1517 Safed attacks

The Safed attacks were an incident that took place in Safed soon after the Turkish Ottomans had ousted the Mamluks and taken Levant during the Ottoman–Mamluk War in 1517. At the time the town had roughly 300 Jewish households. The severe blow suffered took place as Mamluks clashed bloodily with the new Ottoman authorities. The view that the riot's impact on the Jews of Safed was severe is contested.[1]

Historians link the event to the general conflict taking place in the country between the incoming Ottoman regime and its opponents and note that the Jews suffered maltreatment during the war.[citation needed] Accounts of the attack against the Jews in Safed were recorded by historian Rabbi Elijah Capsali[2] of Candia, (Crete) and Rabbi Joseph Garson, who was living in Damascus at the time. According to these reports, many Jews were killed and left injured. They were compelled to flee the city and their property was plundered. Scholars debate whether or not the event led to a decline in the Jewish population of Safed, but all agree that a few years later, Jews had re-established a significant presence in the city.

The attack may have been initiated by retreating Mamluk soldiers who accused the Jews of treacherously aiding the Turkish invaders,[3] with Arabs from the surrounding villages joining the melee.[4][5] Alternatively, the attack occurred during an attempt by local Mamluk sheikhs to reassert their control after being removed from power by the incoming Turks.[6] David suggests that the violence may have erupted after rumors of an Ottoman defeat in Egypt led to clashes between supporters of the old regime and those who backed the newly imposed Turkish authority.[7][8] Supporters of the deposed Mamluk governor attacked Ottoman officials and after having murdered the Ottoman governor, the mob turned upon the Jews and rampaged through the Jewish quarter,[9] the Jews suffering particular maltreatment.[10]

Many Jews were reportedly killed while others were wounded or had their property pillaged. According to Garson, the Jews were "evicted from their homes, robbed and plundered, and they fled naked to the villages without any provisions."[11] Many subsequently fled the city,[12] but the community was soon rehabilitated with the financial help of Egyptian Jewry.[13]

