At 800 meters above sea level, Tzfat is Israel’s highest city, nestled in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. It is one of the four cities holy to Judaism, the others being Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. About 4,000 years old, Tzfat is first mentioned by Josephus Flavius (1st century CE historian) when he describes the rebellion of the Jews against the Romans. Tzfat is also mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as being one of the Jewish settlements where signal torches were lit to mark holy days and the beginning of each month. Later in history it became known as a center for Kabbalah sages. Tzfat’s picturesque alleyways, historical sites, mystical synagogues, along with the pleasant, cool climate and the impressive views which surround it –combine to make this a most attractive city.
From Akko (Acre) take Road 85 eastbound to Road 866, which becomes Road 89 at Meron Junction. Take Road 89 to Biriya Junction. The main road continues on to Rosh Pina, but takes the main entrance into Tzfat. Pass the Egged bus terminal and take the first left turn into Hapalmach St., then a right turn into Hativat Yiftach St. Continue to the parking bays at the side of the road next to Citadel Park (Gan Hametzuda) on the right. Leave the car here and continue on foot.
Citadel Park surrounds the ruins of old Tzfat, which predate its reconstruction in the 16th century. A monument at the citadel commemorates the fallen from the War of Independence. The top of the citadel affords an excellent view of the Sea of Galilee. To the west is the lower part of Ammud River, whose springs have been used for drinking, operating flour mills and to power machinery to soften wool. Tzfat’s wool industry was founded in the 16th century by exiled Spanish Jews who settled here and helped build an affluent and spiritually active community.
Return to the beginning of the path and continue on foot into Hativat Yiftach St., where you will pass-and may wish to visit-the Municipal Museum. Stairs at the back will take you down to Jerusalem St. Turn left there, and at the first fork takes Bar Yochai St. on the right into the reconstructed Jewish Quarter.
Walk as far as Hamagenim (Defenders’) Square and take a right, leading to the plaza in front of Ha’ari Synagogue in the Ashkenazi Quarter-named for one of Tzfat’s most legendary figures, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi. His rulings, morals, wisdom and legacy can still be felt today. The steps above the synagogue were where the rabbi and his students greeted the Sabbath. The synagogue is well worth a visit, as are others mentioned here.
Through Shlomo Alkabetz St. you will reach Tzfat’s famous alleys and be able to visit the Tzfat Kabbalah visitors’ Center located in number 28 Alkabetz st.. Among the narrower ones and those not renovated, the many shades of blue are most notable. Why blue? To remind us that we should live spiritual life – bringing Heaven down to Earth.
Wander through the alleys, following the signs to Abuhab Synagogue, where there is an ancient Sefer Torah written by the teacher and sage Rabbi Abuhab. Legend has it that in the severe earthquake of 1837 this synagogue was almost totally destroyed, except for the south wall where the Sefer Torah was.
Further along Shlomo Alkabetz St.-which later changes its name to Bet Yosef St.-you will come to Bet Yosef, the synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Caro. It was here that he compiled the Shulchan Aruch, which is central to Judaism, combining all rulings, customs and laws. Ma’alot Olei Hagardom St. will bring you to the Artists’ Quarter, where a visit is certainly recommended. From here return to the car in Citadel Park.
Duration of tour: Approximately 2 hours
Distance of tour: Approximately 1-1.5 kilometers
Recommended season: All year
Equipment required: Modest dress for synagogues
Remarks: The route brings you full circle to your car