I had planned on saving the Kabbalah discussion until later in the month. However, all the recent publicity about Madonna (America's most famous Kabbalah student) inspired me to reread the Kabbalah chapter of the book. As a result, I decided to move up the posts.
Weiner decides to study Kabbalah in an Israeli city named Safed (or Tzfat). For the record, I found his decision to be disappointing. For nearly a decade I have lived near a house that is the Queens headquarters for Kabbalah Center International. I frequently see their huge truck, emblazoned with Live. Love. Kabbalah. in the streets. I eagerly turned to the chapter in the hopes of finding out what goes on in that house (besides constant Fresh Direct deliveries). I had hoped that Weiner would spend some time in the US before going to Israel. I guess that studying on the highest point in Queens doesn't compare to Safed.
Safed has been a center for Kabbalah studies for centuries. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many Jewish scholars moved to Israel and settled in Safed. One of the most famous was Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (known as the Ari) who spent the last years of his life in Safed. He spent much time walking the streets of the town with his followers.
Twenty-first century Safed is extremely proud of its Kabbala heritage. The official city site is: http://www.safed.co.il/city-of-kabbalah-html. The city website has a nice overview of the history of Kabbalah and the famous rabbis who studied Kabbalah while they lived in Safed. It also provides information about some of the current residents who make the city unique, such as a doberman-raising man and a woman who formerly had 30 cats.