Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is a mid-16th-century synagogue in the old city of Safed, named after Ari, founder of Lurianic Kabbalah.
Note: in religious circles, ARI is a known Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi.
Interactive map of the area:
- Hotels, hostels, and apartments in this area:
And here is the touristic map of Safed.
- You can enlarge the map by clicking on it.
- Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue is marked as #10 on the map above.
If you are interested in directions and parking, then check out my guide to Safed.
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.
A Hebrew inscription above the entrance lintel reads: “How awe-inspiring is this place, the synagogue of the Ari of blessed memory.”
According to Wikipedia: “It may be the oldest synagogue in Israel that is still in use.”
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.
This is one of the most popular synagogues in Safed. And if you are visiting the old city, I suggest stopping there.
Have you been to this synagogue? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby, check out Safed.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.