On October 30, 2011 the Israeli Government designated a 16th-century ruin in Tzfat a National Heritage Site, part of a larger national plan to establish a series of heritage sites and routes in the country. The 700-square-meter site, in the heart of the city’s ancient Jewish quarter, is owned and operated by Livnot U’Lehibanot, a non-profit educational institution. It contains a series of old structures, communal areas, underground rooms and crawlspaces. The site commands a beautiful view of the surrounding hills of the Upper and Lower Galilee.
Tzfat is an ancient city that experienced its Golden Age during the 16th century. Prior to that, after the conquest of the region by the Ottoman Empire, Tzfat became a gathering place for many great Jewish thinkers and poets expelled from Spain in 1492. Their teachings and those of their students influence Judaism as we now know it. During this period modern Kabbalah was developed and many poems and songs penned which are heard today in synagogues and communities around the world, including Lecha Dodi.
Livnot’s National Heritage Site, named the “Kahal” after the term used to designate the Jewish neighborhoods in Spain, is being developed to make that Golden Age accessible for all visitors to Tzfat. The “Kahal” embodies what Livnot is all about, connecting us to our heritage, strengthening Jewish identity and our future through experiential learning and hands-on restoration. Livnot is building a 16th century village on the site and will offer interactive learning activities for all ages, with musicians and actors in period costumes. The Israeli government is participating in the restoration of the site with matching funds.
Livnot, through the “Kahal,” brings together the Israel Antiquities Authority, the municipality and various government ministries with private donors and volunteers. This strengthens the connection between the people who work on the project and those who visit the project and the unique teachings that came out of 16th century Tzfat. Ultimately, the goal is to transform this northern city into an UNESCO World Heritage Site.