Safed from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem w/transportation

Language Dutch, English, French, German
Price 800,00 USD for excursion
Capacity 16 persons max
Duration 8 hours

SAFED (Heb. צְפָת), principal town of Upper Galilee, situated on a mountain 850 m. high, 48 km. east of Acre, 40 km. North of Tiberias. Not mentioned in the Bible, Safed has sometimes been identified with Sepph , the city fortified by Josephus in the Upper Galilee at the time of an expected Roman attack in 66 CE (Wars, 2:573) In the Jerusalem Talmud (RH 2:1, 58a) Safed is mentioned as one of the mountaintop points from which fire signals were given to announce the New Moon and festivals during the Second Temple period. Two liturgical poems for the Ninth of Av by Eleazar *Kallir, Eikhah Yashevah and Zekhor Eikhah, refer to Safed as a place where priestly families (Jakim and Pashhur) settled after the destruction of the Temple. The name is repeated in the various kerovot (hymns recited before the Amidah) by poets who wrote in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries.

Between the talmudic period and the Crusades the history of Safed is not known. The town reappears in 1140 under the name Saphet, a "fortress of very great strength between Acre and the Sea of Galilee" built by King Fuque d' Anjou. Amalric I, the king of Jerusalem, handed it over in 1168 to the Knights Templar. Twenty years later, after his victory at Karnei Ḥittin, *Saladin took Safed (December 1188). His successors, the Ayyubids, ordered the dismantling of the fortress in 1220; however, in 1240 Safed was recaptured and rebuilt by the Knights Templar. In 1266 it passed from the crusaders to the Mamluk sultan Baybars, who continued to strengthen its fortifications. In Safed, the Mamluks established the headquarters of a "Mamlakah," a province which extended over Galilee and the Lebanon.

Jewish settlement in Safed is attested by genizah documents from the first half of the 11th century. Fifty years later the settlement was revived under Mamluk protection; R. Zadok, head of an academy of the gaon Jacob, was its most prominent member. Genizah documents confirm that there was a community at Safed in the 13th century; it continued to exist in early 14th century. In 1481 the Jewish community of Safed and of the villages in its vicinity numbered 300 families; it flourished under the protection of the Mamluk governors. Toward the end of Mamluk rule the community was greatly strengthened by an influx of refugees from Spain (1492). In 1495 the Jews of Safed were reported as trading in spices, cheese, oil, vegetables, and fruits. The Sephardi element further increased after the Ottoman conquest in 1516. In 1522 there were 300 Jewish families in Safed, composed of Sephardim, Moriscos, and Jews from the Maghreb. Later, three groups emerged among the Jews of Safed: Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Italians. Among the prominent leaders of the community in the 16th century was R. Jacob Berab, who tried to re-establish the Sanhedrin and renew rabbinical ordination . Other prominent rabbis included R. Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulḥan Arukh, and his contemporary R. Moses Trani. The leading kabbalist R. Isaac Luria lived in Safed and his important disciple R. Ḥayyim Vital resided there for some time. In the 16th century Safed was the centre of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah). The spiritual flowering of the town was accompanied by material prosperity. The newcomers established looms, whose products competed with those of Venice. In addition the Jews of Safed traded in the local produce of Galilee: oil, honey, silk, and spices. They also received both Jewish and gentile pilgrims in their homes.

In the modern period, under the rule of Ibrahim Pasha (1831–40) the town at first progressed and became Galilee's commercial centre, but toward the end of his rule it suffered from the strife between Arabs and Druzes and the Arab revolt against Ibrahim Pasha. It was particularly stricken in a violent earthquake (1837) which destroyed most of its houses and reportedly caused the death of 5,000 persons, 4,000 of whom were Jews. Many of the surviving rabbinical scholars went to Hebron. The Hebrew printing press of Israel Beck, which had been founded in 1831, was transferred after the earthquake to Kefar Jarmaq (Mount Meron) and later to Jerusalem . The Jewish community, which in 1839 had dwindled to 1,500 persons, further decreased to a mere 400 in 1845. However, the country's administration stabilized under the Turkish sultan ʿAbdul Majīd and Safed's situation improved. The former Jewish inhabitants returned and new immigrants settled,

Safed remained a mixed city during the British Mandate for Palestine and ethnic tensions between Jews and Arabs rose during the 1920s. With the eruption of the 1929 Palestine riots, Safed and Hebron became major clash points. In the Safed massacre 20 Jewish residents were killed by local Arabs. Safed was included in the part of Palestine allocated for the proposed Jewish state under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.

