Metzuda of Safed

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Tzfat Citadel
Tzfat Citadel
Mitzuda, Mitzudah
Other Names:
Metzuda Park, Tzfat Citadel
Historic hilltop in the center of Safed where successive ruling powers have solidified their rule of the city and the surrounding area.

The “Metzuda” of Tzfat is a central site of the city’s historical past. Visitors and residents of modern-Tzfat can enjoy strolls along the pathways that criss-cross the hilltop’s ancient and modern historical remains.


[edit] History

The Tzfat Metzuda has always played an important role in the settlement of the surrounding community.

[edit] Cave of Shem and Ever

The Cave of Shem and Ever sits near the base of the Metzuda. According to Jewish tradition, this cave was the “Yeshiva” -- seminary -- where Noah’s son Shem and great grandson Ever, and then the Patriarch Jacob, studied Torah. The cave holds religious significance for Judaism, Islam and Christianity and at various times throughout history, all three religions have maintained Houses of Prayer at the cave.

[edit] Talmudic References

Tower on top of the Metzuda.
Safed sits at an elevation of 900 meters above sea level and is the highest city in Israel. The Talmud Yerushalmi provides one of the earliest known written references to Safed. The “masechet” -- section -- “Rosh Hashana” mentions an area called “Zefath” as one of five elevated spots where Jews would light massive bonfires to mark the “Rosh Chodesh” -- new month. This occurred during the times of the “Beit HaMikdash” -- the Temple in Jerusalem -- as well as for several centuries into the first millennium

A.D. These fires served as a signal to Jews of the area that a New Month had been declared by two witnesses in Jerusalem. The Tzfat station’s fire would have been visible to the Jews throughout northeastern Israel as well as in today’s Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

[edit] Roman Era

In Josephus’s book “The War of the Jews” Josephus wrote of his strategies in fighting the Roman legions. In Chapter 25 of this book Josephus wrote that he stationed a battalion of his soldiers on the hilltop of a Galillean town which he called “Seph” or ”Zeph.” Modern historians believe Josephus was referring to the hilltop of Tzfat because his description of the area matches what historians already now about Josephus’s troops’ movements and the battles that were fought in the area.

[edit] Crusaders and Mamlukes

The Crusaders captured Tzfat in the early years of the 12th century and built a fortress on the mountaintop. In doing so, they leveled the area so any existing archaeological evidence was either displaced or buried under the fortress. The fortress was the largest fortress that the Crusaders’ built anywhere in the Middle East and included a moat. The fortress was destroyed in battles with Saladin, rebuilt and ultimately destroyed again. The Mamlukes, under the leadership of the Sultan Beybars captured the area and slaughtered the Crusader soldiers who had taken refuge within in 1266. Beybars rebuilt the fortress and added a mosque as well as a 60-meter tower.

[edit] War of Independence

As the British mandate ended in 1948 the British turned over their lookout posts on the Metzuda to the Arab forces. The Arabs proceeded to roll canisters of explosives from the Metzuda into the Jewish Quarter to terrorize the Jewish residents. Capturing the Metzuda was a prime goal of the “Haganah” -- Jewish Defense Forces -- because once they controlled the Metzuda they could take control of the city. The Haganah made several attempts to capture the Metzuda and in early May 1948 they succeeded.

[edit] Park

In 1951 the City of Safed built a park on the Metzuda and erected a monument to memorialize the Haganah soldiers who had died during the Battle for Tzfat. The park has gone through several renovations over the years. Presently it is a pleasant open area where visitors can stroll along the walking trails, take advantage of the picnic areas and explore the exposed, partially-excavated Crusader ruins. The park is open continuously, is not fenced in and is accessible by foot or by car along the Hativat HaYiftach Road.

[edit] more Photos

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