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of Tzfat.

Tzfat is a place of mysticism and secrets.

It is full of long, winding, alleyways that lead to dead ends and stone staircases that divide each section of the city. On days with nice weather (most of the year), Tzfat is littered with artists hawking their paintings, jewelry makers selling their wares, and religious Jews sprinting past tourists as they crowd around to take a photo.

It is the birthplace of Kabbalah, a way of interpreting the Bible with ciphers and hidden messages. It relies heavily on old wisdom, spirituality, and symbolism. Some call it "magic", some "a drug-induced trip," and some just claim it as their sect of religion. Regardless, it is an incredibly interesting and original thought, and has produced a massive following in both Jews and non-Jews alike. It has inspired artists and geniuses.

Tzfat is an eclectic, insane, wonderful place because of it.

The first time I explored the place I found it unimpressive. It was hot (the middle of June), the cobblestoned streets made it impossible for me to walk without slipping, and there were too many people morphing into crowds around galleries. Granted, I was with Birthright and we were walking around in a pack of 46 people, but still.

I remembered liking how it looked, with the constant curve downhill and the brightly painted doors that lined the alleys that we walked down. But that was about it. I was sweating, wearing the wrong shoes, and was tired of the constant noise that surrounded us. I also did not appreciate being haggled with when I wasn't even interested in buying anything.

It took the magic out of everything.

But luckily, I recently got the chance to see this bustling artists' town in the dead of winter as it lay quiet, smothered in a dense fog. I don't think I've ever seen a place so beautiful and eerily serene.

My parents and I parked a bit out of the way, and ended up walking into what we thought was the city center. I kept trying to remember back to my previous trip, where we were and which way we had come, but because of the fog I couldn't get my bearings. It was also dead quiet. We could hear footsteps on the cobblestones before we even saw the people who would walk past us. A few locals would scuttle by, carrying their groceries, and quickly disappear into the mist.

I loved it.

We were alone in a city-town that is usually packed to the brim with people. We took our time, winding down the narrow streets and reading all of the wonderful artist bios that are hung up outside of houses and galleries in the Artist Colony. We even stumbled upon a house that had actual dogs, huge Dobermans, guarding it via the roof. I kicked myself for not having brought my good camera, as the photo would have been magnificent, but snapped a shot anyway. Their silhouette in contrast to the fog was something special (pay no mind to my startled father).

By the time we found the actual city center, we weren't interested in heading down the usual path. We decided to climb up to the Citadel and call it a day. And that is what I love about the off-season in touristy places. Being able to get lost, to see what usually only the locals see, to really get the feeling of a place in it's most honest self.

Tzfat, itself, is also unlike any other city in the world that I have visited. I can't even begin to describe the feeling that the city gives me. It makes me want to be quieter and more respectful. It makes me want to be more wild than ever before. It makes me want to create and live and learn more about the world around me. We are all different, unique, and fascinating.

I cannot wait to visit again.

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