By 1948, the city was home to around 1,700 Jews, mostly religious and elderly, as well as some 12,000 Arabs. In February 1948, during the civil war, Muslim Arabs attacked a Jewish bus attempting to reach Safed, and the Jewish quarter of the town came under siege by the Muslims. British forces that were present did not intervene. According to Martin Gilbert, food supplies ran short. "Even water and flour were in desperately short supply. Each day, the Arab attackers drew closer to the heart of the Jewish quarter, systematically blowing up Jewish houses as they pressed in on the central area."

Anecdote: The Davidka

The Davidka (Yiddish: דוידקה, "Little David") was a home made Israeli mortar used in Safed and Jerusalem during the early stages of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Its bombs were reported to be extremely loud, but very inaccurate and otherwise of little value beyond terrifying opponents; they proved particularly useful in scaring away both Arab soldiers and civilians.

It is said that the Arabs, having been told that many of the designers of America's atomic bomb were Jewish (e.g., Einstein and Oppenheimer), thought that they were being attacked with atomic weapons As the day after its use rain fell all day and the Arabs made the connection with the black rain that fell on Hiroshima after the US atomic bomb was released on the town.

Synagogues in Safed

Yosef Caro Synagogue – The Yosef Caro Synagogue was named for R’ Yosef Caro writer of “Kit Yosef” and “Shulhan Aruch. R’ Yosef Caro was one of the Jews who was expelled during the Spanish Inquisition, and he arrived in Safed in 1536. He was the chief Rabbi of Safed and the Av Beit Din until his death at age 87 in 1575. The Yosef Caro synagogue was first built in the 16th century as a Beit Midrash (House of Study), and was rebuilt after the 1759 earthquake, though in smaller dimensions. Hassidim who arrived in Safed after 1777 prayed there and assisted in rebuilding after the earthquake of 1837. Under the synagogue, according to tradition, is the house where “The Maggid” sat with R’ Yosef Caro and related to him the secrets of the Torah. From these visions came R’ Caro’s book “Magid Mishrim”.

The synagogue, built in the 15th century, was named after R’ Yitzhak Abuhav, a sage from the 15th century Spain who wrote “Menorot HaMaor”. Legend tells us that R’ Abuhav wrote a Torah scroll, “Sefer Abuhav” which the synagogue houses in an ark on its southern wall until today. The synagogue caretakers remove this Torah scroll on Yom Kippur, Shavouth and Rosh Hashana. The original Abuhav synagogue was built near the cemetery, next to the Ari Sepharadi synagogue. During the earthquake of 1759, that original Abuhav synagogue was destroyed, and “Sefer Abuhav” was moved to “The Great Synagogue" which was renamed the new “Abuhav synagogue”. This synagogue was destroyed in the 1837 earthquake, and only the Southern wall, which housed the ark of the Torah scrolls, remained standing. In the middle of the synagogue floor is a blue canopy held aloft by four pillars. The pillars are covered with paintings and etchings. The stone benches which surround the bima (center stand) are in the style of the old Sepharadi synagogues of Eretz Yisrael. The outer walls of the synagogue were reconstructed in the early 20th century based on their original design.

The Fortress Garden in Safed

The beautiful and ancient Fortress Garden is situated on one of the highest points in the city of Safed. Located at the height of 850 meters above Sea Level, the Safed Fortress Garden provides a comprehensive experience: it offers a beautiful lookout toward the surroundings of the city, as well as of the Galilee area, well-kept gardens and lawns, tall trees and archaeological remains from various periods in history. This is because this place was settled already two thousand years ago, during the time of "The Great Revolt” of the Jews against the Romans., the "Mivtzar Sataph," which was built by Yoseph ben Matithyahu (Josephus Flavius), One thousand years later, in the same place, the Crusaders built a fortress from which they ruled the Galilee. Safed fell to Saladin after the battle of the Horns of Hittin, was temporarily returned to the Crusaders and finally fell to the Mameluke Sultan Baybars. The earthquake of 1837 destroyed the citadel and most of the city, which never fully recovered. It is interesting to know that this well guarded fortress was surrounded by no less than three stone walls. These wall are all now under the roads that circumvent around the top of the city.

Safed Fortress

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