From Safed, over eight hundred meters above sea level, on a clear day one can see Lebanon and mount Hermon mountain to the north, mount Meron to the west, the Golan heights to the east and the Sea of Galilee to the south. Although not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (O.T.) the Roman historian Josephus Flavius tells us that he fortified the city and built a fortress prior to the Jewish revolt against the Romans (67 CE).
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 Beybars.
With the beginning of the Turkish rule in 1516 Safed became a spiritual and Kabala center for many Jewish exilees who had been expelled from Spain in 1492. The thriving economy, based on the textile industry, wool weaving and unique dyeing process, came to an end with the industrial revolution in Europe.
The earthquake of 1837Â destroyed the citadel and most of the city, which never fully recovered. After the 1947 UN resolution to partition Palestine Safed, with an Arab and Jewish population, became a strategic link between the predominantly Arab western Galilee and the Jewish eastern Galilee. In May 1948 when the city was conquered by the Israelis the entire Arab population abandoned the city.
Apart from the cemetery where a number of the Sages are buried and the unusual synagogues in the old city visitors can enjoy the countless art galleries and local handicraft shops.
Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)
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