1660 Destruction of Safed
|הרס בצפת 1660|
|Massacre of Jewish residents of Tzfat by the Druze in 1660.|
The 1660 destruction of Safed by Druze tribesmen was a major step in the chain of events that led to its decline after the spiritual and economic successes of its Golden Age. During the weakened reign of Mehmed IV, Druze tribesmen came from the mountains of Lebanon and raided Safed and Tiberias almost completely destroying the city, forcing its Jewish inhabitants to flee to nearby villages.
 Historical Overview
By the 1600's the Golden Age of Safed was waning. Whereas the top scholars of the 16th century had made their homes in Tzfat, by the early 17th century the new generation of great rabbis was again settling in Jerusalem. The Jews of Safed were at the mercy of raids by local Druze and Bedouin tribesmen who were at war with the Ottoman rulers for control. Sultan Selim II deported 1,500 textile workers and their families to Cyprus in 1576, ending Tzfat’s dominance over the region’s textile trade. Bandits ruled the roads in the 17th century and the ruling Ottomans struggled to maintain their domination of the region.
 Raid and Plunder
Following the death of Sultan Mulhim Ma’n in 1658, his successor, Mehmed IV was unable to exercise authority over the bandits and marauders who roamed throughout Northern Israel. In 1660 (some accounts indicate that the incident occurred in 1662) Druze tribesmen came from the mountains of Lebanon and raided Safed and Tiberias. They completely destroyed the towns.
Some historians believe that the Jewish community of Tzfat was completely decimated by this attack while others report that the Jews of Tzfat fled to nearby villages where they were sheltered by Jewish and Arab neighbors. Following the raid however, there were almost no Jews left living in Tzfat. Historical accounts note that by 1665 the re-emerging Jewish population of Tzfat was affected by the false messianic movement of Shabatai Tzvi.
 Population Change
A 1573 census by the Ottomans counted over 10,000 Jewish residents of Tzfat. By 1730, the population numbered 1,800 residents.