This tour is designed to give a survey of sights in the Upper Galilee which saw an influx of Jewish mystics in the 16th century. We will start the day with a circular hike atop Israel’s Mount Meron. At close to 4,000 feet above sea level it is Israel’s highest mountain outside of the Golan Heights.
Next we will go to the the town of Meron where the traditional founder of Kaballah or Jewish mysticism was buried. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai known by his acronym Rashbi was a 2nd century CE Rabbi who hid from the Romans for 13 years. Additionally, there is a Byzantine Period synagogue we can check out.
Afterwards we will travel to Safed (Tzfat) for Lunch and then continue our tour.
The city of Tzfat (Safed) is considered one of the four holy cities of Judaism. The history of Jews at Tzfat is unclear before the 16th century but an influx of refugees from the Spanish Expulsion made their way here. As the city is opposite Mt. Meron and the Tomb of the Rashbi, Kaballists soon followed and the town became a hotbed of Jewish mysticism.
We begin at the citadel atop. To the west we can see Mt. Meron. The citadel itself was built by the Crusaders and later construction was added to by the conqueror of the Second Crusader Kingdom: Baybars. He built a tower which is estimated to have been more than 100 feet across, the largest in the world at that time. After we descend we can talk about the modern history of Tzfat before exploring the city’s Jewish Quarter.
There are a number of historic synagogues here. We can visit the ones dedicated to Rabbi Yosef Caro who wrote the Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Luria (the Ari) who wrote the Lecha Dodi poem recited on Friday nights or the Kabbalist synagogue of Rabbi Abbahov.