Earthquake Destroys Safed

January 1, 1837

The Jewish community and Arab population in Safed (Tz’fat) was devastated by a massive earthquake, which resulted in a subsequent landslide. The mountain town, which had been the long-time home to a thriving Jewish population, suffered thousands of deaths. Almost the entire Jewish quarter of the city was destroyed along with most of the synagogues. What was said to have been a 6.8 level earthquake was more than enough to crumble the simple masonry structures that lined the hillsides of Safed. After the earthquake, nearly all of Safed’s Jewish population fled, leaving a dedicated few to rebuild the Jewish sites and population.

Safed has long been a part of Jewish tradition. Located in the Upper Galilee, it is considered one of Judaism’s four holy cities (these also include Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias). The home of the ancient Tribe of Naphtali, Safed rose as the home of Kabbalah, or mystical Judaism during the Middle Ages, later becoming a settlement for Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Today Safed is home to about 30,000 citizens and is considered to be one of the centers of Israel’s arts community. The Old City is home to numerous art galleries, restored synagogues, shops and restaurants.

Photo Credit:  The London Times Covers the 1837 Earthquake on March 1, 1837.