Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue

Top choice synagogue

in Tsfat

Founded in the 16th century by Sephardic Jews from Greece, this venerable synagogue looks much as it did 150 years ago. It stands on the site where, according to tradition, the great Kabbalist Yitzhak Luria (Isaac Luria; 1534–72; often known as the Ari) used to greet the Sabbath. In the 18th century it came to serve Tsfat’s Ashkenazi Hasidic community, hence the synagogue's name (the Jerusalem-born Ari himself had a Sephardic mother and an Ashkenazi father).

Destroyed in the 1837 earthquake, the structure was rebuilt in the 1850s. High atop the mid-19th-century holy ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept), carved and elaborately painted according to the traditions of Galicia (Poland), the lion has a human-like face that worshippers speculate may be that of the Ari (the Hebrew word ari means ‘lion’).