Safed History

From Zissil
Jump to: navigation, search
Tzfat History
Tzfat History
ההיסטוריה של צפת
History of the city of Safed, Israel.

Tzfat is a northern Israeli city who's history dates back thousands of years, though its Golden Age it came together with the Jews who, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, developed the town into an important center of Jewish life.


[edit] Early History

Not much is known about the early history of Tzfat. It belonged to the Tribe of Naftali but is not the city of 'Tzfat' mentioned twice in Tanach. Some claim it was one of the 42 Levite cities, giving it semi 'City of Refuge' benefits. During the time of the Temple, citizens would light huge bonfires on Tzfat’s Citadel mountain, one in a line of stations, to announce the inauguration of each New Month. Josephus, in his “War of the Jews” mentioned fortifying and stationing a battalion of soldiers in preparation for the Great Revolt in “Sepeph”, which many scholars believe referred to Safed. It also served as a sanctuary for priestly families which fled Jerusalem during Roman rule in the 3rd and 4th centuries. There are three known Biblical figures buried in Tzfat and eighteen Tanaim.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on Early Safed History

[edit] Crusader Period

The Crusaders arrived in Tzfat in the 11th century and built a huge fortress on Tzfat’s “Metzuda”, the Citadel. This was the largest Crusader fortress built in the Middle East. It is believed the Crusaders massacred the Jewish inhabitants of Safed upon their arrival. A 1187 defeat of the Crusaders by Saladin led to the eventual return of Jews to the city in 1216. Arabs also began to move into the town and establish an Arab Quarter. Continuous battles between the Christains and Muslims destroyed the fortress in 1220. It was not until 1240 when a peace treaty gave back control of the city to the Crusaders that the fortress was rebuilt and expanded. This time the Jewish community which had grown to 300 families, was left alone. With the fall of the Crusaders and the rise of the Mameluke rule in the 13th century, the existing Jewish and Arab populations began to grow slowly.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Crusaders in Safed

[edit] Mamluke Era

In 1266 the Mamluke Sultan al-Zahir Baybars from Egypet defeated the Crusaders and took over Safed. They rebuilt the Metzuda fortress and expanded the city, welcoming the growth of a Jewish community. Towards the end of the Mamluke Era, Tzfat started absorbing many refugees from Spain, especially following the 1492 Explosion. This led to the development of a wool textile industry in Tzfat which provided employment to many of its residents who used the streams of the nearby Wadi Amud valley to power their fulling mills.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Mamluke Era of Safed

[edit] Golden Era

In 1517 the Turks defeated the Mamlukes, starting almost 400 years of Ottoman rule. As a result of the Spanish Expulsion many Jews settled in Tzfat. They brought life and economic success to the city, starting a period of roughly 200 years that was known as the Golden Age of Safed. Amongst the new settlers were many great Kabbalist whose presents in Tzfat gave it its permanent title as the 'City of Kabbalah'. By the late 1600's the Golden Age of Safed started coming to an end, more people were preferring to live in Yerushalaim and the community was crippled by a Druze rampage of destruction and a devastating earthquake.

[edit] Refugees from the Inquisition

Many Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal made their way to Israel in the 15th and 16th centuries. Most settled in Jerusalem but some were drawn to Tzfat, especially the Kabbalists. The study of Kabbalah was partly developed in the 2nd century A.D. in Northern Israel. Many Kabbalists who moved to the Land of Israel after the upheavals of the Inquisition wanted to live and study in the area where the holy sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Kabbalistic “Zohar” had lived and taught.

[edit] City of Kabbalah

Rabbi Isaac Luria, the ARI was one of the great Kabbalists who came to live in Zefat during the 16th century. The ARI only lived in Tzfat for under three years but during this period he taught and refined the study of Jewish mysticism. Lurianic Kabbalah emphasizes how a Jew’s understanding of the secrets of the Torah can enhance his relationships with G-d and with his fellow man. Lurianic Kabbalah played a strong influence on the development of the Hassidic movement and most Kabbalah scholars, even today, study the ARI’s teachings. Due to the ARI’s influence in Tsfat, the Jewish World began to regard Tzfat as the 'City of Kabbala'.

Other great scholars who lived in Tzfat included Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Rabbi Ya’akov Beirav, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, Rabbi Moshe ben Yosef di Trani, Rabbi Elazar Azkari, Rabbi Chaim Vital and Rabbi Yosef Caro. Rabbi Caro’s scholarly work “Shulhan Aruch” played a major role in helping post-Inquisition far-flung Jewish communities maintain proper Jewish observances and laws.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Golden Era of Safed

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on Tzfat Kabbalah

[edit] Post-Middle Ages

[edit] Late Ottoman Period

Tzfat’s Jewish “Golden Age” ended with the 1759 earthquake that toppled much of the local economy as well as the physical structure of the city. Ashkanazi Jews, beginning with the Lithuanian students of the Vilna Gaon and supplemented by Hassidic followers of the Ba’al Shem Tov augmented the existing community of Sephradi (Mediterranean and North African) Jews but famines, epidemics, an Arab progrom in 1834, another devastating earthquake in 1837 and a Druze rampage in 1838 once again decimated the Jewish population. The Jewish and Arab population numbers remained fairly equal until World War I when European donations dried up. Many Jews left Tzfat at this time. Some moved to other areas in Israel but others emigrated to America, Australia and South America.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Later Ottoman Era of Safed

[edit] British Mandate

When the British routed the Turks during World War I and imposed the British Mandate in Israel, the Jews of Tzfat welcomed them, believing that they would support the Jews’ dream of self-rule. British policy turned decidedly pro-Arab, however, and contributed to the deterioration of Jewish-Arab relations in Tzfat.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the British Rule of Safed

[edit] Arab Riots

A watershed event in Jewish-Arab relations occurred in 1929. Arabs throughout the country rioted, convinced that the growing Jewish population was intent on removing them from their lands. In Safed, the Arabs rioted for three days, killing 18 people, wounding many more and burning down a large part of the Jewish Quarter. Witness reported that the British soldiers looked on impassively, only protecting Jewish lives after the initial rioting subsided. These riots occurred during the same period as the riots in Hebron. Unlike the survivors of the Hebron massacre who escaped to Jerusalem, the Jews of Tsfat had nowhere to go. They rebuilt their homes and began to drill in self-defense skills.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the 1929 Arab Massacre in Safed

[edit] War of Independence

Both Jews and Arabs focused on Tzfat as the “Capitol of the North” during the War of Independence. The British turned over the high lookouts of the city to Arab forces and left in April 1948. The Jewish Haganah and Irgun, quasi-military organizations, fought side by side against the Arab forces which included troops from Syria and Jordan. Jewish forces successfully held off numerous Arab assaults until they were able to capture the city’s strategic police station and Citadel and end the battle.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Safed During the War of Independence

[edit] Modern Tzfat History

In the years following the establishment of the State of Israel, Tzfat absorbed thousands of immigrants, most of whom were refugees from their native countries. Many Hungarian, Polish and Romanian Jews from Eastern Europe settled in Tzfat, among them a sizable number of Holocaust survivors. The immigrant waves also included large numbers of Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish refugees. In the 1980s Safed became a center of absorption for Ethiopian immigrants. In 1990 thousands of Russian Jews arrived in Safed to make their home in the area.

[edit] Second Lebanon War

Hizbollah shot katyusha rockets and many of the city's residents evacuated.

More.jpg Read full Zissil article on the Safed During the Second Lebanon War

PrivacyDisclaimer Terms of Use
Share |
Share |
Personal tools