Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXCIV. A Return Visit (9 of 19)


A number of places in the Holy Land are so close to people’s hearts, they are given more than one name; thus Safed is also known as Safad, Tsfat, Tzfat, Zefat, and Zfad.  Which one is the official name?  Nobody really knew!

This is a special and exquisite place.  You can see it in a couple of hours, spend a day or two, or make it your permanent home!  Indeed some immigrants have done just that.

This is a fairly orthodox city, and Shabbat is taken seriously with shops and restaurants shut tight.

Mysticism and spirituality reign supreme here.  There are mysticism workshops, Kabbal seminars, and spiritual city tours.  The attitude in all of  this area is quite simple:  “Learn our history; if required, heal yourself physically; enjoy our sites; but our main concern is the preservation of your soul.”  Indeed, in the mystical and spiritual worlds, you soul is the vehicle that will take you into the World to Come.  If you damage it, you have condemned yourself to a (final) death.

The Talmud mentions four holy cities:  Jerusalem, Tiberias, Safed, and Hebron.  Safed played an important religious role during its long and colorful history.  Locals are more than willing to tell you why their city is holy; but they do not stop there, they have many stories, some true, some less so!  As for me, I am sharing what I remember and what I researched; in a summarized way, of course; for history as it pertains to the Holy Land tends to be very lengthy!

Safed started as the location assigned to the tribe of Naphtali (according to the Book of Judges).  While it has played a role in Roman times; made by the Crusaders into an administrative center; and ransacked by the Mamelukes, who then turned it into the headquarters of their province of Mamlakah; Safed really came into its own in the 15th century.

In 1492, Spain expelled their Jews, and many of them came to Safed and started a century of learning and mysticism.  Thanks to giants like Joseph Caro, Moses Trani, Isaac Luria, and Hayim Vital, Safed became a centre of Kabbalistic studies.

In the 1600s, Safed had 18 schools, 21 synagogues, and a large yeshiva with 20 teachers.

In 1759 there was a major earthquake followed by a frightful epidemic; 5 years later, only a handful of families still resided in Safed.

Thereafter, Safed would replenish its population, and goes through more ups and downs including an attack from the Druze in 1834, a devastating earthquake in 1836, and its capture by the Palmakh (Israeli army) in 1948.  The holy city of Safed was finally in Jewish hands, this time for good.

Two areas are normally visited when touring Safed:  The Synagogues’ Quarter and the Artists’ Quarters.  The first is a delightful maze of little streets that includes many old synagogues, all still being used for prayers.  Some examples:  Ashkenazi and Sephardic Synagogues of HaAri; Isaac Abuhav Synagogue, and the Caro Synagogue.

Artists have been unable to resist the lure of Safed long before the Artists’ colony was established.  There is a General Exhibition gallery and many other galleries.  Today, thousands of tourists from across the globe are attracted to the Artists’ Quarters; if ever in Safed, feel free to join them and lose yourself in the tiny cobblestone streets; and remember to visit the artists in their studios and galleries, you may very well purchase a painting that stole your heart!

In Safed I met Michael.  Not a complete coincidence since we are both crisscrossing the country.  When we got a break, we talked and exchanged notes.  But quickly our ways parted; I would see him again during his last two days in Israel.

Our long day ended at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi where a nice meal awaited us.  While I was devouring my food, I reviewed my day, but it was a jumble.  I promised myself that when I got into bed, I would sort out the day`s events and try to make sense of it.  But it never happened; when my head hit the pillow, I went out like a light!

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