web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



The Jewish Mystical City of Safed

Documents found in the Cairo Genizah confirm that a Jewish community lived within Safed from the 13th century.
Beit-Knesset-Abuhav-

Safed, the mystical city located in the mountains of Northern Israel, is considered one of the four Holy cities according to Judaism and is filled with Jewish history from the Second Temple period to the present. Safed, a beautiful city in the Galilee, has rich Jewish history dating back to ancient times. Safed is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but the Jerusalem Talmud notes Safed as one of the five mountaintop points from where fires were lit to announce the new moon and festivals in Ancient Israel. Historians also identify Safed as Sepph, the city fortified by Josephus in the Galilee at the time of the anticipated Roman attack in 66 CE. Additionally, two ancient poems written by Eleazar Kallir claim that Jewish priestly families’ settled in Safed following the destruction of the Second Temple.

Documents found in the Cairo Genizah confirm that a Jewish community lived within Safed from the 13th century under Mamluk rule. Samuel Ben Samson, who visited there in the 13th century, claimed that the city boasted a Jewish community of at least 50. However, according to the historian Stanford Shaw, Safed’s Jewish community rose to 7,525 souls in 1555-6; due to an influx of Jews emigrating to Safed from Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, and from North Africa. The Sephardic Jews took refuge in Ottoman lands after given the choice between conversion to Christianity, expulsion or death in 1492. These Jewish immigrants mixed in with the local Jewish population that had been living in the Holy Land since antiquity.

Safed-in-pre-ZionismAccording to Shaw, Safed became “a major industrial and trade center during the early years of Kanuni Suleyman’s (Suleyman the Magnificent) long reign.” He claimed, “The most important source of wealth at Safed and Sidon came from a highly developed wool industry. Raw materials coming mainly from Salonika and Istanbul were woven into cloths which were sold throughout Eretz Yisrael and Syria as well as being exported to Anatolia and throughout the Mediterranean area through the port of Sidon.” The Jews of Ottoman Safed also traded in oil, honey, silk and spices.

Yet, aside from the Safed Jewish communities’ economic contributions to the Ottoman Empire, Shaw also emphasized that Safed was the “Empire’s most important center of Jewish mystic learning and contemplation.” Great rabbis such as the Jewish mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as the Ha-Ari which means ‘the lion’; Joseph Caro, author of the Shulhan Arukh, considered by many to be the ultimate compendium of Jewish law; and Solomon Alkabetz, who wrote the Lecha Dodi prayer recited every Shabbat, lived in Safed.

Yet not all of the Jewish intellectuals of Safed were men. Jewish women under Ottoman rule, living in Eretz Yisrael contributed significantly to Safed’s intellectual history. Floretta of Modena engaged in a weekly course on the Tanakh, Jewish laws, the works of Maimonides, and the Zohar. She was not the only Jewish female intellectual of Safed during the Ottoman period. Channah Rochel Werbemacher, who hosted an open table on Shabbat afternoons, and Francesa Sarah, Ari’s foremost disciple, also played an active role in the Safed Jewish community.

Jewish Safed thrived until the 1929 Arab riots, during which the main Jewish street was looted and burned and 20 Jews were murdered and many injured. After this the Jewish community in Safed experienced a decline. Despite this the Safed Jewish community successfully defended the city in the face of Arab aggression during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, resulting in Safed being absorbed as part of the State of Israel. Today, Safed is a major pilgrimage destination for Jews visiting the Holy Land, since the city is one of the four holiest cities in the Jewish religion.

Popular destinations within Safed include the Sephardic Ari Synagogue, the oldest synagogue within the city which was founded in 1522 and is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria; the Caro Synagogue that is named after Joseph Caro and possesses a Torah scroll over 500 years old; and the Alshekh Synagogue, which is named after the leading 16th century Kabbalist Rabbi Moses Alshekh and has a beautiful blue dome ceiling. In 2008, Safed had a population of 32,000 souls, of whom the majority are Jewish.

Visit United with Israel.

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Jewish Mystical City of Safed”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

UWI blog logo
Current Top Story
US Marines walk a city street in Fallujah, heavily damaged by the fighting. (2004)
Netanyahu Says Making Gaza ‘Israel’s Fallujah’ Was Too High a Price
Latest Blogs Stories
The Palestinian Authority backed by EU funds, has sent Bedouin into the E-1 area of Maaleh Adumim to claim it is part of their fictional history.

The new “Begin Plan” is an impending nightmare, it rewards the Bedouins for brazen land-grabbing.

its a deal

There is absolutely nothing for Israel’s security in this American document.

A Jewish wedding.

Is it because of corrupt values and lack of meeting opportunities that we have a shidduch crisis?

Islamic Law

Israel is fighting the war that none of the Western world has the ability or courage to fight.

Finish the job! Sayyem et a missima!סיים את המסימה!

Life after 50? You better believe it! Tips on how to prepare and enjoy life after retirement.

While I am no fan of the two-state solution, I think I have a solution for the Gaza strip. Let me make it perfectly clear that in no way do I believe a Palestinian people, nation or Arab State ever existed in the history of the world and certainly was not occupied by Israel. If […]

Hamas targeted the Erez Crossing when it knew that Gazans and Israeli Arabs would be there, out in the open…

Does it really take Jewish innovation to come up with this idea?

If you don’t know who’s behind The terror in your mind The answer’s not hard to find, Blame the Jews

If feminism is mentioned at all, it is usually to condemn it as an anti Torah ideal.

“…people making jokes about turning this into a shelter rave, taking #bombshelterselfies…”

Marriage is not just about emotional fidelity but about financial fidelity as well.

So you want to blame Israel? First answer these 5 simple questions, and see if you even have a leg to stand on…

Hamas’s online Jihadi supporters and groupies are desperately trying to differentiate between their support for Hamas and supporting ISIS.

We all got degrees. We got married. We had families. We worked. We and were Koveih Itim

More Articles from Rachel Avraham
Diversity in Israel

Pro-Israel groups must broaden their coalitions and feature more pro-Israel minority speakers.

mahmoud abbas

Mahmoud Abbas tortured prisoners in PA custody and oppressed critical bloggers and journalists.

None of us support violence and we found out about the story in the media, just like every one else.

Why testify against ones boss or co-worker who engage in sexual harassment, if the case will most likely be dismissed anyway?

The Fatah-Hamas divide in itself should have killed the idea of a two-state for two peoples’ paradigm.

It is absolutely critical that religious Jewish girls have a support network throughout their IDF service.

Women of the Wall Vice Chair Batya Kallus serves as an adviser to Sikkuy, a signatory to the Haifa Declaration calling for the abolishing of the State of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/the-jewish-mystical-city-of-safed/2013/07/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: