Thursday, May 17, 2007


Previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Beit Jann
Part 2: The Troubled Growth of Beit Jann
Part 3: Hiking Nahal Ktziv

(also spelled Zefat, Safet Tzfat, or Tsfas,) clings to a hill opposite Mount Meron. The city itself is considered Judaism's fourth holiest, after Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) as the holiest, Chevron (Hebron) the second holiest, and Tiberius (Tveryah) as the third. The main street in the city actually winds around the mountain, so it's not uncommon to go strolling down main street only to find, to your great surprise, that you are right back where you started out. It gives the feeling of having stepped through a wormhole, or as they called in on Star Trek, "A Crack in the space-time continuum."

While records date back to the 2nd century CE, the city achieved its holy status by merit the revelations of divine wisdom and mystical teachings which occurred here during the 15th and 16th centuries CE. After 1491 CE, as the great luminaries of Spain, having been expelled by the Spanish Inquisition, returned to the Jewish homeland, many found their way up to this then-remote hilltop and settled here.

The huge Chassidic population, mostly Lubavitchers and Breslovers gives it a reputation as Israel's foremost kabbalistic (mystical) city. This also makes it a magnet for hippies, dreamers, and drifters. The green, breezy, setting with breathtaking vistas in all directions, from the Kinnerret (Sea of Galilee) to Mount Meron, and into Lebanon, give it a relaxing, if somewhat removed feel.

All right, this blog entry is starting to sound like I'm reading the label off a bottle of champagne. Here are the photos:

Boker tov! Good morning! Looking out my window first thing.

The Taggart fort.

Built by the British during the later period of their occupation of the Land of Israel, as a sort of last gasp, taggart forts dot the landscape. This one, in Tsfat, has been covered with Jerusalem stone, the watchtower turned into a clocktower, and the building transformed into a community center.

There is an additonal taggart fort in Latrun, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which now serves as a museum for the Israel Armored Corps. There are also Tagart Forts inherited by the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah and Jericho, which serve as "police" stations for the ruling warlords.

Tsfat's only overpass. It's a pretty sleepy little town.
Making some last purchases before Shabbat.
The Davidka, an improvised mortar which saved the city from the Arab invasion in 1948. A wreath is laid about it's barrel from Independence Day.

Some Yeshivah boys hanging out and smoking before Shabbat.

Don't take my picture!
Lubavitch Chassidim putting tefillin (prayer box thingees that Jews are obligated to put on once a day) on passers by who might not ordinarily have the opportunity.

The streets empty of cars as Shabbat (sabbath) approaches.
More yeshivah boys, flopped over a war memorial.
The Tsfat College. This was one of the original buildings of the city, constructed as a hospital with donations from the Rothschilds.
The door the inn where I stayed.

More pictures from the top of the hill coming soon...

1 comment:

David said...

Just read "Exodus" Leon Uris and I'm delighted to find photos of the places in the novel.