Although Safed is best known as the hilltop city where Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) was born it is also the site of a thriving artists’ colony. The city’s beauty and spirituality attract creative artists who are inspired by the picturesque stone buildings, brightly painted window shutters, houses draped in vines with colorful window boxes, cobblestone streets and views of the surrounding hills from every point.
The winding narrow alleys with cobblestone paving and stone buildings are the setting for studios, galleries and artist’s stores. The artists are new immigrants as well as Israelis. As early as the 1940s the Safed Artists’ Quarter was home to artists such as Ziona Tagger, Mordechai Levanon, Shimshon Hotzman, Yitzhak Amitai and Aryeh Merzer. To encourage art and develop Safed the young State of Israel offered artists incentives, a house and gallery if they would live in Safed for a minimum of 180 days a year. Over the years artists have come and gone with many new artists establishing their galleries in Safed.
Galleries, Artists and Studios
There are studios where you can see the artists at work and other artists’ stores where the sales person is the artist himself. There are both multi-artist galleries and galleries devoted to single artists. The General Exhibition is Safed’s main multi-artist gallery with ever-changing displays. There is a sculpture garden in the back yard of an ancient house and galleries with intriguing names like Fig Tree Courtyard and Caanan Gallery.
The Art of Safed
In Safed’s Artists’ Quarter, you can see photography, prints, sculpture, ceramics, handmade jewelry, paintings and Judaica. One of the most unique types of art on display is micro-calligraphy where passages from religious Jewish tests are written in minute lines which create the image desired. From a distance the art work looks like it is made up of lines but on closer inspection you can see the scriptures and verses written in a line. Many of the artists are religious Jews who incorporate their faith and Kabbalah images into their art work.