Sunday, August 3, 2014


The Jewish history of Acre goes back to Roman times. During the Middle Ages, it became a major port and commercial trading center, as well as a major Torah center. In the 11th century, it was home to the great scholar, Rabbi Moshe ibn Kaskil of Mahdia, and in the 12th century, that of Rabbi Japhet ben Eliyahu. It was second in importance to Jerusalem and served as a disembarkation point for pilgrims. Under Haim Farhi, the second in command of the Acre district, the local Jews, along with the local Arabs, successfully fought off Napoleon’s armies and helped to drive him back to Egypt.
The Ramchal Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Acre, built in the 1740s and named after the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzato. It was a central place for the Jews of Acre

Arabs (presumably of Acre, but could also be of Haifa) getting ready for a bloodbath during the Arab riots of 1936-9.
The Jewish residents, who numbered 350 in 1936, abandoned the town when the Arab riots broke out that year.


Both Jews and Samaritans have lived in Awarta, south of Shechem, for centuries and the communities centered around the sacred tombs of Eleazar, Ittamar, and Pinhas, to where diaspora Jews have made pilgrimages since ancient times.
The Tombs of Eleazar and Pinhas at the turn of the last century
Both communities were expelled by the local Arabs actually in 1912 and the ancient pilgrimages almost ceased because of extreme Arab hostility. After the War of Independence, the town became part of Jordan which banned entrance to Jews, but it became reunified with Israel in 1967. Today, the Israeli authorities and the Arabs forbid Jews and Samaritans from living in the town and, like at Shechem, the ancient pilgrimages to the sacred local tombs can only be done late at night and in the wee hours of the morning.

The ancient pilgrimages to the Tomb of Ittamar as well as those of Eleazar and Pinhas continue to this day (in spite of all the obstacles). The Tombs are often vandalized by Arabs.


Jews have live in Ein Zeitim, on and off, for centuries. In the 16th century, it was one of the major farming communities in the Galilee. It also served as a place of refuge for the Jews of Safed during the Arab intifadas of the 1830s. The community was renewed briefly between 1891 and shortly before World War I.
After 1918 Ein Zeitim was resettled but was again abandoned and destroyed in the 1929 Arab riots. A few families subsequently returned but were forced to leave again in the 1936 riots. Today, Ein Zeitim is one the major recreation areas in northern Israel.


Jews have lived in Gaza for over 2000 years. For centuries, it was a farming and rabbinic community and in the Middle Ages, it was the first major city that pilgrims, coming from Egypt – Jewish, Samaritan, and Muslim – would encounter upon entering Palestine. Gaza was home to the 15th century Rabbi Solomon of Prague and the 16th century poet Israel Najara as well as Rabbi Avraham Azulai. In the 17th century, it was the focal point of a new spiritual movement led by Rabbi Nathan ben Elisha, known historically as Rabbi Nathan of Gaza, and the false messiah Shabbatai Zvi. By the time Napoleon’s army invaded Palestine through Gaza, the local Jews had been led by the Castel family for a long time. Upon Napoleon’s invasion, the French soldiers, along with the enthusiastic help of the local Arabs, began a process of expulsion of the town’s Jews and Samaritans. Even though the French forces were driven out of Palestine later that year, the expulsion process continued until the early 19th century when no Jew or Samaritan was left. It wasn’t until the 1880s that Jews resettled in the town and in 1890, an orchard was purchased nearby by one Tuvia Miller from Rehovot.

Jews were expelled again by the Turks during World War I but returned after the war. However, during the bloody Arab intifada in 1920-1, Jews began to flee for their lives, and during the next bloody intifada in 1929, the last Jews left the town for good. The orchard was abandoned during the 1936 Arab riots, but it wasn’t until 1946 that the orchard’s land was in Jewish possession again and the village of Kfar Darom was built in its place. It was destroyed during the War of Independence by the Arab army of Egypt but was resettled three years after the Six Day War in 1967. In 2005, it was destroyed again at the orders of the bloody Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Today, Kfar Darom and the communities around it remain in ruins and no Jew is permitted to set foot there. The formerly Jewish land, instead, has become a place where rockets are launched on Israeli communities in the Negev. Jews are also banned from reestablishing themselves in Gaza City where the local cemetery is used as a garbage dump and part of the ancient synagogue is used as part of a mosque. The Israeli government has no intention of rectifying this situation.


