Down below the Old City of Tzfat, towards the base of the mountain, lies the famous cemetery of Tzfat. People come to the cemetery from all over the world, to sit, pray, beseech, or simply be in the company of the great rabbis who are buried there.
The most famous of these rabbis is Rabbi Isaac Luria, also known as the ARI. The grave of the ARI is the most notable gravesite in the cemetery, with a platform built around it to make it easier for people reach the site.
While the cemetery is best known for the great scholars from the Middle Ages who are buried there, it is also known as the burial grounds for Jews who lived in the area thousands of years ago. Some of the oldest graves that are known there are those of Hosea the Prophet, R' Pinchas Ben Yair (father-in-law of R. Shimon Bar Yochai, composer of the Kabbalistic Book of the Zohar in the 1st century A.D.) and, some believe, Chana and her Seven Sons of Chanukah fame.
The Citadel or Metzuda is not just a nice park situated in the center of Safed on top of a hill with a great view of Tiberius. Its actually a very historic site and you can walk around the remains of what was in its day the largest Crusader castle fort in the Middle East.
The citadel, 834 meters above sea level, is part of the chain of high mountain tops in Israel where signal bonfires were lit during ancient times to announce the beginning of the Jewish months and other major events.
Until recently whoever controlled Safeds citadel controlled the whole of the Galilee and the northern pass up into what is now Syria and the Lebanon. It has been fought over by every major power from the Romans onward, with the most recent battle being in 1948 during the War of Independence.
Getting There By Foot
Starting at the beginning of the Midrahov (main street) by the bridge, take the stairs up to Palmach Street. Turning left, follow the road around taking a small lane which is just in front of the bus stop on the same side of the road. Go up this path until you reach the junction with the main road, Hativat Yiftah, and turn left. Walk up the road about 400 meters, passing the archeological park on your right, until you reach the main entrance to the park.
Getting There By Car
Due to Safeds one way system you need to access Palmach Street from the junction with Jerusalem Street opposite the Palatine building, just up from the Egged bus station. Driving up Palmach before you get to the bridge over Jerusalem Street you will see Hativat Yiftah Street on your right. Take this one way road and continue until you see the parking lot alongside of the park.
As you enter the park, pause for a minute at the seating area next to the memorial listing the names of the 14 fighters who fell in the battle for the Metsuda in the War of Independence. Think of all the people who lost their lives over the centuries to take control of this hill. Now you can walk up to War of Independence Monument on the top of hill without fear and on a clear day look at the wonderful view of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
Although the park has been somewhat neglected over the years, it is in the process of being restored to its former glory. There is a big grassy area near the top where you can picnic, or let your children run around. Just be careful that they dont run off by themselves into the ruins.
The Crusader Ruins
Today you can visit the ruins in the recently opened archeological park. If you transport yourself back in time you can imagine watching anxiously for the first signs of dust coming up the valley, which was the signal that the enemy army was on its way to attack the citadel. Returning from your visit to the past, continue on into the hustle and bustle of Safed.
Leaving The Park
Cross the road and almost opposite you will see a path going down to Jerusalem Street which comes out in front of the Municipality Building (City Hall) and the Davidka Monument.
Continue driving down Hativat Yiftah, passing the Ron Hotel, until the road meets Jerusalem Street at the circle (roundabout). Here, you can go right towards the bus station, or alternatively almost straight across down into Ari Street towards the cemeteries.