The City Where Kabbalah Was Born (Tzfat, Israel)

On our second day of the jam-packed Birthright itinerary we spent part of the day in a little town called Tzfat (zeh-fat). I’m pretty sure the main reason we went there was to learn more about Kabbalah, another form of Judaism, made famous in America by the not-at-all-Jewish music star Madonna (maybe you’ve heard of her?).

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We made our way through the ancient streets of Tzfat, stopping our way to visit an extremely ornate candle shop and we were given a tour of the 16th century Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue.

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Before we all fainted from low blood sugar, we stopped at a tiny Yeminite sandwich shop, called Lahuhe Original Yeminite Food Bar, that was clearly not used to a group of twenty walking in, and ate the most delicious pita sandwiches with herbs, hot sauce, and cheese. (Full disclosure: We’d just hiked down a mountain so we were starving.)

After a very delicious iced coffee (iced coffee there is basically what we call a milkshake here) and chatting with the lovely American couple who ran the shop called Goodbar Superfood Energy Bar, I was ready for a break.

We navigated our way through the narrow streets to the studio of an artist named David Friedman, a native of Denver who’d immigrated to Israel. The shop was named Kosmic Kabbalah and his art focused on the Kabbalah tradition.

Kabbalah is known for being a mystical interpretation of Judaism, which just sounds super cool, right? It incorporates a lot of music and numerology, and the word Kabbalah means “to receive.” From a website that I found on Kabbalah, it’s said that, “Its practitioners tend to view the Creator and the Creation as a continuum, rather than as discrete entities, and they desire to experience intimacy with God. This desire is especially intense because of the powerful mystical sense of kinship that Kabbalists believe exists between God and humanity. Within the soul of every individual is a hidden part of God that is waiting to be revealed.”

That’s a slightly nicer take on the whole religion thing, as opposed to the whole, “be good or God will smite you” bullshit that people are fed on a daily basis. It deal with geometry and colors, too. Each piece of art he made had so many different meanings. There were many pieces incorporating the Tree of Life and the infinity symbol, too.  I did buy a small piece of art before I left too, but I’m not sure I remember the entire meaning anymore.

Tzfat was cool for many reasons but I especially loved it because it was, and in some ways still is, the art capital of Israel. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, if you were an artist in Israel, you moved to Tzfat. Today still you can see numerous galleries lining the winding streets.

If you happen to hike down Mount Bental and are looking for a sleepy resort town filled with delicious food and beautiful art, Tzfat is the place for you. Definitely don’t forget to get the Yemenite pita.

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