Sunday, November 1, 2009
The Holy City Of Zefat
i want to write a little something about my home town. the history of zefat spans all of the periods of jewish settlement in the land of israel. we live here every day amongst the archaeological remains of the canaanite and second temple periods. we also live with the historical remnants from the moslem, crusader, turkish and british occupation of the city. in the 16th century, zefat was the spiritual center for jewish mysticism , which we call kabbalah. you might have heard about this on MTV or in the news because madonna and some of her hollywood cohorts claim to be studying it with some bogus, kabbalah instructor. you might have even seen, the tied, thin, red strings that they are all sporting around their wrists, to ward off the evil spirit. madonna also drinks tons of bottles of special kabbalah water that she imports from israel. how cool is that! zefat became liberated from the arabs in 1948 in a rather dramatic way. when you come to zefat, you'll hear all about it. zefat means overlook in english. this refers to the view from the mountain peak at the city 's center. we are situated, really, high up in the mountains here. i believe, that we are the highest altitude in the country. this might explain the spaciness of some of the town's residents. in ancient times, they set off signal fires from the center of the city to announce the new month to the communities of the dispersion. and josephus's sentries stood guard here, during the revolt against rome. zefat, also, means expectation. the messianic expectation plays a central role in zefat's history. there is a staircase in the old city, they say that moshiach will enter from, before he goes to jerusalem. zefat is one of the four holy cities of israel. it has the characteristic of air. jerusalem has the aspect of fire. hebron has the aspect of earth and tiberius has the aspect of water. i came to zefat in 1984. it was a one horse town and shortly after i arrived, the horse died. there were about 6,000 people here, when i came. the majority of the population were immigrants from north africa. there was a small artist colony of holocaust survivors and there was a small group of lubavitcher chassidim living in a housing development up in canaan. today, the population is reported to be 32,000. there has been a huge influx of russian and ethiopian immigrants. zefat has the status of urban city, but for me, it will always remain a shtetl. there is a large english speaking population here and we mostly, know each other. the majority of us are observant jews. we have a make shift english library, which a local resident, hosts in her basement. it used to be in her living room. we also have a major army installation in zefat which was the main target of the last lebanon war a few years ago. we have an inner city bus that rides until 10:00 p.m. the fair is up to $1.50, now. salaries here are less than $5 an hour and jobs are very scarce. and, although, we have both a chocolate and coffee factory here; it is still, who you know, to get and keep a job. we have a few supermarkets here in zefat. they are not anything like the size of wallmarts or ralph's. we still have the local, neighborhood, makolet or grocery store. when i came in '84 they were just beginning to build the maul. it remains to this day, a multi million dollar, 'white elephant'. zefat was the center for nite life back in the 60's. it was also, once, a haven for drug trafficking. we are about half an hour away from tiberius and about the same distance to lebanon. Pretty scary! still, i can not see myself ever leaving the holy city of zefat.