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SITE STORIES

Northern Sites Stories
Safed

Safed is the capital of the Galilee District. Safed is one of Judaism's four holly cities along with Jerusalem, Tiberius and Hebron and a center for Kabala and Jewish mysticism. 


According to the great mystics Safed have a main role in the final redemption. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochay says that the Messiah will come from Safed on his way to Jerusalem. 
 

According to legend Safed was founded by Shem (a son of Noah) and Ever (grandson of Noah) after the great flood. Safed is sometimes identified with Sepph, a fortified Jewish town in the Upper Galilee mentioned in the writings of the Roman Jewish historian Josephus. 
Safed was mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as one of five elevated spots where fires were lit to announce the New Moon and festivals during the period of Second Temple. 
  
According to other sources, the town was founded in 70AD. The city flourished in the 16th century, when many famous Jewish religious scholars and mystics moved to Safed from Europe. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, many prominent rabbis found their way to Safed. 

 

Safed become the spiritual center of the Jewish world where Kabala (Jewish mysticism) reached the peak of its influence. 
Cabbalists such as Rabbi Isaac Luria (Arizal) and Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (composer of the Sabbath hymn Lecha Dodi), and Rabbi Josef Karo (author of Shulchan Aruch) made the city famous. 
  
It was here that the first printing press in the entire continent of Asia was installed, publishing in 1577 the first Hebrew book to be printed in Israel. The book was written by Eliezer Ashkenazi and his son, Isaac of Prague. 
  
The 8,000 or 10,000 Jews in Safed in 1555 grew to almost 30,000 by the end of the century. A plague in 1742 and an earthquake in 1759 led to a decline of the Jewish community in Safed, leaving only seven families at its nadir. An influx of Russian Jews in 1776 and 1781 and of the Perushim in 1809 and 1810 reinvigorated the community. 
 

In 1812 another plague killed an estimated 80% of the Jewish population, and in 1819 the remaining Jews were held for ransom by Abdallah Pasha, the governor of Akko. In 1833/4 an Arab mob attacked the Jewish community, killing and pillaging many. On 1837 an earthquake killed 4,000 Jewish inhabitants. Most of the antiquities of Safed were destroyed by these earthquakes. 
 

During the whole 19th century, the Jewish community suffered from Bedouin and Arab attacks. The Jewish population was increased in the last half of the 19th century by immigration from North Africa and Persia. During the war of independence Safed was split between Jews and Arabs and the battles were hard. 


The Palmach ended up rescuing Safed and the Arab population – fled. Today, Safed has seen a rebirth and a resurgence of popularity, and has again become a center for Jewish learning. 


In Safed there are many cobblestone streets and many artists work there so Safed gained a reputation as an artist colony. 
Between the artists colony's there many old synagogues and a colorful vibrant city!!

Nitzan Travel Ltd.

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