Jump to content

Four Holy Cities

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nineteenth-century out-of scale map of the four cities: Jerusalem at top right, Hebron beneath it, the Jordan River running top to bottom, Safed at top left, and Tiberias beneath it.

The Four Holy Cities of Judaism are the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, which were the four main centers of Jewish life after the Ottoman conquest of Palestine.[1]

According to the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia: "Since the sixteenth century the Holiness of Palestine, especially for burial, has been almost wholly transferred to four cities—Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed."[2]

  • Jerusalem has been the holiest city in Judaism and the spiritual center of the Jewish people since the 10th century BC when the site was chosen during the lifetime of King David to be the location of the Holy Temple.[3]
  • The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. As such Hebron is the second holiest city to Jews,[4] and is one of the four cities where Israelite biblical figures purchased land (Abraham bought a field and a cave east of Hebron from the Hittites (Genesis 23:16-18), King David bought a threshing floor at Jerusalem from the Jebusite Araunah (2 Samuel 24:24), Jacob bought land outside the walls of Shechem from the Shechemites (Genesis 33:18-19), and Omri bought the site of Samaria.) Historically, Hebron was the first capital of King David.[4]
  • Safed came to be regarded as a holy city after the influx of Jews following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and became known as a center of kabbalistic scholarship.[5]
  • Tiberias is significant in Jewish history for several reasons. It was the place where the Jerusalem Talmud was composed and served as the final meeting place of the Sanhedrin before its disbanding in 425 CE. Tombs of famous rabbis Yohanan ben Zakkai, Akiva and Maimonides are also located in the city and it was also the home of the Masoretes and the place where the Tiberian vocalization was devised. However, its status as a holy city is due to the influx of rabbis who established the city as a center for Jewish learning in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to Jewish tradition, the redemption will begin in Tiberias and the Sanhedrin will be reconstituted there.[6] In Jewish belief, the Messiah will arise from the lake of Tiberias, enter into the city, and be enthroned at Safed on the summit of a lofty hill.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wigoder, Geoffrey, ed. (1989). The Encyclopedia of Judaism. Macmillan. p. 768. Term applied to the Erets Israel cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. These were the four main centers of Jewish life after the Ottoman conquest of 1516. The concept of the holy cities dates only from the 1640s, when the Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed organized an association to improve the system of fundraising in the Diaspora. Previously, such fundraising had been undertaken by individual institutions; now it was agreed that the emissaries would be sent on behalf of each urban Jewish community as a whole, with not more than one emissary per town. After Tiberias was refounded in 1740, it also joined the association. This arrangement did not last long, however, and by the mid-19th century there was no authority strong enough to enforce a centralized collection of ḥalukkah funds. In Jewish tradition, going back to ancient times, the only city regarded as holy is Jerusalem
  2. ^ Jacobs, Joseph; Eisenstein, Judah David (1906). "Palestine, Holiness Of". Jewish Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Eilfort, Yeruchem. "Why Do Jews Love Jerusalem?". Chabad.org Ideas & Beliefs/Questions & Answers/Mitzvot & Jewish Customs.
  4. ^ a b "Hebron". Jewish Virtual Library.
  5. ^ "Safed". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  6. ^ Noy, Dov; Ben-Amos, Dan; Frankel, Ellen (November 2006). Folktales of the Jews: Tales from the Sephardic dispersion. Jewish Publication Society. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-8276-0829-0. Retrieved 17 October 2010 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Bellows, Henry W. (2008). The Old World in Its New Face: Impressions of Europe in 1867-1868. Vol. II. BiblioBazaar, LLC. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-559-64379-8. Retrieved 17 October 2010 – via Google Books.

External links[edit]