Hebron’s Jewish community is the oldest in the world. It is the burial place of the founders of the Jewish nation and also the first capital of David’s kingdom before it was moved to Jerusalem. There is, in fact, a debate over whether it is holier than Jerusalem or in second place.

After the Roman Empire split into east and west in the 4th century and Israel came under the eastern Byzantine Empire, persecution of the Jews grew apace. But the succeeding Arab period (638–1100) was a relief for the Jews of Hebron, as for the other Jews of Palestine. The community was centered around the Cave of Machpelah which was maintained by a Jewish family. In the 8th century, the Caliph Omar gave permission to the Jews to build a synagogue near the Cave, as well as a cemetery. At the beginning of the 11th century, a Karaite community was formed. Crusader rule (1100–1260) brought a temporary end to the Jewish presence in Hebron. However, it was still the focal point of Jewish pilgrims, among whom were prominent personalities such as Maimonides (1166), Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1171), Pethahiah of Regensburg (1176), and Jacob ben Nethanel (second half of 12th century). By the beginning of the 13th century, the Jewish community was reestablished, but the tolerant Muslim attitude toward the Jews which had existed in pre-Crusader times did not continue with the return of the Muslims to Palestine. In 1266 it was decreed that the Jews were not allowed to enter the Cave of Machpelah, and this decree was strictly enforced until the Six Day War in 1967. A Christian traveler who visited Hebron in the first half of the 14th century reported that "Christian and Jewish people are regarded by them [the Muslims] as dogs, and they do not allow them to enter such a holy place". The fortunes of the Jews fluctuated since then but in 1540, the community was put on a firm foundation by Rabbi Malkiel Ashkenazi. Since the time of Rabbi Ashkenazi, Hebron’s Jews have lived, especially vis a vis its relations with the local Arab community, through periods alternating between peace and persecution. During the Arab pogroms of 1929, the ancient Jewish community of Hebron was either massacred or expelled. The assault was well planned and its aim was well defined: ethnic cleansing. The rioters did not spare women, children, or the aged; the British remained passive. Sixty-seven Jews were killed, 60 wounded, the community was destroyed, synagogues razed, and Torah scrolls burned.
In 1931, 35 families returned and the community slowly began to rebuild itself, but everything was again destroyed in the pogroms of 1936 and the British authorities evacuated the Jewish inhabitants. This ancient community thus ended and only one inhabitant remained there until 1947 when even he was driven out.
Jewish Quarter, Hebron, became a smoldering ruin under Arab occupation, 1948-1967

In 1948 Hebron was incorporated into the kingdom of Jordan. It was recaptured by the Israeli army in the Six-Day War of June 1967, and Jews again returned, but only for visits - the Israelis banned Jews from living there; the old Jewish quarter was found destroyed and the Jewish cemetery almost obliterated.
On the eve of Passover 1968 a group of Jews went to reestablish the community. They encountered opposition both from the local Arabs and from Israeli officials as their move had not been authorized. (The Israelis had no intention of authorizing the reestablishment of the community, ever.) The Jews had to fight for official recognition and the right to rebuild the community. In May 1968 they were moved from their temporary quarters to the area occupied by the military government which became the town of Kiryat Arba, thus acquiring the protection of the government but not the right to engage freely in economic activity. Through the influence of Hebron's mayor Muhammed Ali al-Ja’barī, the town remained relatively quiet under the Israeli military government, although in 1968 and 1969 attacks on Jews occurred repeatedly. There were several attacks on Jews who came to pray at the cave of Machpelah, as well as arguments about the right to pray there.
Not all the local Jews agreed to move to Kiryat Arba, and in 1981 they moved to the old Jewish quarter, which had been abandoned during the 1929 riots, taking possession of Bet Hadassah and the adjacent buildings. Thus, the Jewish community in Hebron proper was reborn. But due to constant Arab and government harassment, their numbers were forced to remain at some 500 today and the Israeli authorities strictly prohibit any expansion and development of the community.
(information, though at times not word-for-word, taken from the Encyclopedia Judaica)


