Ashtam Building Safed
|Eshtam, Municipality Warehouse|
|Historic building on the edge of the Old Jewish Quarter, Safed.|
One of the first buildings that many visitors see when they enter the Old City of Safed is the Ashtam building. The concrete facade is marked with bullet holes, hinting at a deeper story regarding the building’s history.
Beit Ashtam is located at the beginning of Yosef Caro Street at the entrance into the Old City. There are several entrances into the building, both from Yosef Caro Street as well as along the side of the building and around the back of the building.
Visitors will notice the building immediately as they descend from their tour buses and walk into the Old Jewish Quarter from Kikar Sadeh, the central tourist bus parking area.
Following the Arab riots of 1929, the building company “Solel Boneh” built Beit Ashtam on the ruins of homes which had been destroyed by Arab rioters. The building was commissioned by “Keren Ezra,” a welfare association, as an outlook that could protect the Jews of Tzfat from further Arab incursions.
Beit Ashtam’s main purpose was to serve as a cement barricade to guard the Jewish Quarter from maurading Arabs who might cross over from the Arab Quarter. A factory for jerrycans and primus burners was also established in the building.
 War of Independence
During the Battle for Tzfat in 1948’s War of Independence, Beit Ashtam was one of the “Haganah’s” -- Jewish defense force’s -- most important strongholds for protecting and defending the Jews of the Old Jewish Quarter. Arab forces made many attempts to capture the building but the Haganah soldiers inside continuously repelled them.
Visitors will note the hundreds of bullet holes in the building’s facade, testifying to the many attempts that the Arabs made to cross into the Jewish Quarter during the 1947/1948 Battle for Tzfat. A plaque on the side of the building memorializes Yehoshua Faraj Ohana, a young soldier from Tzfat who was killed on his watch inside Beit Ashtam.
Today the Ashtam building serves many functions. It belongs to the municipality and municipal workers use it as their storage room and center of operations for Old City maintenance. Public bathrooms are available in the building. An electrician rents out part of the building as a workshop.