sephardic and Ethiopian communities.
And oh yes, many of us American expats.
A perfect day for me is one in which I can show off my city to a visitor. Since Safed, known as the “City of Kabbalah” is becoming more and more popular among travelers who want to explore traditional Judaism and Jewish mysticism, I am often able to indulge myself and guide my visitor on a tour of Safed.
There are several old synagogues in Safed and each has its own story. I try to take visitors to the Yosef Caro synagogue first because the caretaker often closes the synagogue for several hours in the afternoon when he goes home for a nap.
On the western edge of the Old City, we can see the ancient Safed cemetery. According to tradition, if a Jew prays at the tomb of a sage for 40 consecutive days,a request will be answered.
One of the graves in the cemetery is the resting place of the ARI — Rabbi Isaac Luria. The ARI was a great Kabbalist who refined the study of Jewish mysticism to its present-day discipline in which students study the secrets of the Kabbalah to learn how to strengthen their relationship with God and with their fellow man.
The cemetery itself is quiet and peaceful with thousands of graves of great rabbinical leaders alongside those of simple people. I take my visitors down to the ARI’s gravesite (above) to say a psalm, a short prayer or simply to experience the gentle winds and holy atmosphere.
For a mid-day break I bring my guests to Ronen’s Lachuch (www.safed.co.il/Lachuch.html), a Yemenite eatery across the lane from the Tourist Information Center. Lachuch is a type of savory pancake which is cooked with vegetable slices, spices and salty Safed goats cheese sprinkled on top.
This is the only Lachuch eatery in the country and it’s a treat — we can either roll up the lachuch and take it with us or eat it on a platter with olives and vegetables.
On an afternoon stroll we can visit the Ari Ashkanazi synagogue next to the Safed Candle Shop. The Ari Ashkanazi was originally named the “Girigos Synagogue” in honor of the Jews of Girigos, Greece, who settled in Safed after having escaped from the Spanish Inquisition.
As the sun sets above Mt. Meron to the west of Safed I would end the day on the Citadel, amongst the Crusader Fortress ruins, to enjoy the sunset over the Meron Mountain Range.
Afterwards, the selection of restaurants along Safed’s main street, Jerusalem Street, which rings the Citadel will allow us to select any type of eatery in which to enjoy our dinner. All of Safed’s restaurants are kosher.
Laurie Rappeport has lived in Safed (www.safed-home.com) for over 25 years and worked at the Tourist Information Center in the Old Jewish Quarter for 13 years. She continues to be involved in a wide range of projects which are aimed at bringing visitors toSafed to enjoy the religious, historical, cultural and artistic sites and experiences that the city has to offer.
Have you spent a perfect day in Safed, or another historic city in Israel? Tell us about it in the comments below!