Safed is an ancient city in the Northern District of Israel. It is also called “Tsfat,” “Tzfas,” “Safad,” “Zfat” or “Zefat”.
Sefad’s “Old City” is split into two sections: the Old Jewish Quarter and the Artist Quarter (or Artist’s Colony).
The Zefat Artists’ Colony is located just south of the Old Jewish Quarter of Zefat. Safed already began attracting artists in the 1920’s, who were inspired by its unique atmosphere, picturesque alleys and the striking natural landscapes nearby. The Safad Artists’ Colony was established shortly after the War of Independence and has since flourished. Newly arrived immigrants — most of them coming from Eastern Europe and North Africa — moved into abandoned homes.
Aside from the new immigrants, Israeli artists also came to Safed to open galleries and art studios. Among the earliest pioneers include Yitzhak Frenel and Moshe Castels, who had lived and worked in Safed since the early 1940s. By the 1950s, many of the country’s best-known and renowned artists had also come to Safed to open their own galleries. These artists include Yitzhak Amitai, David Gilboa, Shimshon Hotzman, Mordechai Levanon, Aryeh Mezner, Ziona Tagger, and Raviv. Several of these artists were quite impoverished, nevertheless, they shared their resources and collaborated with each other to establish the Artists Quarter Association.
Today, a new wave of artists in Safed have opened newer galleries, some of which are located in the nearby Old Jewish Quarter, where tourists generally go to visit the ancient synagogues and other historical sites.
We recommend beginning with the Zefat Artists’ General Exhibition located at an old abandoned mosque in the heart of the Artists Quarter. From there, set out to explore the studios and galleries in the alleyways between Tet Vav and Tet Zayin Streets.
Some of the artists in Safed have been strongly influenced by Kabbalah, but most others focus in the works on local landscapes or subjects not specifically connected to Zefat.
Among the Safad artists whose work has been strongly influenced by Kabbalistic themes are Avraham Lowenthal (Kabbalah Art Gallery) on Tet Vav St; Sheva Chaya, the glassblower, on Arlozorov Street, just below the general exhibition; and David Friedman in the Jewish Quarter on Shimon Bar Yochai St. All three are generally happy to discuss the influence of Kabbalah on their work.
Aside from the well-known galleries (including Soul and Art Gallery and Judith Gallery), there are also several restaurants, cafes, inns and other accommodations. The winding centuries-old alleyways already add a quaint charm to this artists’ colony. Unique, spiritual, eclectic, colorful, peaceful but in terms energetic — these are the things that best describe the Zefat Artists’ Colony.
Open hours are a bit irregular, but the artists are generally welcoming to visitors and happy to discuss their work.
Again, there are various ways of spelling Zefat – Safed – Safad – Zfat and these spellings are used interchangeably.
We recommend that you allow time to browse and enjoy the unique atmosphere of both the Zefat Artists’ Colony and of the Zefat Old Jewish Quarter. For an overview of Zefat/Safed, check out An Introduction to Zefat.