Double Aliyah ב"ה
My husband and I made aliyah from Toronto, Canada to Beit Shemesh in August, 2001. After eight years there, we made a second ‘ aliyah’ to Tzfat (Safed, Zfat, Sfas etc.) Not only did we ascend the Galilee mountains, but we also ‘went up’ to one of the four Holy Cities of Israel. It is the only one of the Four Holy Cities that is almost all Jewish. The others, Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias, have significant Arab and Christian populations.
Why Tzfat? We went for the ‘avir’ and the ‘avirah’ -- the mountain air and the spiritual atmosphere.
Tzfat is an ancient city, steeped in Jewish tradition – particularly as the source of kabbalah and mysticism. It is here that the Arizal lived and taught the Kabbalah. He prayed in the Ari Sephardic Shul (next door to where we live!) . Each year, thousands of people come to immerse in the Ari’s mikve and to visit the gravesites of the Ari and the many other tzadikim who are buried in the ancient cemetery. Chanah and her Seven Sons, of the Chanukah story, are also buried here.
This is the place where Kabbalat Shabbat began, and the sounds of L’Cha Dodi were and still are sung out in courtyards under the open sky. It is also the location of the Cave of Shem and Ever, the first yeshiva in the world, founded by the son and grandson of Noah.
The charming Old City is similar to the Old City of Jerusalem, with its narrow, cobblestone alleyways, and old stone houses.
The clear mountain air is important to us. For health reasons, I need a cleaner air quality than is available than in either Beit Shemesh or Jerusalem. Also, the sunset views over Meron Mountain that we see from our living room are a never-ending source of beauty and awe.
History is interesting, and inspirational; but, it is the day to day living that is important when considering a place to live. There are shuls all over the town, each catering to a different community of Jews – Breslov, Lubavitch, Sanz, Yeshivat Hesder, Carlbach, Kosov and more. There are programs for Jews at all levels of learning, including those who are just beginning to learn about traditional Judaism. Classes are held in Hebrew and in English for men and for women. There are also shiurim where men and women study together.
A very important and beautiful aspect of Tzfat is that the various communities respect one other. The religious groups get along with each other, as well as with Jews of differing levels of observance. The unfortunate acrimony between religious and secular Jews that exits in some other Israeli cities is rarely seen in Tzfat.
Besides religious studies, there are art classes, music programs and lectures on alternative therapies. The city is a great source of creativity -- home to artists, musicians and writers. There is a famous artists’ colony, and the annual three-day Klezmer music festival that is held each summer.
Tzfat is a small town of 25,000 people, about 5- 10% of whom are Anglos. The community is warm and welcoming. Not only is Tzfat a great place to visit, but we are delighted that we live here!