I had the opportunity last February to go to Israel, courtesy of Taglit-Birthright and IsraelExperts. It was an amazing trip and if you are lucky enough to take advantage of the Birthright program, do it.
On the fourth day of the trip we went to Tzfat (known in English as Safed), which is located in Northern Israel. I automatically fell in love with Tzfat because of how artsy it is. It is known as Israel’s art capital. A few days ago at work, I met a rabbi and his wife who were taking a tour of the office. They split their time between New York and Tzfat and talking to them about the city made me want to highlight a local artist I had the opportunity to meet.
After a tour of Tzfat’s Old City, we were given an assignment to do on our free time, talk to locals to find out things about Israeli art and history. There are so many galleries to go into and one that we stumbled upon was that of Leon Azoulay. Azoulay’s art is paintings of scenes from the Old Testament, but in those paintings he also includes micro calligraphy of Biblical passages.
When it comes to Jewish history, I really have no education there since I skipped out on Hebrew school, but without knowing some of the passages that are depicted in Azoulay’s art, I was still in awe of how creative and beautiful his pieces are. The calligraphy is not just a little side note on the piece, he uses it to build his scene. I had never seen anyone use it that way before. Azoulay also makes oil and watercolor paintings that do not include micro calligraphy which are also beautiful pieces of art. I also had the pleasure of having a great conversation with Azoulay where he explained the history of Kabblah to me. Not only is he an incredibly talented artist, he is also such a genuinely nice man. If only I had the money to afford his pieces.
A visit to Tzfat is not complete without a stop at Safed Candles. I actually think it is a requirement of any tour bus passing through Tzfat to make a stop at the store, since it was wall to wall people the day we were there. Not only are there so many candles to choose from to buy, but there are display cases all around the store showcasing their art candles. There are scenes from the Bible depicted in candle form, a chess set, the guitar rocker above and many more.