Jews have lived in Jaffa, on and off, for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the 18th century when, due to Arab civil wars and plundering, the Jewish community began to decrease. The community finally ceased to exist in 1799 with the invasion of the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. It wasn’t renewed until around 1820 when Yeshayahu Adjiman, a prominent banker from Constantinople established an inn for Jewish pilgrims. The community grew from that point onwards. The First Jewish suburb, Neve Tzedek, was founded in 1887, and in 1909, another Jewish suburb was founded – Tel Aviv. The greater part of the community was expelled by the Turks during World War I, but after the armistice, it began to renew itself. However, the Jews were forced to gradually desert the town following the riots of 1921, 1929, and 1936–39.
Arab riots, 1936
Some of the Jewish owned buildings destroyed by Arabs during the 1936-39 riots
     some of the Jewish refugees from Jaffa, 1936

The town was entirely ethnically cleansed due to the Arab pogroms that resulted after the UN recognized Israeli independence at the end of 1947. Only after Israel won the War of Independence did Jews again settle there.


Jerusalem is the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people and Jews have lived in their capital, almost continuously, since the time King David made it so over 3000 years ago.

Jewish victims of the 1920 Nebi Musa Massacre- Jerusalem’s ancient community was deemed fair game

Jewish victims of the massacres in Jerusalem, 1920

Jews fleeing the Arab pogroms in Jerusalem, 1929

Jews fleeing the Arab pogroms in Jerusalem, 1936

In 1949, in the aftermath of the War of Independence when 5 regular Arab armies invaded, Israel was forced to divide Jerusalem between it and Jordan with Jordan taking the eastern half of the city along with its ancient Jewish Quarter and cemetery. It remained in this situation until the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel reunified the city. During the intervening period, eastern Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed of its Jews and Jews were banned from visiting their holy places, namely the Western Wall; the old Jewish Quarter was almost totally obliterated, and the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated with its tombstones being used as building materials in road work and for making latrines.

Jewish refugees fleeing the Arab onslaughts in eastern Jerusalem during the War of Independence, 1948

Bird's-eye view of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem during the Arab occupation, 1948-1967

Today, Jews can, once again, live in the eastern half of the city. But on the other hand, they also have to contend daily with Arab violence against them, especially around the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. The Israeli police don’t seem very interested in making the area a secure place for Jews.


Jews have lived in Kfar Yasif, on and off, for centuries. Many times, it had had to deal with natural disasters, most notably, the locust invasion of 1707. But it was renewed 40 years later by Rabbi Solomon Abadi who not only made the town a Torah center, but also a burial place for the Jews of nearby Acre. For Acre Jews, burial in Kfar Yasif became a time-honored custom. In 1841, the last Jew left Kfar Yasif, but the burial custom continued. This custom was forced to cease during the Arab riots in 1929.

part of the Jewish cemetery in Kfar Yasif
photo taken from


The Jewish community of Lod has existed, on and off, for thousands of years. In the 19th century a small Jewish community existed in, what was then called, Lydda.

Lod (Lydda), 1904

In 1921, the Arab riots compelled the last of its Jewish inhabitants to leave. Further attempts to reestablish the community during the British Mandate failed because of ensuing violence but after Israeli independence, Jews once again, were able to settle in Lod and Lod became a mixed Jewish and Arab city. Today, the local Jews have to constantly contend with local Arab violence. The situation doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.


Motza is an ancient village that has been resettled as a Jewish farming area since 1859. A permanent community was established in 1894. In the 1929 Arab riots the village was largely destroyed and seven of its inhabitants were murdered, including the parents and siblings of village native Mordechai Makleff, the lone survivor of his family. (He later became IDF Chief of Staff after Israel’s independence.)
The parents of Mordechai Makleff along with a friend of the family, 1929

The village was soon restored and in 1933 Moẓa Illit ("Upper Moẓa") was founded as an adjacent moshav.


Pekiin was the home of an indigenous Palestinian community – the Mustarabi Jews – descendants of Jews who had never left Israel.

During the riots of 1929, groups of Arabs from outside the village began to make trouble. The Jews of Peki'in were compelled to abandon their village out of fear of the Arab gangs. Many returned back to the village, but were forced to leave again during the Arab riots of 1936-39. This period was known as the Hadera exile since most of the Jews sought refuge in Hadera (and also in Haifa and other places in the Galilee). After the riots in 1939, one Jewish family returned. Today, of the original Jewish inhabitants in this, now, Druze village, only one of the original families remains.


