Yesterday I went to both Tzfat (Safed) and Rosh Pina, neighboring cities, and had a really interesting time. This post will contain the Tzfat portion of the trip and tomorrow’s post will be of Rosh Pina.
I got off the bus in Tzfat’s central bus station and hopped on another bus to the Old City. I walked down the wide, stone stairs that opens up into the famed Artists’ Quarter. This was to be my first destination in Tzfat. I’ve been to Tzfat before but never really took the time to explore the Artists’ Quarter and to really “snoop around.” This was my chance. At first, I stepped into the two large collective art galleries that are in the large open area where tour buses park. As soon as I had my share of the large galleries of finished products, I left and continued to the narrow stone road which hosts the multitudes of artists working and displaying their craft. My first encounter was an elderly artist wearing a soldier’s beret. He is a micro-calligrapher and after showing me his prints, I decided to buy one. He thanked me and told me I was his first customer of the day. I smiled and continued along the narrow street. My next stop was the art gallery of Michel Elkayam and he was in middle of painting the Kotel (Western Wall):
I was mesmerised at his painting skills and watched as he did the unlikely. You have to be an artist to add red to the large golden dome that covers the Temple Mount. He splashed red and I groaned inside, slowly but surely it looked nearly real. I watched him for at least ten minutes, getting to know a bit about his artistic history. But, I had to move so move on I did. The next place of real interest was the Canaan Gallery where locals recreated the historical weaving business that the Spanish Jews introduced after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. I spoke to one of the weavers, a young woman by the name of Liz Levy who was weaving a beautiful scarf on a loom:
When I asked her if she liked her job she replied that “you can’t weave if you don’t like it” which basically answered my question. I don’t know if I like weaving but I doubt I could make a scarf like that! I thanked her and continued on my way, stopping into the handy Tourist Board for maps, pamphlets and advice. The Tourist Board was better than I had imagined it would be – there was a seating area, albeit rickety, and a mini-museum with underground excavations that showed what the early Tzfat city looked like. The woman behind the desk (who I later found out was Laurie Sendler Rappaport, coordinator of the Livnot U’Lehibanot program and aunt of an old school friend of mine) told me a story about two old men, grandfathers with their families, meeting together at the checkout counter of one of the galleries along the street and finding out that they were two long-lost brothers separated during the Holocaust. I then gathered up my new belongings and stepped across the street to the Lahuhe Original Yemenite restaurant where authentic Yemenite flatbreads are pan-fried with cheese, vegetables and schug. I spoke to the man behind the counter, Yosef David Azoulay and decided to interview him for a new project I am working on called the Children of Israel. What I aim to do is provide foreigners with a realistic look at the average Israeli. Being a country so rich in ethnicities and cultures, there is no “average” per se but I am attempting to provide a plethora of Israeli citizens to give people a better feel for what Israelis are like in appearance and thought. This man, Mr. Azoulay, was my first “victim”:
While I was interviewing him a trio of Russian ladies came in with a Russian-Israeli tour guide. They ordered the lahuhe “sandwich” and glasses of local red wine. Towards the end of my interview, which kept getting interrupted by the steady flow of tourists and customers, the Russian-Israeli tour guide got up and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was a journalist and he translated for the women. They all gave nods of understanding – why else would I be standing like a fool with a legal pad and recorder? – and one of the ladies stood up. She said that she is also a journalist and that she works for Moscow News Agency… then she took a picture of me! I was surprised that someone took a picture of me doing my job, but hey, I remember taking pictures of an Argentinean documentary cameraman in South Beach, Florida. After that strange occurrence, and after concluding my interview, I continued to my next destination of the day, the Safed Citadel:
It was a pleasant walk and the wind’s intensity probably tripled once I approached the peak of the mountain that Tzfat is built on and around. The Safed Citadel is the highest point in the city (at least 3,000 feet above sea level) and contains Crusader ruins, a park and an IDF memorial monument. Here is what it looks like entering the park area (no, the picture is not distorted, it really looks all wavy like this):
I stood up by the IDF monument and ate an orange, saying “hi” to the French couple who were finishing up with their picnic. How they picnicked in that wind is beyond me… But wind aside, the view is fabulous! Here is a panoramic (what else?) picture of the view that was before my eyes – the Artists’ Quarter down below, the faraway hills and mountains of the Galil including Mt. Meron to the right, and the Crusader ruins directly below (the Kinneret or Sea of Galilee was also visible but was not capture in the picture):
When I was finished with my orange I headed back down the mountain to the Old City where I got some lunch and made my way to the bus station. There I boarded a bus destined for Hazor with Rosh Pina, my next destination, just fifteen minutes away. Rosh Pina was an interesting story but it will have to wait ’till tomorrow.