The Jewish community quickly recovered. The many Jews who had fled and sought refuge in neighbouring villages returned, and within 8 years the community had reestablished itself, exceeding the former level of 300 households.[14] The Ottoman overthrow of the Mamluks brought about important changes. Under the earlier dynasty, Egyptian Jews were guided by their Nagid, a rabbi also exercising the functions of a prince-judge. This office was abolished because it represented a potential conflict with the jurisdiction of the hahambaşi or chief rabbi in Istanbul, who represented all Jews in the empire, and who had, via a Jewish officer (kahya), direct access to the sultan and his cabinet, and could raise complaints of injustices visited upon Jewish communities by governors in the provinces or Christians.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ D. Tamar, "On the Jews of Safed in the Days of the Ottoman Conquest" Cathedra 11 (1979), cited Dan Ben Amos, Dov Noy (eds.),Folktales of the Jews, V. 3 (Tales from Arab Lands), Jewish Publication Society 2011 p.61, n.3: Tamar . .challenges David's conclusion concerning the severity of the riots against the Jews, arguing that the support of the Egyptian Jews saved the community of Safed from destruction'.
  2. ^ Shmuelevitz 1999, p. 15: "Capsali, relying on Jewish informants, was perhaps better informed about what was happening to Jewish communities in remote parts of the Empire. He wrote about Jews suffering in time of war: the pogrom in Safed during Selim I's campaign against the Mamluks for the conquest of Syria, Palestine and Egypt; and preparations for a pogrom against the Jewish community in Cairo on the eve of Selim’s conquest of the city.'
  3. ^ Ben-Ami & Mishal 2000, p. 185: "When the Mamluks realized that the Ottomans were about to conquer Israel in 1516, they accused the Jews of treason and of supporting the new rulers. Before withdrawing, the Mamluk soldiers took revenge by attacking the Jews of Galilee and Safed and looting their property. Naked and destitute, the Jews were forced to hide in the fields."
  4. ^ Finkelstein 1970, p. 407: "While the Jews of Jerusalem were not affected by the Ottoman invasion, those of Safed suffered heavily. The retreating Mameluke forces attacked them and the Arabs of the surrounding villages used the opportunity to set upon the Jews and despoil them. They abandoned everything and fled for their lives to hide in the fields."
  5. ^ Fine 2003, p. 44: "In contrast to the Jews of Jerusalem, who were not adversely affected by the conflict between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks in 1516, Safed appears to have suffered considerably. Retreating Mamluks attacked the community, while Arabs in nearby villages exploited the opportunity to do likewise."
  6. ^ Silberman 2001, p. 141: "The bloodiest outbreak occurred in Safed in January 1517, when a mob of local Muslims, inflamed by their former overlords and by rumors of the defeat of the Ottomans in Cairo, led an open rebellion with great bloodshed in an attempt by the now-dispossessed local nobles to reassume control. A crowd of Muslims inflamed by their former overlords murdered the Ottoman governor and plundered the Jewish Quarter, killing or wounding many in the community."
  7. ^ David 1999, p. 62: "These riots occurred when supporters of the Mamluks attacked representatives of the Ottoman regime upon the disseminations of rumors that the Ottoman sultan had suffered defeat at the gates of Cairo."
  8. ^ David 2010, p. 97: "It appears that shortly after the Ottoman conquest in 1517, Safed's Jewish population suffered a severe blow following the dissemination of unfounded reports that the Ottoman sultan had met defeat at the gates of Cairo."
  9. ^ David 1988, p. 90
  10. ^ Schur 1983, p. 41: "התנגשות זו פגעה ביחוד ביהודי העיר.": התפרצות חמורה עוד יותר איראה בצפת. שמועות שוא מסרו על מפלת הסולטאן סלים במצרים, ובעקבות זאת התעורר ההמון המוסלמי בצפת לפעולה. כרוניקה מוסלמית' מתארת את שהתרחש: (ב־24 בינואר 1517) •יחולל ההמון בצפת הרג רב. הסיבה היא שנודע להמון על תבוסת מלך התורכים, והם נשאו נשק והסתובבו בעיר בחפשם אחר התורכים בדי לעשות בהם שפטים, ונקרה בדרכם אחד, והרגוהו. התעוררה מהומה בין התורכים וההמון. מושל העיר העותומאני ברח אל המצודה עם כל האנשים אשר עמו והתבצרו בה״. התנגשות זו פגעה ביחוד ביהודי העיר. תיאורו של אליהו קפשאלי מזכיר תיאורים מאוחרים יותר של ביזות 1834 ו־838ו. וכך הוא מספר: ־ונקלה כבוד ישראל בעיניהם ויאמרו : נרדוף נשינ נחלק שלל. ויעמדו על היהודים אשר בשפיט (צפת) וישפטום במשפטיהם ושפטים עשו בם, ושחתו רחמיהם ועברתם שמרה נצח, וישללו את כל אשר להם, שתו בשמים פיהם ולשונם תהלך בארץ ויאמרו לית דין ולית דיין, וערומים הלכו אותם מבלי מבלי לבוש, ולא השאירו להם מחיה. ורבי׳ מהיהודי׳ השיגה ידם ומהרו והסתירו מנכסיהם במחבואות ובסדקין, ויבואו אחריהם ויחפשו חפץ מחופש... ולא השאירו להם מחיה או כל מאותה ואפי׳ בגדיהם היו פושטים מעליהם, פושטו ואפילו בשוק, ועפעפי היהודים יזלו מים
  11. ^ David 2010, p. 97: "A contemporary Hebrew source described the results of the bloody clash between Mamluk supporters and representatives of the Ottoman authorities; the rioters killed many of Safed's Jews and robbed others and left them destitute. Those who escaped physical harm sought refuge in the nearby villages, "for due to sins it happened that our brethren were evicted from their homes, robbed, and plundered, and they fled naked to the villages, without any provisions."
  12. ^ David 1999, p. 62: "The demographic data noted here must also be examined against the background of outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence shortly after the Ottoman conquest that caused many of Safed's Jews to flee the city in early 1517."
  13. ^ Finkelstein 1970, p. 407: "The Jews of Egypt sent them clothing and more than 3,000 gold florins. Rabbi Nissan Biba, who organized the aid, went to Safed to help rehabilitate the victims, By the time Rabbi Basola arrived in Safed five years after the conquest, the flourishing city showed no signs that it had been sacked but recently. The Ottoman conquest did not affect the size or composition of Jewish Safed. This is attested by the government roll of taxpayers which was prepared in 1525-1526 and which mentions four Jewish quarters: Musta'rabim (130 household), Frank (40), Portuguese (21), North African (33)."
  14. ^ Abraham David,To Come to the Land: Immigration and Settlement in 16th-Century Eretz-Israel,p.97
  15. ^ Mehrdad Kia,Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire,ABC-CLIO, 2011 p.125.


  • Ben-Ami, Shlomo; Mishal, Nissim (2000). Those Were the Generations. Yedioth Ahronoth. ISBN 978-9-6544-8745-0.
  • David, Abraham (1988). "Demographic Changes in the Safed Jewish Community of the 16th Century". In Róbert, Dán (ed.). Occident and Orient: A Tribute to the Memory of Alexander Scheiber. Brill Archive. ISBN 978-9-6305-4024-7.
  • David, Abraham (1999). In Zion and Jerusalem: the itinerary of Rabbi Moses Basola (1521-1523). Translated by Dena Ordan. Bar-Ilan University. ISBN 978-9-6522-2926-7.
  • David, Abraham (2010). To Come to the Land: Immigration and Settlement in 16th-Century Eretz-Israel. Translated by Dena Ordan. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 978-0-8173-5643-9.
  • Fine, Lawrence (2003). Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship. Stanford University Press.
  • Finkelstein, Louis (1970). "Eretz Yisrael Under Ottoman Rule, 1517-1917". The Jews: Their History. Schocken Books.
  • Schur, Nathan (1983). Toldot Tsfat (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv: Am Oved and Dvir.
  • Shmuelevitz, Aryeh (1999). Ottoman history and society: Jewish sources. Isis Press.
  • Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). Heavenly Powers: Unraveling the Secret of the Kabbalah. Castle Books. ISBN 978-0-7858-1324-8.

Further readingEdit