When you mention the city of Tzfat (also spelled “Tzfat” or “Safed”) to most Israelis, a warm smile generally comes to their face. Tzfat is historical, romantic, charming, and quirky. Though most Israelis have never thought of living in Tzfat, they absolutely love visiting the city. One of Israel’s four holy cities, Tzfat is perhaps as well known for its artists as it is for its mystics. But Tzfat is also home to 30,000 residents, many of whom work ordinary jobs and carry on normal lives. Olim in Tzfat love their hometown, and would choose to live nowhere else. One resident reflected on a Kabbalat Shabbat service where he found himself dancing between an elderly Hassid and a young Israeli soldier. The juxtaposition of different people, with different backgrounds but with a common purpose just seems natural in Tzfat.
The question concerning many prospective residents of Tzfat is how to make a living; however, residents make their livelihoods in a range of ways. Some Tzfat residents work in the local Ziv Hospital and the new Tzfat based medical school. Others are involved in the tourist trade or work for the numerous non-profit or religious institutions in the City, or operate home-based businesses. Some residents commute to jobs in Karmiel, Tefen Industrial Zone, Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias or other nearby areas.
Education / Youth
Tzfat’s Ganim (pre-schools) reflect the ethnic diversity of the city. Residents can choose from a range of options. The elementary schools are similarly diverse, but there are a few that attract the largest percentage of Anglos. There are a few public Religious Schools (Mamad): HaAri, Beirav, and a Torani (Noam) school. Noam is the newest of the three schools.
Many Oleh children attend the award winning local Chabad school, which in Tzfat is also part of the public religious system, even if they are not from Chabad families. Religious girls generally attend Ulpanit Amit for high school, which is located in the city itself, however a number of girls also choose to attend schools outside of the area. The Ulpanit provides a solid religious education and also prepares the girls for Bagrut exams (matriculation exams). Boys either attend the Amit Yeshivati, located in Tzfat, or board at the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in nearby Meron.
It is possible to live in Tzfat without a car, particularly if you do not plan on leaving the city very often. You can walk across the whole city in about half an hour, which is often the preferred method of transportation among residents. Local buses and taxis abound. Particularly in the Old City and Artist Quarter, it is often difficult to navigate a car along the narrow streets. At the Tzfat bus station, it is possible to take a bus to just about anywhere in the country. Tzfat residents who work outside of the city generally rely on private transportation buses. Some employers provide van service, but most people try to arrange organized carpools.
Ulpanim are available in Tzfat for beginning levels and more options can be found in nearby Karmiel. Branches of the main government offices can be found in Tzfat, including a local branch of the Absorption Ministry (Misrad Haklitah).
The Anglo community is particularly welcoming to Olim. Some Aliyah stories told by Tzfat Olim:http://www.safed.co.il/aliyah-to-tzfat.html
Amenities / Services
Tzfat is a mid-sized city, with the charming feel of a small town. It has supermarkets, hardware stores, lots of tourist related businesses (e.g. restaurants, gift shops, art galleries), clothing shops, and banks. Residents travel to Rosh Pinna, Karmiel or other nearby cities for a larger shopping selection.
There is a large, friendly English library in the center of town, the Edyth Geiger Library. In addition to borrowing from the extensive adult and children’s book collection, many Olim from the area also volunteer there.
Community and Religious Life
Tzfat is one of the most diverse cities in all of Israel. It is home to native Israelis as well as immigrants from the U.S., Ethiopia, Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, and dozens of other countries. The residents coexist peacefully and interact frequently. Tzfat has a vibrant community of Anglos. The vast majority tend to live in the Old City or the Artist Quarter. While they span a wide range of ages, the age difference seems to matter little when it comes to social interaction.
Here are some helpful sites:
General Aliyah information
Rental prices vary in range, according to neighborhood. Here is a sample of prices. Rental of 2 bedroom apartment range in the Old City/Artist’s Quarter range from 2500 – 3500 NIS per month, in the New City from 1600-2700 NIS per month. Rental of 3 bedroom apartment range from 2000-2900 NIS in the New City. Rental of 3 bedroom homes in the Old City range from 2700-4000 NIS and in the New City from 2200-3000 NIS a month. Please note that it is not always easy to find a choice of rentals in the Old City and the Artist’s Quarter.
Purchase of a 3 bedroom apartment in the Old City can range from 800,000-1,000,000 NIS, and in the New City from 580,000-950,000 NIS. A 3 bedroom home is more expensive and not always available for purchase.
Tzfat has many different neighborhoods. The Old City and Artist Colony, where most of the English speaking Olim live, are older stone houses, with some renovated and very modern. Prices here can be more expensive because of prime location. Other Olim live in areas close to the Old City, such as the Metzuda neighborhood and on Rehov Yerushalayim or Rehov ha’Ari. The Darom and Canaan areas are all larger apartment blocks, and these are the often less expensive areas. Many of the neighborhoods in the Darom and Canaan are the Haredi neighborhoods of Tzfat, including Meor Haim and Kiryat Chabad. Givat Shoshana is the new Chabad neighborhood in Tzfat, not far from the bus station, with many English speaking residents. The newer Northern neighborhoods, such as Neve Oranim, Menachem Begin, Ramat Razim and Nof Kinneret, are the more expensive areas outside of the Old City, and are generally single homes or duplexes with yards.