Safed is one of the four holy cities of Judaism, the others being Hebron, Jerusalem, and Tiberias. Hebron and Jerusalem are important for obvious reasons, with the one containing the sites of the biblical patriarchs and several matriarchs, and the other, of course, being the place of the temple. Tiberias became sacred beginning at the end of the second century, because this is where Babylonian Talmud was assembled and where the standard, vocalized text of the Hebrew Bible was established. Safed, on the other hand, became important as the center of Jewish mysticism after the fifteen century, when many influential rabbis settled there and where buried there.
Michael Crichton's The Source will remember how chapter 14, "The Saintly Men of Safed," portrayed Safed as a center of mystical Judaism and then how the second-to-last chapter recounted the strategic role it played in the 1948 War of Independence. At almost 3,000 feet, Safed is the highest city in Galilee and dominates the entire region. "Safed Blue," the color of heaven, is a common color found in the city and especially on the most important of tombs. Because we did not have a lot of time, and because the city is not particularly wheelchair-friendly, most of our time there was spent driving around the Old City, with Lindsay, Rachel, and I jumping out of the car sometimes to take pictures.
|Safed sits on the top of the mountains northwest of the Sea of Galilee|
|From Safed, one can see all the way down to the Sea of Galilee. Though the day is hazy, Tiberias actually appears in the arm of the sea as a cluster of white buildings|
|An abandoned building is a token of the 1948 War|
|The only resident of said building is a hyrax, known in the KJV as a "coney"|
|A building from the era of the British Mandate|
|Sefad remains an important center of orthodox and mystical Judaism. These young men were walking around with a golden banner that sported a crown and the title Mashiach, or "Messiah"|
|Stairs take the places of streets in many parts of old Sfat. In the British-era, one set of stairs (not necessarily these) divided the Arab section of the town from the Jewish portion.|
|This minaret is one of the last remaining signs of the once-vibrant Arab community|
|Old sections of the cemetery above, new below|
|Though some rabbis' and saints' tombs are centuries old, they are still kept painted Safed Blue|
|Hands in the position of blessing mark the grave of a kohen or priest|
|A felled tree often signifies someone who died young, cut off prematurely|
|Many graves are marked with a lamp|
|Aba and Ima graves mark "Father" and "Mother"|
|Well, at least Samuel was happy with the overpriced meal|
Because many sites close early on Friday afternoons in advance of Shabbat, we needed to quickly check into our guest house so that we could get into the Crusader Citadel before it closed.
|Rachel chasing a rooster in the Citadel gardens|
|One of the tunnels of the fortress|
We then walked through the Old Market, saw a Turkish-era khan or caravansery, and the famous Al-Jaeffer Mosque.
|The smell of seafood led Samuel to declare that "this was a bad store!"|
|Can you believe that we were able to wheel Mother through this? Three cheers for Lindsay|