Thursday, August 22, 2013

Safed (Tzfat). . .

Downtown Safed.
Our adventures took us to Safed (Tzfat), a northern Israeli mountain town at 3,000 feet elevation. It is the highest settlement in all of Israel -- and as this country boasts everywhere, the "ancient" town dates back to the 12th Century, even earlier. Safed is considered one of Israel's "holy cities" and is a center of Jewish mysticism called "Kabbalah". Even with its ancient roots, Safed is a busy city, full of shops, religious study and diverse "ethnic" groups of people.

A Diverse Ethnic City.
We were up early this morning and made our way to the bus stop on Ben Gurion Road as before. A free shuttle took us to the "northern bus depot" and we boarded a city bus for Safed. It takes about 2 hours to get there. Along the way we passed through a number of towns and villages -- first along the Mediterranean and then east along Highway 85. The last stop was Safed. At first glance, the city doesn't look very inviting, but as we walked along Jerusalem Road toad the center of town, an abundance of shops began to reveal themselves. By the time we walked through a good part of the city the streets were full of shoppers, traffic and passers-by.

Jonathan darmon and Self
His work is an expression of a
"Touch of Spirit"
Our first goal to find the "old artist colony". It's a quaint street full of shops with arts and crafts. Many of the shops are owned and operated by the artists themselves, something I like much more than the mass-produced artwork so many tourist places offer elsewhere.  As we entered the "colony" I recalled visiting the artist studio of Jonathan Darmon. His studio is the first on the street so it was easy to find. As we entered his studio I recognized him immediately (I had visited and met him on my first trip to Israel in 2007). We had a wonderful visit as we recalled our previous meeting. I'm sure he didn't remember me, but he kept that "to himself". His artwork is known the world over and is an exquisite expression of his proclaimed "touch of spirit".  It is beautiful work.

The "artist colony".
We wandered through the rest of the colony looking in a variety of shops and talking with many of the artists. At one point, we ventured off a bit and found a delightful "boutique winery" run by a family of religious Jews. Their balcony boasted a view of the surrounding hillside and city. It was extraordinary. We enjoyed a glass of wine as we discussed a variety of social and religious issues and concepts. It was a fascinating exchange of ideas, something we'll all remember for a long while.

We found our way back into the city itself and started walking along what appeared to be the main street. As we got deeper into Safed, the neighborhood started to change. Quite by accident we had wondered into the "religious" Jewish Quarter. All the shops were open and busy as "orthodox" families hurried here and there. It was getting a bit late, so we decided to make our way back to the bus station and then to Haifa. 

Linda was convinced that, if we continued walking "straight", we'd find the station. A street sign had said "City Entrance" so she reasoned that, if we came in "that way", we'll go back "that way".  She was absolutely right!!  It turns out that the street had made a huge "circle" and we were able to find the beginning by going to the "end". It was the ultimate proof of "circular reasoning"!! It was a great walk as we discovered a part of town not seen, we think, by many tourists.

Today was a perfect day of exploration. We discovered so much of Israel we hadn't seen before. Safed was a joy to explore and the higher altitude made for perfect, and cooler, weather.