Thursday, September 5, 2019

Farewell to Safed

Tradition teaches there are four holy cities in the Land of Israel. Jerusalem is connected to fire, Chevron to the earth, Tiberias to water, and Safed the wind. Indeed, the first time I visited the heart of the Galil in 1972 I was struck by the special spirit I felt in Safed. Somehow, though, I didn’t feel it on subsequent visits to the town. Perhaps it was blocked by the crowds of tourist. Only after my son made the Old City of Safed his home did I find the enchantment once more.

There’s a special feeling to being an insider among all the sightseers. It feels good to be treated like an almost native. However, recently my son accepted a teaching position in a yeshiva in the Golan. He and his family would be moving. My husband and I decided we needed to say farewell to Safed. Of course, we can, and probably will, go back to visit, but it won’t be the same.

Our farewell visit was during vacation time when most Israelis are out of school, off work, and, if still in the country, up north. When we arrived my son’s street was crowded with pedestrians on their way to the Artist’s Colony. I was quite aware of their stares as we climbed the steep steps to our son’s apartment.

Inside we found boxes and more boxes with my son, daughter-in-law, and a few friends working frantically to be ready for the movers the following morning. After helping a bit I set out to visit the Ari Ashkenazi Beit Knesset. It holds special memories for me and I wanted to spend some time there reciting psalms.

It wasn’t to be. A sign on the door informed me that the synagogue was only open for tourists between ten am and one in the afternoon. My watch told me it was already one-thirty. I was disappointed but philosophical as I made my way to the kiosk above my son’s home.

The owner greeted me warmly and discussed what kind of shakes I should buy for my daughter-in-law and myself. As he prepared them he expressed regret that my family was moving. I had mixed feelings listening to him. Deep down I knew the move would be good but, well, it would be an adjustment. Taking the shakes I set them down on his freezer case in order to pay and just a few seconds later a tourist, wanting ice cream, opened the case.

Naturally the shakes tipped over and spilled out all over me, my blouse, my skirt, my shoes. I was a mess and the shakes were half gone. The tourist apologized. I wiped myself with a tissue. And the owner refilled the shakes at no extra cost.  

I washed up the best I could at my son’s apartment. We stayed a little longer, said goodbye, and walked to our car. Just a few feet away we saw it, a parking ticket on our windshield. Shocked we saw the sign that we hadn’t noticed before. The parking spot was for Safed residents only.

That was our farewell to Safed. As we left town I knew it was time to begin saying hello to the Golan.

my son's street, courtesy of