After filming the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue in Zfat, I did the same with the Sephardi counterpart. One thing I really need to say: The Sephardi Synagogue of the famous medieval Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534 - 1572), is much more spiritual and not as commercial as the Ashkenazi one further up the hill.
While passing the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue this Tuesday, I even saw a Christian tour group coming out of the door. Every day, tour buses enter Zfat but the only thing the guides show their clients is the artist market in the old city. Shopping and entering the Ashkenazi ARI Synagogue in order to see, at least, one Synagogue before rushing back to the bus.
As I told you before, almost every old Synagogue in the old city is occupied by some old guy putting himself in charge and asking for a donation. I have had the same experience inside of the Sephardi ARI Synagogue and next time I will be in Zfat, I may even take a small table and set up myself as the person being in charge.:-)))
I don't understand why the Municipality or the Chief Rabbi of Zfat don't take care of these places and protect them from private exploitation. Anyone can just walk in and claim that "he is in charge".
Furthermore, I noticed at the Sephardi ARI Synagogue that even more bums walking around outside and entering the Synagogue from time to time, are claiming to have something to say.
Finding the Sephardi ARI Synagogue is not as easy as the Ashkenazi one. The latter is located in the middle of the old city, very close to Kikar Ha'Meginim. The Sephardi ARI Synagogue, however, is located right across the ancient cemetery in Ha'Ari Street. Between Me'iri and Kadosh cheese.
The Sephardi ARI Synagogue from the outside
Inside the courtyard of the Sephardi ARI Synagogue
After entering, I had to fight my way through, as there was a young Sephardi Haredi who didn't want me inside the Synagogue at all although the place is open to ALL visitors. As I said, some people just feel like being in charge telling others what to do. Nevertheless, I had already given a donation to a guy sitting at the doorway (who claimed that he is charge) and he made sure that I could go anywhere inside the Synagogue. He even gave me candles to light inside a small room where the ARI used to pray (or speak to an angel). The guy explained me that the statement, the room was used by the Arizal, comes from Jewish Masoret and that there is a whole story with the Baba Sali involved.
I entered the small room while the young Sephardi Haredi was fighting with "the guy in charge" about me (a woman) entering at all. "This is a holy place", the Sepharadi (Israeli and probably SHASS voter :-)))))) started yelling around. I turned around and telling him: "The one who doesn't behave "holy" is you and not me !"
The Haredi went to complain to another Haredi who looked a bit more official but nothing happened. By the way, the "official looking" Haredi later turned out to be another beggar from the outside. How do I know this ? Because he asked me for money.
I really had enough with being yelled and, at the same time, getting ripped off. Well, apparently a woman giving some money is allowed to do anything in that particular Synagogue.:-)
So, I went into the ARI room and lit my candles while the other guys were fighting outside.
Inside the room of the Arizal together with my candles.
The Synagogue from the inside
Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke
And a short video I made:
And a short video I made: