Religious Jews sit near the Ari'zal's tomb, T
Religious Jews sit near the Ari'zal's tomb, T Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90

A delegation of French community leaders from the northern city of of Lille arrived in Tzfat (Safed) on Wednesday, in what may be an attempt to re-twin the two cities after a "temporary freeze" was enacted a month ago. 

Lille's city council froze the French municipality’s twinning agreement with Tzfat in early October in an attempt to pressure the Israeli government to end its conflict with the Palestinians. 

The decision, which Operation Protective Edge played a factor in, was sent to the Tzfat Municipality in an official letter. 

The initiative is one of several "taken notably by the European Parliament to call for a freezing of the privileged agreements with Israel in order to pressure the government and accelerate the resolution of the conflict,” said council member Marie-Pierre Bresson of the Green Party.

Mayor Martine Aubry, of the ruling Socialist Party, told AFP that the twinning agreement with Safed was not canceled, but she did not elaborate on when the temporary freeze would be lifted. 

Roger Cukierman, president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), an umbrella organization representing French Jewry, responded in a letter to Aubry that was published on CRIF's website, writing that the move was shocking to the Jewish community of France. 

“This decision corresponds with hateful attitudes to the Israeli people,” he wrote.

Indeed, Tzfat's Municipal Government Center noted that the success of pro-Palestinians in shutting down their relations with Lille could snowball into other cities in France beginning to cut ties with their counterparts in Israel. 

Despite the continuation of the freeze and an air of tension, a delegation of Lille officials, priests, and business leaders, along with members of the local Jewish community, arrived in the Galilean town Wednesday.

The purpose of their visit is to strengthen local residents and explore investment opportunities, the Israeli newspaper, Maariv reported.

Over the past two decades, Tzfat - one of Judaism's four holy cities, and a center of Jewish mysticism - and Lille, the fourth largest city in France, have collaborated on cultural engagements, particularly musicians' excavation exchanges, and promoting scientific medical research. 

In another attempt to cool the air, French officials have also recently suggested holding meetings between Mayor of Tzfat, Ilan Shohat and the mayor of Palestinian Authority city Nablus - another city Lille is twinned with. 

Among many other things, Tzfat served as a center for the Kabbalist movement in the medieval period, and is the burial site of one of the most influential Jewish mystics, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, also known as the Ari'zal.

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