The 1660 destruction of Safed occurred during the Druze power struggle in Mount Lebanon, at the time of the rule of Ottoman sultan Mehmed IV. The towns of Safed and nearby Tiberias, with substantial Jewish communities, were destroyed in the turmoil. Only a few of the former residents of Safed had returned to the town after the destruction. Gershom Scholem considers the 1662 reports about the destruction of Safed as "exaggerated". The community, however, recovered within several years, whereas Tiberias lay in waste for decades.
Safed: historical context
Safed's central role in Jewish life in Galilee declined after the late 16th century, when it had been a major city with a population of 15,000 Jews. By the second half of the 17th century Safed still had a majority Jewish community with 200 "houses" and some 4,000 to 5,000 Jewish residents, while about 100 "houses" (multiple family units) in the town were Muslim. The district was under control of Druze emirs from the Maan family until 1660, when the Ottomans sought to regain local control by reorganizing the sanjaks of Safed and Sidon-Beirut into the new province of Sidon. From the 1658 death of Emir Mulhim Ma'n to 1667, a struggle for power between his sons and other Ottoman-backed Druze rulers took place in the region. Mulhim's son Ahmad Maʿn emerged victorious among the Druze, but the Maʿnīs lost control of the area and retreated to the Shuf mountains and Kisrawan. In the second half of the 17th century, Safed became the capital of the Ottoman sanjak of the same name.
Year of the destruction
Adler, Franco and Mendelssohn claim that the destruction of Safed took place in 1660, Mendelssohn writing that the Jews of Safed "had suffered severely" when the city had been destroyed by the Arabs.
Gershom Scholem places the attack in 1662, and Rappel writes that by 1662 both Safed and Tiberias were destroyed, with only a few of former Safed's Jewish residents to return to the town. A publication by the General Council of the Jewish Community of Palestine states that the Druze of Lebanon raided and destroyed both Safed and Tiberias in 1662, "and the inhabitants fled to the adjacent villages, to Sidon or to Jerusalem".
Claims of massacre
Rosanes brings a claim of Safed's Jewish community "utter destruction" in his book "History of the Jews in Turkish realm". Jacob de Haas, in his History of Palestine, asserts the near-total destruction of the Safed Jewish community, claiming that "its community had been massacred in 1660, when the town was destroyed by Arabs, and only one Jew escaped." However, Gershom Scholem writes that the reports of the "utter destruction" of the Jewish community in Safed in this time period "seem greatly exaggerated, and the conclusions based on them are false." He points out that Sabbatai Sevi's mystical movement was active in Safed in 1665. Scholem also attributes to the "French trader d'Arvieux who visited Safed in 1660" an understanding of "the religious factor which enabled the community to survive," a belief "'that the Messiah who will be born in Galilee, will make Safed the capital of his new kingdom on earth'" Scholem wrote that there was definitely a Jewish community in Safed in 1664–1667.
Only a few of the former residents of Safed had returned to the town after the destruction. Altogether, the town's Jewish community kept existing despite the events, with Barnai saying that "in the second half of the 17th century the Jewish presence in Palestine dwindled, and the Jewish presence in the Galilee also shrank. Only in Safed was there a small community."
- ^ a b c Isidore Singer; Cyrus Adler (1912). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Funk and Wagnalls. p. 283.
In 1660, under Mohammed IV. (1649-87), Safed was destroyed by the Arabs.
- ^ a b c Jacob De Haas (1934). History of Palestine. p. 345.
Safed, hotbed of mystics, is not mentioned in the Zebi adventure. Its community had been massacred in 1660, when the town was destroyed by Arabs, and only one Jew escaped.
- ^ a b c Sidney Mendelssohn. The Jews of Asia: especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. (1920) p.241. "Long before the culmination of Sabbathai's mad career, Safed had been destroyed by the Arabs and the Jews had suffered severely, while in the same year (1660) there was a great fire in Constantinople in which they endured heavy losses..."
