Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Zfat: The weekly local Market, the Artist Quarter and Rabbi Shmuel Heller


I am in Zfat (Safed) at the moment. First of all, I am going to participate in a special seminar run by the Chabad Hostel ASCENT: "Healing / Medicine according to the RAMBAM" is the subject and sounds interesting. Secondly, I am still thinking about moving here. One thing for sure, when you speak Hebrew and English you, as a stranger, won't have problems finding the Zfat inhabitants to communicate with you. 

Today I went to the weekly market near the Canaan neighbourhood. The market is the only event in Zfat and taking place every Wednesday. Then Druse, Arab and Jewish traders come into town and sell fruit, clothes and all kinds of junk. Mostly JUNK, I have to say. 

The old city of Zfat may be more spiritual and put on a romantic atmosphere. Kabbalistic and chassidic but the other neighbourhoods are mainly populated by Russians, Ethiopians and many Sephardi Jews. People told me that after six years of living in Zfat, one becomes totally insane. Yesterday, however, someone else told me that one has to be insane in order to move here. So, I may be insane !

Today's market wasn't that interesting and I didn't even buy any fresh olives, as I had intended to do. Simply because this woman selling olives stuck her fingers into the bucket, took out a few olives, stuffed them into her mouth and licked her fingers.

Disappointment about the market had already started as soon as I entered. I took this photo and the Arab woman sitting behind the yellow buckets got up and cursed me. I have no idea what she said but I assume that she didn't want her picture taken because she doesn't necessarily look like paying taxes. 

The Market

 Afterwards I walked through the artist quarter where buses drop off all kinds of tourists. Birthright (Taglit) groups, any American tourist looking for art and mainly kitsch. 

Until I got to the house of the former famous Rabbi in Zfat, Rabbi Shmuel Heller. I saw his descendant Pnina Heller walking outside and took some photos. Pnina, in her sixties or so, claims that once Rabbi Nathan Sternhartz had an overnight stay at the Beit Midrash of Rabbi Shmuel Heller. 

Left side with the woman in front of it:
The Beit Midrash of Rabbi Shmuel Heller z"l.

Zfat has a huge Anglo community but before you decide to move here you should consider that the unemployment rate is extremely high. Despite all the fears of not finding a job, many religious inhabitants keep on telling me that it is G - d who decides whether you will have an income or not. When I hear this claim I always respond that this is true but one has to make an effort first. 

What can I say ? Zfat is spiritual and, so far, all the daily life seems to work !

Photos: Miriam Woelke

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