I’ve realized that I really enjoy using alliterations in my titles… Hope you like them as much as I do 🙂 And I also enjoying tweaking the blog design of my page, but I think that I’ve found one that I really like, so it should stay like this for a while at least.
Anyway, since my last post was mostly about the holiday of Yom Kippur itself rather that our experiences in Northern Israel, I figured that another post was in order. Like I said earlier, Northern Israel is similar to central California, with vineyards, mountains, rivers, forests, and amazing views. The city of Tzfat is no exception.
Tzfat is a city with some amazing history to it, with some of the most famous kabbalists of all time setting up shop there over the years. It also is a city of some amazing sights. The place is thousands of years old and built into the side of a mountain that overlooks most of Israel. Because of that, there was a citadel that was built on the top of the mountain. It was built by the Crusaders and has been used in every major war for reconnaissance. Since Roman times, the city of Tzfat has been fought over and whoever controlled it has controlled the entire Northern Israel/Galilee/Golan Heights area. Now the top of the mountain where the citadel once stood has been turned into a beautiful park with incredible overlooks and a monument at the top for the fallen soldiers of Israel’s Independence War. The ruins of the Crusader’s citadel is still there and we had the pleasure of exploring the area by the light of the moon the night after Yom Kippur ended. When we reached the peak of the mountain where the monument stands, what did we find? An Orthodox Rabbi with a bunch of secular Israelis, all playing guitar and singing under the moonlight while passing LChaims around the circle… Only in Tzfat 🙂
All over Tzfat you’ll also see ruins from the various wars: houses that were never rebuilt, bullet holes in the sides of walls, and demolished buildings turned into local hangouts.
If you aren’t into war history, there is still plenty else to see in Tzfat. Some of the most gorgeous synagogues in the world are located there. Since it’s the City of Kabbalah, most of them are decorated in sky blue, a color of good luck against the Evil Eye. They are elaborate and detailed and all around beautiful. They are also free to visit, but of course a small donation to the shul’s tzedakah box is always appreciated. The only real downside (literally) is that you have to go down hundreds of stairs to get to them. And what goes down must come back up…
Another thing that Tzfat is known for is it’s artsy, almost Bohemian style. I call it the Key West of Israel. No one is in a rush to go anywhere or do anything, there is local original art all over town, and the way of life matches the women’s skirts: free-flowing and beautiful. There is even an Artists’ Colony in the Old City with galleries, trade shops, museums, and little alleyways filled with everything from jewelry to fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice. It’s a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon 🙂
After thoroughly exploring the Old City of Tzfat, we decided to take a small detour and visit a nearby town called Amuka. Nine of us (we made friends 🙂 ) piled into two taxis for a somewhat sickening ride through the mountains. (Note: Israeli drivers, especially taxis, like to pretend they are on a roller-coaster track. Scary on mountain roads with no guardrails 😦 ) We got there in about 15 minutes and dizzily stumbled up to the grave-site of Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel. Legend has it that he was so intensely involved with his Torah studies that he never married, a decision he regretted as he was leaving this world. On his deathbed he vowed to do whatever he could to help singles find their soulmates so that they would not live out their lives in loneliness like he did. Because of this, people come from all over the world to pray at his grave and ask for his assistance from heaven in finding their soulmate. It sounds a little out there right? But I’ve heard some incredible stories of Amuka and since we are all single and looking, we decided why not?
When you enter his gravesite, there are certain prayers you recite. One asks for parnassah (prosperity) and the other for zivug (your mate). We davened there for a little while for ourselves and for a HUGE list of all of our friends that asked for us to pray at Amuka on their behalf 😉 Then afterward, you go up to the roof and do Hakafot (circles) around the dome of the building while reciting one of the psalms. After you say it seven times, you’re all done! Well we didn’t have much time since the taxis were waiting for us downstairs, so we had the idea that each of the 6 girls on the roof would say it once at the same time and then one of us would say it for all 6 of us at the end to make an even seven. It was absolutely beautiful 🙂 After pairing up and saying it together all at the same time, we had a girly group-hug moment. Then with arms interlocked in a circle, we listened as Chana read it the seventh time. It is a scene that will be forever burned into my memory, and one of the most amazing moments I’ve ever had with a group of people. Absolutely incredible…
After visiting a grave, you have to wash your hands. In the process, I left the ring I was wearing (from Venice) in two separate places and had to run back to get it twice. Thinking back, I feel like I should have left it there… Maybe I was supposed to trade that ring for another one? Hope I didn’t jinx myself. In any case, it was a great experience and an amazing way to end our time in northern Israel. We piled back into the taxis and got dropped of at Ascent to pick up our bags and catch the bus. Amazing weekend, amazing place, amazing friends ♥