Safed

Travel Guide Middle East Israel Safed

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Introduction

Safed is a city in the Upper Galilee region of Israel, and is one of the oldest centers for Jewish learning and spirituality, home to the Kabbalah movement which is popular with celebrities. Located at an altitude of 900 metres, Safed, is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high altitude, Safed, experiences pleasantly warm summers and cold, and often snowy winters.

It is the birthplace of Lurianic Kabbalah, and one of the main bastions for Torah study and the like during the centuries of Ottoman rule. It is one of the four holiest cities in Judaism, along with Hebron, Tiberias, and of course Jerusalem. While there are many stories about when it was founded, and by whom, it truly grew to prominence in the late 15th century when it became a refuge for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition.

It is a cute, quaint city in the north of Israel. In more recent times, thanks to its beautiful setting surrounded by pine forests, and its agreeable, mild summers, Safed has developed into a summer holiday resort much frequented by Israelis and also foreign visitors. It has also become popular as an artists' colony apart from its religious significance, its nature and its pleasant summers.

Also, if you want to see religious and missed the Jerusalem Haredi neighborhoods, this is the place you want go to – specially around the synagogues.

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Getting There

There are direct buses from Haifa, Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. See the Nateev Express website for information on travel times and fares.

The Israel Railways only get as close as Karmiel, but from there it is possible to take a bus to Safed. This is the recommended way to reach Safed from Ben Gurion Airport and some other locations.

Ayit Airways has two daily flights between Tel Aviv (Sde Dov Airport) and Rosh Pina. for ₪260 per person (₪185 for residents of the north). Sundays-Thursdays, no weekend service. From Rosh Pina, a ₪50-60 cab ride gets you to Safed.

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Getting Around

Safed's old city is built in a circular fashion around a hilltop, and new neighborhoods lie on adjacent hills.

The old city, which is the main destination for visitors, is really only accessible by foot. It is small but quite hard to find your way around, consisting of a maze of pedestrian alleys with few markings of street names or house numbers. The best way to get around is to base yourself on the broad "Olei HaGardom" staircase which goes up and down the hill. This staircase was built by the British during the 1936-9 riots to separate what at the time were the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. (To this day most synagogues and Jewish sites are found north of the staircase, while most art galleries have since located to the south.) The staircase, unlike most other places in the old city, is equipped with many signs and maps indicating the way to major sites. The best way of getting from one place to another is often to take an alley (circling the hilltop) to the staircase, go up or down the staircase as necessary, and take another alley to your destination.

There is a local bus company, Nateeve Express, that runs several local lines around the town. Unofficially, cabs take a set fare for any destination in the town. This is usually cheaper than the metered value. Even more unofficially, you can get "sherut" service with the cabs at the price of the bus fare. On "sherut", the cabs travel the bus routes only. The Old City of Safed is really only accessible by foot.

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Learn

There are several Daf Yomi classes in Tsfat in several languages. There are also many women's classes offered at various locations throughout the city which offer a variety of Jewish perspectives. Visit the Tzfat Calendar to find out what is happening in the city.

Ascent of Sefad runs lectures and seminars on kabala, and there are numerous Yeshivot, some of which might offer informal classes or the opportunity to attend classes or learn with students. Just ask inside.

The city is also known for the extensive galleries and artists that reside in Tsfat. Each gallery is in and of itself a story, waiting to be explored. The owners/curators of the galleries bring the pieces that they feel represent their gallery and the atmosphere of Tsfat itself.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:29 on Jul 1, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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