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December 22, 1978 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-12-22

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Mystical History of Safed Is Preserved
in Remains of Ancient Synagogues There

mystic who fathered the
Kabalist movement.
Time stands still in Safed, Ari-Kodesh, the Holy
a weathered city of an- Ark, is resplendent with
tiquity, with its crooked, intricately carved fruit:
Oriental alleyways and apples, pears, fat clusters
labyrinths of winding, cob- of grapes. Painted col-
bled streets. It is an ancient umns are crowned by
bastion of Jewish schol- elaborate carvings. A
arship and mysticism, majestic chandelier
whose houses are perched hangs from the domed,
precariously one atop an- vaulted ceiling in this
other, stitching a fairy tale "Hall of Sacred Apples."
tapestry of style and sym-
Extensive reconstruction
was necessary after the
"In Safed," it was said, "is 1837 earthquake in which
the purest air of the Holy 4,000 people were killed.
Land and there is not a Ha'ari Hasephardi, which
place where they under- withstood the devastation of
stand better the profun- the earthquake, Aas beauti-
dities and the secrets of the fully carved doors, served as
Holy Torah."
a Hagana barricade, and is
It was in Safed in the year adjacent *to the old cemet-
66 that Josephus Ftovius, ery, the resting place of its
then known as lien Mat- saintly, medieval scholars.
tatia, led the Jewish rebels
At nearby Mount Meron,
in their war against the
Romans and fortified the Israel's highest peak, are
town. In this period, Galilee ruins of a synagogue from
had the largest Jewish the Third Century, quarried
population in Palestine. It out of a cliff. Two huge
was here that the priestly blocks of stone support a
families settled after the de- central slab, whose fall, it is
believed, heralds the advent
struction of the Temple.
Within the artists' col- of the Messiah.
ony, occupying the old
Every year at Meron a
Arab quarter, creativity pilgrimage takes place to
is at its optimum. The the tomb of Rabbi Shimon, a
area abounds in splendid Second Century scholar.
virtuosity —more than 40 Thousands congregate from
resident painters, em- every region, an observance
ploying various media: unbroken for 400 years.
oils, lithographs, water Just before nightfall the
colors, ceramics.
celebration starts with
Rehov Yerushalayim prayers in the shrine and
runs the length of the city, dancing in the courtyard of
circling the top of Safed. the tomb. Throughout the
Citadel Hill, at the center, night, bonfires are kindled.
has been converted into a Following a kabalist tradi-
public park. From its ter- tion, little boys got their
raced garden is an over-
whelming panorama of the
Galilee down to Lake
Korczak Memorial
Tiberias. Ancient pine trees
and twisting paths accom-
pany the climb up to Givat
HaMetzuda, built over the
ruins of the Crusaders' for-
tress, which rests on the
foundation Josephus laid,
almost 2,000 years ago.


(Copyright 1878, JTA,

On the summit is a simple
war memorial, com-
memorating a miracle, the
famous "Davidka," the mor-
tar which tricked the Arabs
into believing the Jews had
a secret weapon during the
War of Independence.
Against insurmountable
odds, 130 Palmach com-
mandos infiltrated Arab
lines and drove..the enemy
Synagogues stem from
the Middle Ages, although
many have been rebuilt in
part, because of repeated
earthquake damage. DOwn
a narrow lane is the
sanctuary of Joseph Caro,
where he compiled the
Shulkhan Arukh, the
codification of Jewish law
from 1555 to 1563. Of sim-
ple design, the bima is
enclosed by a wooden rail-
ing on floor level. Congreg-
ants sit cross-legged on
cloth-covered couches
against walls of delicate
blue. Women are segre-
gated behind a lace curtain.
Two of the synagogues
are named for Rabbi
Isaac Luria, the famed

first haircut under a tre-
mendous tree and the clip-
pings are ceremoniously
cast into the flames.

From earliest times,
Safed has figured promi-
nently in the chronicles
of the land. Geniza
documents confirm the
existence of a Jewish
community at the begin-
ning of the 11th Century.
In 1481, a visitor from
Italy, Joseph de Mon-
tagna, said about Safed,
"It is a pleasant commu-
nity of 300 househol-
At the start of the 16th
Century, which initiated
Ottoman rule, Safed be-
came the spiritual center of
the country and of Judaism.
&Mowing their expulsion
from Spain, multitudes of
Jews found asylum here.
They arrived, with business
acumen and religious devo-
"L'Cha Dodi," the song of
greeting to the Sabbath
Queen, a ,refrain that still
forms part of services, was
composed here by Rabbi
Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.
The first printing press in
Asia Minor was established
in Safed by a father and son
from Prague who printed
the Book of Esther in 1577.
In the early 1700s, Polish
Jews, fleeing the persecu-
tion of the Cossacks, sought
refuge here.
Miraculously, despite
catastrophic assault by man
and nature, Safed has sur-
vived. In this town of
twisted back alleys and
venerable houses of worship

Call from Home

Cleveland Aliya Council
has arranged for former
Cleveland 'residents now
living in Israel to send free
telex messages to their
families in Cleveland.

n, 1978 21

Wishing All Our
Friends & Customers

where meandering lanes
and pathways climb up and
down with no logic or direc-
tion, one senses a spiritual
alliance with the past— the
invincible tongues of the
Old Testament, of the
prophets — Moses and
Elija, of Mica and Zecharia.





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