1834 looting of Safed

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The 1834 looting of Safed (Hebrew: ביזת צפת בשנת תקצ"ד, "Plunder of Safed, 5594 AM") was prolonged attack against the Jewish community of Safed, Ottoman Empire, during the 1834 Peasants' Revolt. It began on Sunday June 15 (7 Sivan), the day after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, and lasted for the next 33 days.[1][2] Most contemporary accounts suggest it was a spontaneous attack which took advantage of a defenceless population in the midst of the armed uprising against Egyptian rule.[3][4] The district governor tried to quell the violent outbreak, but failed to do so and fled.[5] The event took place during a power vacuum, whilst Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt was fighting to quell the wider revolt in Jerusalem.[6]

Accounts of the month-long event tell of large scale looting,[7] as well as killing and raping of Jews and the destruction of homes and synagogues by local Druze. Many Torah scrolls were desecrated[3] and many Jews were left severely wounded.[8][9] The event has been described as a pogrom or "pogrom-like" by some authors.[10][11] Hundreds fled the town seeking refuge in the open countryside or in neighbouring villages. The rioting was quelled by Lebanese Druze troops under the orders of Ibrahim Pasha following the intervention of foreign consuls. The instigators were arrested and later executed in Acre.


By the 19th-century, Safed had long been inhabited by Jews. It had become a kabbalistic centre during the 16th-century and by the 1830s there were around 4,000 Jews living there, comprising at least half the population.[12] Throughout their history, the Jews of Safed, though supported by the Porte, had been the target of oppressive exactions by corrupt local officials. In 1628 the Druze seized the city, and holding it for several years, despoiled the local community, and the Jewish population declined as Safed Jews moved to Hebron and Jerusalem.[13][14] and again in the 1660 destruction of Safed. The 1831 annexation of Palestine to Egypt by Muhammad Ali rendered life relatively more secure than had been the case under the Ottomans.[15] In 1833, however, at the approach of Ibrahim Pasha, the Jewish quarter of Safed was plundered by the Druze, although the inhabitants managed to escape to the suburbs.[16]

A year later in 1834, it was announced that new taxation laws were to be imposed and conscription introduced, drafting fellahin into the Egyptian army, who were at the same time to be disarmed by local notables. Jews and Christians were to be exempted from the disarmament policy.[17] The news was greeted by widespread anger. It resulted in a mass uprising by the fellahin which broke out in the spring.[18] Safed had been severely damaged by an earthquake in May of that year, and following the uprising attacks broke out on the weaker members of Palestinian towns, namely the Jews and Christians.[19][20] It was in this setting that the plunder at Safed was unleashed, causing many Jews to seek refuge among friendly Arabs in the neighbouring town of Ein Zeitim.[21] One account, retold by several Safed Jews to the 25-year-old Alexander William Kinglake, who visited in 1835,[22] blamed the incident on the intolerant rantings of a local Muslim cleric named Muhammad Damoor. The account stated that at the beginning of 1834, Damoor publicly prophesied that on June 15 the "true believers would rise up in just wrath against the Jews, and despoil them of their gold and their silver and their jewels."[23]


Letter to the Jewish community of London from a resident of Safed describing the event and appealing for assistance, 10 August 1834

The account of Neophytos, a monk of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre described the looting of the town, alongside similar events in Ramla, Lydda, Jaffa, Acre and Tiberias, noting that the perpetrators "robbed the Jews, who lived in these towns, of immense property, as is reported, for there was no one to offer any opposition".[24]

The 1850 account of Rabbi Joseph Schwartz stated that "Everything was carried off which could possibly be removed, even articles of no value; boxes, chests, packages, without even opening them, were dragged away; and the fury with which this crowd attacked their defenceless victims was boundless... [The perpetrators] were perfectly safe and unmolested; for they had learned that Abraim Pacha was, at the moment, so much occupied at Jerusalem and vicinity with his enemies there, that he could not go into Galilee."[6]

One anecdote suggests the rioting was premeditated, organised by a local anti-Semitic Muslim cleric,[23] According to the anecdotes narrated to Kinglake, when June 15 arrived, Muhammad Damoor appeared to the gathered Muslim crowd and incited them to fulfill his prophesy. Kinglake only mentions the occurrence of looting, writing that "the most odious of all outrages, that of searching the women for the base purpose of discovering such things as gold and silver concealed about their persons, was perpetrated without shame."[23] Kinglake's is the only account which mentions the individual involvement of a local Muslim clergyman.