- ^ a b c Franco, Moïse (1897). Essai sur l'histoire des Israélites de l'Empire ottoman: depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours. Librairie A. Durlacher. p. 88. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
Moins de douze ans après, en 1660, sous Mohammed IV, la ville de Safed, si importante autrefois dans les annales juives parce qu'elle était habitée exclusivement par les Israélites, fut détruite par les Arabes, au point qu'il n' y resta, dit une chroniquer une seule ame juive.
- ^ A Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine. P.409. "Sultan Seliman surrounded it with a wall in 5300 (1540), and it commenced to revive a little, and to be inhabited by the most distinguished Jewish literati; but it was destroyed again in 5420 (1660)." 
- ^ a b c Barnai, Jacob. The Jews in Palestine in the Eighteenth Century: under the patronage of the Istanbul Committee of Officials for Palestine (University of Alabama Press 1992) ISBN 978-0-8173-0572-7; p. 14
- ^ a b c d Joel Rappel. History of Eretz Israel from Prehistory up to 1882 (1980), Vol.2, p.531. "In 1662 Sabbathai Sevi arrived to Jerusalem. It was the time when the Jewish settlements of Galilee were destroyed by the Druze: Tiberias was completely desolate and only a few of former Safed residents had returned..."
- ^ a b c Gershom Gerhard Scholem (1976-01-01). Sabbatai Sevi: the Mystical Messiah, 1626-1676. Princeton University Press. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-691-01809-6.
In Safed, too, the [Sabbatai] movement gathered strength during the autumn of 1665. The reports about the utter destruction, in 1662 [sic], of the Jewish settlement there seem greatly exaggerated, and the conclusions based on them are false. ... Rosanes' account of the destruction of the Safed community is based on a misunderstanding of his sources; the community declined in numbers but continued to exist ... A very lively account of the Jewish community is given by French trader d'Arvieux who visited Safed in 1660.
- ^ Dr. Altshuler, Mor. The Messianic Secret. (Hebrew). Ch.8. "The Golden Age of the Kabbalah in Safed and its economic blossom continued through the sixteenth century. At its peak more than 15,000 Jews populated the city."
- ^ Keneset Yiśraʼel be-Erets-Yiśraʼel. Ṿaʻad ha-leʼumi (1947). Historical memoranda. General Council (Vaad leumi) of the Jewish Community of Palestine. p. 62. "… thirty to forty years later, the French traveller Roger mentions 200 Jewish and 100 Moslem houses, elsewhere in his book putting the number of Jews at 4,000 persons. According to the Turkish traveller Evlia Chelebi there were about 1,300 Jewish houses, although he probably meant families. It seems, therefore, that at about the middle of the XVIIth century there were some 4,000 to 5,000 Jews in Safed."
- ^ a b "the sanjaq of Ṣafad, which was part of this province, remained under the suzerainty of Druze amīrs until 1660, when the Ottomans reorganized the province. The Maʿnīs, however were unable to preserve their control of the sanjaq, and the Druze villages in the area lost their protection." Firro, Kais (1992). A history of the Druzes. BRILL. p. 45. ISBN 978-90-04-09437-6.
- ^ a b Abu-Husayn, Abdul-Rahim (2004). The view from Istanbul: Lebanon and the Druze Emirate in the Ottoman chancery documents, 1546-1711. I.B.Tauris. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1-86064-856-4.
- ^ Salibi, Kamal S. (2005). A house of many mansions: the history of Lebanon reconsidered. I.B.Tauris. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-86064-912-7.
- ^ "In 1662, Safed and Tiberias were destroyed in a raid by Druzes from the Lebanon, and the inhabitants fled to the adjacent villages, to Sidon or to Jerusalem" Keneset Yiśraʼel be-Erets-Yiśraʼel. Ṿaʻad ha-leʼumi (1947). Historical memoranda. General Council (Vaad leumi) of the Jewish Community of Palestine. p. 62.
- ^ Scholem, loc. cit., p187