According to tradition, Tzefat (Safed) was founded in the year 70 of the Common Era. The city has since come to be considered one of the four holiest cities in Judaism, along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Tiberias. Much of Tzefat's present character, however, came about relatively recently - in the sixteenth century - when Jewish mystics and other religious scholars moved to Tzefat, in order to escape the Spanish Inquisition in Europe. They gave Tzefat its present distinction as the world center for Jewish mysticism - Kabballah. Indeed, Tzefat today is an artists' colony and Kabballah center, and one can see and feel signs of intense spirituality throughout the city.
Tzefat is also historically significant for another reason: Asia's very first printing press was installed in Tzefat, and, in 1578, the first Hebrew book printed in Israel came out of Tzefat.
ã 2001 StateofIsrael.com. All rights reserved.