Other reports suggest the attack was more violent in nature. Isaac Farhi (d. 1853) described how several Jews were killed and raped in the attack. Men, women and children were robbed of their clothes and then beaten. Some fled into the surrounding fields and remained there naked "like wild animals" until the danger passed.[25] 12 year-old Jacob Saphir was among a number of refugees who found sanctuary in the adjacent village of Ein al-Zeitun assisted by a sympathetic Arab sheikh.[5] He describes how for the first three days they had nothing to eat and how they hid in fear of their lives for forty days. Afterwards they had found their homes completely ransacked and emptied, "not even small jugs, doors or windows had been left behind."[26] Menachem Mendel Baum, a prominent member of the Ashkenazi community, published a book (Korot Ha-Eytim, 1839) vividly detailing his recollections. He describes an aggressive onslaught, including one incident in which a group of elderly Jews including pious rabbis were beaten mercilessly while hiding in a synagogue.[27] In May 1934, an article appearing in Haaretz by historian and journalist Eliezer Rivlin (1889-1942) described the event of 100 years earlier in detail. His article, based on similar first hand accounts, tells of how the head of the community, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, was threatened with his life and another rabbi who had fled to the hills seeking refuge in a cave was set upon and had his eye gouged out. Rivlin states many Jews were beaten to death and severely wounded. Thirteen synagogues along with an estimated 500 Torah scrolls were destroyed.[21] Valuable antique books belonging to the 14th-century rabbi Isaac Aboab I were also lost. Jewish homes were ransacked and set on fire as looters searched for hidden gold and silver.[28]

Some Jews managed to escape to a nearby fortress and held out there for a few weeks. The mob unsuccessfully tried to break into the building to reach the fugitives.[5] The sources do not indicate how many Jews died.[29] It seems to have not been many, though hundreds were wounded.[29][30]

British philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore furnished Israel Bak with a new printing press (pictured) after his original one was destroyed in the pogrom

The sole Hebrew printing press in Palestine was destroyed along with many copies of the Bible. It was three years before the press started functioning again.[31] Israel Bak, who established the printing house in Safed, incurred a wound on his foot which left him with an enduring limp.[32] Among the distinguished men who gave their lives helping others were Rabbis Leib Cohen, Shalom Hayat and Mendel of Kamnitz, who wandered around the streets without fear of the attackers, to return little children to their mothers, rescuing the victims physically and emotionally, and burying the dead.[28][33]

Suppression and aftermath[edit]

Rabbi Joseph Schwartz noted the justice that once calm had been restored, Ibrahim Pasha's army arrested and executed a number of perpetrators, and enforced summary justice on many suspects to ensure stolen goods were returned:

The most respectable Mahomedans of Zafed and its environs were arrested as the authors of the outrage, and some of them were afterwards publicly executed, and whatever could be found of the stolen property of the Jews was restored. Every Jew was believed, when saying that he recognised this or that Arab among the robbers. The person so accused was instantly arrested, and punished with blows till he at last confessed and gave up his booty. Even many of the richest and most respectable of the Arabs were arrested, loaded with chains, and punished, upon the mere assertion of a very poor and common Jew. The word of a Jew was regarded as equal to the command of the highest authority, and severe punishment was at once resorted to, without any previous investigation, without any grounds or proofs. In this manner much of the stolen property was discovered; since many, in order not to be exposed to the violence of the Druses, delivered up everything of their own accord. The Jews were now required, by order of the Pacha, through the intervention of the consuls, to make out a correct list of all they had lost, of whatever they missed, and to indicate the true value of the same, and to hand it in to Abraim Pacha through means of the European consuls. [6]

With great effort, Israel of Shklov had managed to send letters to foreign consuls in Beirut and informed them of the details of the troubles that befell the Jews, many of whom were the subjects of foreign states. Their complaints encouraged Ibrahim Pasha to send his Lebanese ally Bashir II to restore order. When Bashir and his forces entered Safed on July 17, 1834, the riots ceased immediately.[34] He made sure the Jews were protected from harm and pursued the culprits. Most of the rebels fled, but thirteen ringleaders along with the town's governor were captured, tried and publicly hanged in Acre.[3][35] The Jews returned to their homes and gathered their few remaining belongings. According to Löwe's[clarification needed] investigations, the loss incurred amounted to 135,250 piasters.[16] The consuls tried to raise sums of money as compensation for their subjects and made lists of the damages.[28] When Ibrahim Pasha returned, he imposed an indemnity on the surrounding villages, but the victims received only 7% of the value of the damage.[16] Only a small proportion of stolen property was ever recovered.[36]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

