1660 destruction of Tiberias

The 1660 destruction of Tiberias[1] occurred during the Druze power struggle in the Galilee, in the same year as the destruction of Safed. The destruction of Tiberias by the Druze resulted in abandonment of the city by its Jewish community,[2][3] until it was rebuilt by Zahir al-Umar in early eighteenth century. Altshuler however attributes the destruction of Tiberias in 1660 to an earthquake.[4] The destruction could have also been a combination of both events.

Tiberias in the sixteenth centuryEdit

As the Ottoman Empire expanded along the southern Mediterranean coast under sultan Selim I, the Catholic Monarchs began establishing Inquisition commissions. Many Conversos, (Marranos and Moriscos) and Sephardi Jews fled to the Ottoman provinces, settling at first in Constantinople, Salonika, Sarajevo, Sofia and Anatolia. The Sultan encouraged them to settle in Palestine.[5][6] In 1558, a Portuguese-born marrano, Doña Gracia, was granted tax collecting rights in Tiberias and its surrounding villages by Suleiman the Magnificent. She envisaged the town becoming a refuge for Jews and obtained a permit to establish Jewish autonomy there.[7] In 1561 her nephew Joseph Nasi, the Sultan-appointed Lord of Tiberias,[8] encouraged Jews to settle in Tiberias.[9] Securing a firman from the Sultan, he and Joseph ben Adruth rebuilt the city walls and laid the groundwork for a textile (silk) industry, planting mulberry trees and urging craftsmen to move there.[9] In 1624, when the Sultan recognized Fakhr-al-Din II as Lord of Arabistan (from Aleppo to the borders of Egypt),[10] the Druze leader made Tiberias his capital.

The 1660 destructionEdit

The destruction of Tiberias by the Druze resulted in the Jewish community fleeing entirely.[2][3] Unlike Tiberias, which became desolate for many years, the nearby city of Safed recovered from its destruction by Arabs in 1660 relatively quickly,[11] not becoming entirely abandoned,[12] remaining an important Jewish center in the Galilee.


In the 1720s, Zahir al-Umar a Bedouin ruler of Ottoman Galilee, fortified the town of Tiberias and signed an agreement with the neighboring Bedouin tribes to prevent looting. Richard Pococke, who visited Tiberias in 1738, witnessed the building of a fort to the north of the city, and the strengthening of the old walls, attributing it to a dispute with the pasha (ruler) of Damascus.[13] Under Zahir's patronage, Jewish families were encouraged to settle in Tiberias.[14] He invited Chaim Abulafia of Smyrna to rebuild the Jewish community.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 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)."
  2. ^ a b 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..."
  3. ^ a b Barnay, Y. 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. 149
  4. ^ Altshuler, M. The Messianic secret. Chapter 8:The beginning of redemption in Galilee. Hebrew: ספר – הסוד המשיחי [1] Archived 2018-03-14 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Toby Green (2007) Inquisition; The Reign of Fear Macmillan Press ISBN 978-1-4050-8873-2 pp xv–xix
  6. ^ Alfassa.com Archived 2007-10-12 at the Wayback Machine Sephardic Contributions to the Development of the State of Israel, Shelomo Alfassá
  7. ^ Schaick, Tzvi. Who is Dona Gracia? Archived 2011-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, The House of Dona Gracia Museum.
  8. ^ Naomi E. Pasachoff, Robert J. Littman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2005 , p.163
  9. ^ a b Benjamin Lee Gordon, New Judea: Jewish Life in Modern Palestine and Egypt, Manchester, New Hampshire, Ayer Publishing, 1977, p.209
  10. ^ "The Druze of the Levant". Archived from the original on March 9, 2012.
  11. ^ 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..."
  12. ^ 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."
  13. ^ Richard Pococke: A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World: Many of which are Now First Translated Into English ; Digested on a New Plan By John Pinkerton by Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1811 A Description of the East and Some other Countries Archived 2022-10-31 at the Wayback Machine, p. 460
  14. ^ Moammar, Tawfiq (1990), Zahir Al Omar, Al Hakim Printing Press, Nazareth, page 70
  15. ^ Joseph Schwarz. Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine Archived 2018-07-20 at the Wayback Machine, 1850