Mystical tour

A relaxing stay at a hotel built on the ruins of a 17th-century Turkish khan in the artists’ quarter of the city of Safed.

By NERIA BARR
November 14, 2010 16:29
4 minute read.
The Ruth Rimonim Hotel in Safed.

ruth rimonim hotel_311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There are many facets to the city of Safed. Located 900 meters above sea level in the mountains of Upper Galilee, it commands magnificent views and holds many ancient secrets.

According to the great mystics of the past, Safed is to play an important role in the final redemption. The Me’am Loez, in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, says that the Messiah will come from Safed on his way to Jerusalem. Ha’ari Hakadosh said that until the Third Temple is built, the Shechina (God’s Manifest Presence) rests above Safed.

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Safed is one of the four holy cities in Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. According to some sources the town was founded in 70 CE. It flourished in the 16th century, when many famous scholars and mystics moved here fleeing from the horrors of the Inquisition. Safed then became the spiritual center of the Jewish world, where Kabbala reached the peak of its influence. Kabbalists, such as Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (Ha’ari Hakadosh) and Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (author of “Lecha Dodi”) and Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulhan Aruch) just to name a few, made the city famous.

It was here that the first printing press in the Middle East was set up, publishing in 1578 the first Hebrew book to be printed in Israel. At that time the town was also a thriving trade center. However, the city suffered terribly during the ensuing years due to earthquakes, plagues and Arab attacks. In modern times, the liberation of Safed was one of the most dramatic episodes in the 1948 War of Independence.

WHERE TO STAY

The old part of town consists of narrow cobblestone alleys revealing artists’ galleries, medieval synagogues, private homes and guest houses. The picturesque Ruth Rimonim Hotel is located right there, in the heart of the artists’ colony, and if you are looking for a pampering place to stay that is within easy reach of the city’s attractions, it is an excellent choice.

The hotel is located on the site of a 17th-century Turkish khan and is built in the same old stone, retaining the style of the old days. The rooms are reached through cobblestone alleys, staircases and arches and each room is designed differently. There are lovely balconies, enclaves and many enchanting corners.



The lobby is very nice, decorated with stone archways and authentic artwork, but I was immediately drawn to the out-side enchanting sitting corners that are scattered in the garden. Even before settling in my room, I sat for a while in the corner outside the dining room where I enjoyed the fresh air and magnificent view. Later I discovered a few other sitting areas such as the one on the way to my room, in the cobbled alley, and another in the garden, surrounded with beautiful old trees and an ancient vine.

My room was at the furthest area and the view from my bedroom window was framed with foliage. I could just sit there and stare at the view for hours.

Having said that, if you have mobility issues be forewarned. Although the old section is very pretty, if there are young children or seniors in your group, you really should opt for the modern part of the hotel. Some of the spots in the old section may be too difficult (and in some cases even dangerous) for small children and even more so for the elderly. There are lots of staircases and some of them are lacking convenient hand rails and may be hazardous when walking with young children. It is perfect, though, for romantic weekends and for those seeking gorgeous, quiet and calming surroundings.

Located in the old part, there is a wine cellar where you can spend a nice evening sampling local wines in a very romantic atmosphere. The wine cellar can also hold seminars, gourmet meals and special events.

The spa, with excellent staff, offers many treatments. It is located, alongside the health club and gym, in the modern section. If you come here for more than one day, do spoil yourself in the spa, it’s great.

Breakfast in the beautiful dining room, overlooking the mountains, was rich and plentiful. Dinner is also served to guests in the kosher dining room. The food is not excellent but do try to catch the sunset as you are having dinner – it’s worth it.

The hotel is now offering special theme weekends such as “Spiritual and Mystical” and “Luxurious Aspirations,” with great wine and cigar sampling. You can join guided tours of the old city for no extra pay.

Our rating: Great location, enchanting authentic atmosphere, friendly and efficient staff, good breakfast, fantastic view. The grounds are outstanding and it would be a lot of fun to bring a large group to this location.

The writer was a guest of the hotel.

Ruth Rimonim Hotel, Rehov Moshavat Ha’omanim, P.O. Box 1011, Safed 13110 Tel: (04) 699-4666.


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