  1. ^ Bloch, Abraham P. One a day: an anthology of Jewish historical anniversaries, 1987. pg. 168.
  2. ^ Louis Finkelstein (1960). The Jews: their history, culture, and religion. Harper. p. 679. Retrieved 17 February 2012. Rabbi Isaac b. Solomon Farhi records that the pillage continued for 24 days.
  3. ^ a b c Martin Sicker (1999). Reshaping Palestine: from Muhammad Ali to the British Mandate, 1831-1922. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-275-96639-3. However, the insurrection soon lost its original purpose and turned into bloody rioting and excesses directed against the Jewish population. Arab villagers joined with the townspeople to attack the Jews, raping, looting and destroying synagogues. The rioting was most severe in Safed, where assaults and vandalism forced many Jews to flee to safety amount the friendly Arabs of the nearby village of Ein Zetim. Others were afraid to remain in the remote area and decided to relocate to Jerusalem. During the course of the disturbances, some 500 Torah scrolls were destroyed in Safed alone. The rioting continued for thirty-three days, until a contingent of Druze troops from Ibrahim's army arrived to restore order. The governor of Safed and thirteen of the ringleaders were taken captive, summarily tried, and put to death.
  4. ^ S. Almog (1988). Antisemitism through the ages. Published for the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, by Pergamon Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-08-034792-9. However, the attacks on the Jews of Safed and Jerusalem in 1834, though part of the general uprising, were only minor episodes in a campaign whose wrath was directed primarily against the Egyptian conquest.
  5. ^ a b c Andrew G. Bostom (2008). The legacy of Islamic antisemitism: from sacred texts to solemn history. Prometheus Books. p. 594.
  6. ^ a b c Schwartz 1850.
  7. ^ Nathan Schur (1992). Twenty centuries of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Dvir Publishing House. p. 128. In Galilee the Jewish community of Safed was, for a month, subjected to a wild orgy of looting by its Moslem neighbors
  8. ^ Abraham Yaari; Israel Schen; Isaac Halevy-Levin (1958). The goodly heritage: memoirs describing the life of the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Youth and Hechalutz Dept.. of the Zionist Organization. p. 37. Revolt broke out on the 15th June, 1834. The Arab villagers, together with the townspeople, armed themselves and attacked the Jews, raping their women and destroying their synagogues. The riots in Safed went on for 33 days, but in Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias they ended sooner.
  9. ^ Abigail Green (15 March 2010). Moses Montefiore: Jewish liberator, imperial hero. Harvard University Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-674-04880-5. During the revolt of the Arab peasantry against Mehmed Ali in 1834, villagers from the surrounding area had sacked the Jewish quarter, assaulting and killing the men, raping the women, plundering and destroying their homes.
  10. ^ Ronald Florence (18 October 2004). Blood libel: the Damascus affair of 1840. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-299-20280-4. Retrieved 17 February 2012. There had been pogroms against the Jews in Safed in 1834 and 1838.
  11. ^ Gabriel Baer (12 November 2012). "The Structure of Turkish Guilds and its Significance for Ottoman Social History". Fellah and Townsman in the Middle East: Studies in Social History. Routledge. p. 322. ISBN 978-1-136-27872-3. During the same rebellion the fellahs robbed the Jews of Tiberias and Safed "of immense property, as is reported, for there was no one to offer any opposition." An eyewitness has vividly described the pogrom-like attack of the villagers of Upper Galilee on the Jews of Safed on 15 June 1834. The Jews were stripped of their clothes and driven out of the town, the remaining women and youths were violated, the belongings of the Jews were looted and their holy articles were desecrated.
  12. ^ Moshe Maʻoz (1975). Studies on Palestine during the Ottoman period. Magnes Press. p. 67. Up to 1837 the population of Safed showed an increase. A considerable number of sources report a population of 7000-8000, with half, or even more than half, being Jews.
  13. ^ Jerome R. Verlin, Israel 3000 Years,, Pavilion Press 2010 p.167.
