Holy City of Safed Gussies Up to Host Coalition for the Weekend

All 66 government MKs and spouses will descend on the city today.

Carrying a suit in each hand, bodyguards working for the prime minister and other ministers arrived en masse yesterday at the Ruth Rimonim Hotel in Safed's Old City, to prepare for the Shabbat the coalition's 66 Knesset members will be spending together.

The hotel became a war room, with visitors barred. Trucks obstructing the entrance were filled with dozens of barriers to keep vehicles from entering the area's narrow streets as the city readied itself for the arrival of the esteemed politicians.

safed - Yaron Kaminsky - June 10 2011
Yaron Kaminsky

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to invite his coalition to the city for the weekend quickly became the talk of the town, and many tourists converged on the Old City hoping to get a glimpse of him.

An ultra-Orthodox family from Beit Shemesh, cameras at the ready, was seen asking local shopkeepers "Is he here yet?" They seemed very disappointed to hear that he hadn't yet arrived.

Small children were staring at the tumult in front of the hotel, explaining to passersby that the barriers were being erected "so that the Arabs don't come to kidnap the prime minister."

Local bed-and-breakfast and guesthouse owners expressed satisfaction, with several of them erecting a sign welcoming the prime minister and his entourage.

"Even if we disagree with him, we still have to show him respect," said a gallery owner near the Ruth Rimonim. Her son was practicing his violin, with which he planned to greet the premier.

Changing signs

The municipality sent its chief security officer and the head of the municipal hotline to replace the 11 signs describing historical sites in the area. Ordinarily, the signs would not have been changed - budgetary pressures, you know. But the politicians' visit, they admitted, was an incentive to put up new ones.

Municipal workers ran to and fro, making sure the streets were sealed off. Under their breath, they mumbled about the craziness of it all, and how they could have done without the headache.

The alleyways of the Old City, which the MKs will tour for two hours today, housed the cream of Arab society until 1948. Today, only Jews live there.

During their tour, the MKs are expected to pass the house of Hassan Salameh, a leader of the Arab revolt of 1936-39. They are also expected to pass the Mizrahi school, where Netanyahu's grandfather studied, and the Market Mosque, the last one built in the city (in 1901 ).

From there, they will head to the Jewish areas, visiting the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Arukh, and the Ashkenazi synagogue of the Ari, the 16th-century kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, where they will hold the traditional Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service.