Jews Are Ousted From Safed

October 8, 1576

Ottoman Sultan Murad III issues a firman (a royal decree) ordering that 1,000 Jews from Safed be registered and sent to live in Famagusta in Cyprus. The Ottomans frequently employed a policy called surgun (expulsion or deportation). Surgun would involve the transfer of large numbers of people from one part of the empire to another for strategic, usually economic, purposes. In 1453, for example, Jews and others were forced to relocate to Istanbul after it had been conquered by the Ottomans.

The 1576 firman was followed by another a year later calling for an additional 500 Jewish families to be relocated from Safed to Cyprus. The Sultan hoped that the Jews would help spur the economic development of the island.

The complete text of the decree:

8 October 1576

Order to the Sanjaq Beg and the Qadi of Safed,

At present I have ordered that a thousand Jews be registered from the town of Safed and its districts and sent to the city of Famagusta in Cyprus. I command that as soon as this order arrives, without delay and in accordance with my noble firman, you register one thousand rich and prosperous Jews, and send them, with their property and effects and with their families, under appropriate escort, to the said city. Once the Jews have been inscribed in the register, do not afterwards, by practicing extortion, remove them from it. Send a sealed copy of the register to my Felicitous Threshold. Thus, in the course of conscribing and registering of the prescribed number of Jews, if anyone receives protection, or any are removed from the register and instead of them others are a taken, so that in their place not rich but poor Jews are conscibed, your excuses will by no means be acceptable. It will be secretly investigated and dealt with. It is is proper that, if it becomes known to us that the the matter has been handled in a manner contrary to our noble command, then assuredly it will not end with your deposition, but you will be most severely punished. Accordingly be diligent, and avoid anything contrary to our noble command.