  14. ^ Louis Finkelstein The Jews: Their history - 1960 "In 1628 the Druses attacked Safed. Mulhim, brother of Fakhr-al-Din, took the city and plundered the Jews, many of whom fled for their lives. In 1633 the Pasha of Damascus routed Fakhr-al-Din and again Safed felt the heavy hand of a conqueror. After Mulhim's defeat the Jews returned to Safed, once more under Turkish rule, but again they did not long enjoy peace."
  15. ^ Sicker, p.12
  16. ^ a b c Safed Jewish Encyclopedia.
  17. ^ Gudrun Krämer, A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel, Princeton University Press 2011.
  18. ^ Baruch Kimmerling (1 July 2010). Clash of Identities: Explorations in Israeli and Palestinian Societies. Columbia University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-231-14329-5.
  19. ^ Gudrun Kramer; Graham Harman (14 March 2011). A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel. Princeton University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-691-15007-9.
  20. ^ Martin Sicker, p.12
  21. ^ a b Martin Sicker, p.13
  22. ^ Introduction to Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East, Northwestern University Press, 1 Apr 1997
  23. ^ a b c Alexander William Kinglake (1864). "XXIV: The Prophet Damoor". Eothen. Harrison. pp. 291–295. Retrieved 17 February 2012. (Web edition published by University of Adelaide, South Australia)
  24. ^ Annals of Palestine, 1821-1841, S.N. Spyridon, in: Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, Volume 18, 1938, "Meanwhile, the fellaheen of Nablus [Sh'khem] and other districts made some daring movements on the plains around Ramleh and Lydda [Lod], where they looted all the houses. The fellaheen also laid siege to Jaffa and Ptolemais [Akko in Hebrew, Acre in English] and captured Tiberias and Safed. They robbed the Jews, who lived in these towns, of immense property, as is reported, for there was no one to offer any opposition"
  25. ^ Bat Yeʼor (2002). Islam and Dhimmitude: where civilizations collide. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8386-3943-6. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  26. ^ Jacob Saphir. Even Sapir (I:1-2) 1866.
  27. ^ Menachem Mendel Baum. Korot Ha-Eytim (Hebrew), Vilnus, 1839.
  28. ^ a b c Eliezer Rivlin. The Great Plunder of Safed: June 15-July 17, 1834 Archived August 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Haaretz, (May 22, 1934).
  29. ^ a b Tudor Parfitt (1987). The Jews in Palestine, 1800–1882. The Royal Historical Society; The Boyden Press. pp. 57–63.
  30. ^ Andrew G. Bostom (2008). The legacy of Islamic antisemitism: from sacred texts to solemn history. Prometheus Books. p. 88. The Safed pogrom alluded to by Maoz lasted thirty-three days in June/July 1834, and was particularly devastating — many Jews were killed, hundreds wounded, and the town nearly destroyed.
  31. ^ Israel M. Ta-Shma (1975). The Hebrew book: an historical survey. Keter Pub. House Jerusalem. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-7065-1389-9. In 1834 Bedouin peasants attacked the Jewish quarter in Safed, and the damage they caused brought the press to a standstill for three years.
  32. ^ Jeff Halper (1991). Between redemption and revival: the Jewish yishuv of Jerusalem in the nineteenth century. Westview Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-8133-7855-8. Retrieved 17 February 2012. For the next year or more everything went well. The press flourished and Bak found himself employing some thirty workers. Then, in 1834, disaster struck. The Druze of the Galilee revolted against Ibrahim Pasha. Joined by Arabs who resented the Jews' collaboration with the Egyptians, they fell upon the Jewish community of Safed just as the Jews in Jerusalem were being attacked. For days the looting and killing continued until Ibrahim Pasha finally suppressed the rebellion. Bak himself sustained an injury to his left foot that caused him to limp for the rest of his life. Even more painful was the damage done by the rioters to his press.
  33. ^ Schur, Nathan. Toldot Tzefat, Tel Aviv: Am Oved; Dvir, 1983, pp. 189-193.
  34. ^ Andrew G. Bostom (2008). The legacy of Islamic antisemitism: from sacred texts to solemn history. Prometheus Books. p. 596. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  35. ^ Sherman Lieber (1992). Mystics and missionaries: the Jews in Palestine, 1799-1840. University of Utah Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-87480-391-4.
  36. ^ Dovid Rossoff (2001). Where heaven touches earth: Jewish life in Jerusalem from Medieval times to the present. Feldheim Publishers. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-87306-879-6.


Coordinates: 32°57′56″N 35°29′59″E / 32.9656°N 35.4997°E / 32.9656; 35.4997