Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed – Visitors Guide


Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed

Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is a mid-16th-century synagogue in the old city of Safed, named after Ari, founder of Lurianic Kabbalah. Let’s begin our visit!

Note: in religious circles, ARI is a known Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi.

Map

Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is located near Safed Candles on Israel Najara Streed in the old city of Safed. And here is a map of the area with marked POI.

And here is the touristic map of Safed.

Map of Safed
Map of Safed

Notes:

  • You can enlarge the map by clicking on it.
  • Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is marked as #10 on the map above.
Ancient Synagogues of Safed
Ancient Synagogues of Safed

Directions

If you are interested in directions and parking, then check out my guide to Safed.

About

A mid-16th century synagogue named after the Divine Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi (known by his Hebrew acronym Ari), founder of Lurianic Kabbalah.

The synagogue was built by Sephardic immigrants from Greece (“Gerigos”) on the Sephardic quarter’s northern fringe. Members of the congregation were Kabbalists, mostly students of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Hari arrived in Safed in 1570 and joined their ranks. His custom was to pray in the synagogue on the Eve of Sabbath, proceeding from here with his followers to a nearby field to welcome the Sabbath. That is the place where the traditional “Kabbalat Shabat” prayer that we know today originated.

In the 18th century, it was still known as the “Gerigos” or “Gridish” synagogue until it began to be used by Hassidic Jews. They had immigrated to Safed from Europe. It was eventually renamed the “Ashkenazi Ari.” The synagogue was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1837, and its reconstruction was completed 20 years later in 1857. In Hebrew numerology, this year equivalent to “and My Temple shalt thou revere” — the inscription that appears above the entrance.

The southern wall contains a Holy Ark carved in wood by a craftsman from Galicia, in the style of Eastern European synagogues. The figure of Moses on the Ark’s crown appears as a lion, following the commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…”.

Unique traditions have been associated with this synagogue. A wooden latticework fence defines a small area around one of the columns where the Ari is believed to have appeared before Rabbi Shmuel Heller. In the War of Independence, the synagogue was packed with people in prayer, yet no one was hurt.

In the courtyard of the synagogue, a square column stands with a concave surface. This surface was used for lighting small bonfires on the feast of “Lag Ba’ Omer, for the sick and elderly who could not join the procession to Mount Meron.

Source: sign on site.

At Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue

The Entrance

Inscription above the entrance
Inscription above the entrance

A Hebrew inscription above the entrance lintel reads: “How awe-inspiring is this place, the synagogue of the Ari of blessed memory.”

Source: Wikipedia

Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed

According to Wikipedia: “It may be the oldest synagogue in Israel that is still in use.”

Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed

The Holy Ark

The Holy Ark was carved from olive wood by a craftsman from Galicia and was created in the style of the synagogues of Eastern Europe. The craftsman of the Holy Ark was a non-Jew who was unaware of Judaism’s laws against pictures or statues of human figures in the synagogue. At the top of the ark, he placed a human face which the Jewish congregation then transformed into an anthropomorphic image of a lion, alluding to the acronym Ari, which means “The Lion.” Notice how the lion appears to have a human face.

Source: safed.co.il

The Holy Ark at Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
The Holy Ark
The Holy Ark at Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
Closeup of The Holy Ark and the lion
The Holy Ark at Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
The Holy Ark

Summary

Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is one of the most popular synagogues in Safed. And if you are visiting the old city, I suggest making a stop there.

Have you been to Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

For additional points of interest nearby check out Safed.

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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