Ramle was established around 716 and was the only town founded by Arabs during the 1400 years of Arabs living in the country. From the very beginning and in the early part of its history, Ramle had thriving Jewish, Samaritan, and Karaite communities. It was also one of the stopping points for the Radhanites, convoys of Jewish merchants who crossed the land routes from Europe to Asia and back again. A period of expulsions took place during the Crusader era and in the 12th century, only 3 Jews lived there. The community was, eventually reestablished, but often went through periods of prosperity and decline between the 14th and 17th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, the town’s Jewish population was about 66.

Ramleh, c. 1875

The Arab riots in the 1920s forced some Jews to leave the town. In the 1930s Ramleh still had five Jewish families; even this small population bothered the Arabs and they were forced to leave during the ourtbreak of new riots in 1936.

Today, Ramle is a town where 80% of its population is Jewish, but many anti-Jewish incidents still occur among the 20% Arab minority.


Jews have lived continuously in Safed since the Middle Ages. It was briefly destroyed during the Crusader period, but revived again in the early 13th century. From that point, it began to flourish and by the end of the 15th century, the local Jews were said to be trading chiefly in spices, cheese, oils, vegetables, and fruits. Many of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, settled there. The community reached its zenith in the 16th century when the town gained a reputation as a center of Kabbalah and was later considered as one of the four holy cities of Judaism in the Land of Israel (the other three being Jerusalem, Hebron, and Tiberias). Toward the end of the century and the beginning of the next, the Turkish administration began to decline and with it, Jewish prosperity. This was especially exacerbated due to the constant Arab civil wars in the area as well as an uprising by the local Druze. The community was augmented somewhat with the arrival of Hasidim from Europe in the 18th century, but in the 1830s, wars between Arab and Druze, and Arab intifadas and pogroms further depleted the community. But the situation stabilized by mid-century and the community grew again.
In 1929, the Arab population, instigated by the nationalists, assaulted the Jewish quarter and killed several of the inhabitants. During the British Mandatory period, a slow stream of Jews fled for their lives due to Arab hostility and the community stagnated.

Some of the Jewish buildings destroyed in Safed during the 1929 Arab pogroms


Mass funerals after the Arabs pogroms in Safed, 1929

Since Israeli independence, the community regained its strength and is, today, a flourishing city.


Shechem, called by the 7th century invading Arabs “Nablus” (after the Roman name Neapolis), was home to a Jewish community since Biblical times, as well as to the Samarian community (the only indigenous Palestinians aside from the Mustarabi Jews). For centuries, religious life for both Jews and Samaritans was centered around the Tomb of Joseph just outside the city, and for Samaritans, Mount Gerizim on the city’s southern flank where their Temple is situated. Since the end of the Crusader period in the 13th century, both groups have suffered from persecution at the hands of the local Arabs and Shechem/Nablus had become a center of Muslim fanaticism. The pogrom of 1855 forced many into Islam.
Tomb of Joseph, early 1900s. Jews and Samaritans have prayed here for thousands of years.

Members of the Samaritan community of Shechem (Nablus), c. 1905.
from the Jewish Encyclopedia

By 1904, the Jews finally abandoned the city leaving only the Samaritan community who often lived in a precarious position. After World War I, some Jews returned and attempted to reestablish the community, but they were driven away by the Arab pogroms of 1929. Jews still visited the city, though, especially when there was a major event among the Samaritans.

After the War of Independence in 1949, Shechem found itself under Jordanian occupation and Jewish pilgrimages to the Tomb of Joseph were banned. Since the city was reunified with the rest of Israel in 1967, Jews, once again, were able to visit the Tomb of Joseph and a yeshivah was eventually established on its premises. However, Jews were still forbidden from actually living in the city, but in 1983, the community of Har Bracha was established just outside the city on the southern ridge of Mount Gerizim. During the Oslo War, otherwise known as the “2nd intifada” beginning in 2000, Jews were again banned from entering the city and the Tomb of Joseph and its yeshivah was destroyed.

Tomb of Joseph after the Arab bloodbath, 2000
photo by Nathan Scheider

In 2002, the intifada forced the Samaritans to leave the city as well and the Israeli government, therefore, built them the new village of Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim around their holy Temple, and next to Har Bracha.

Today, the Israeli authorities, together with the local Arabs, still forbid Jews from entering Shechem, and praying at the Tomb of Joseph, except once a month, late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. The yeshivah that once existed at the Tomb is now banned from entering the site as well and is now located in the nearby Jewish community of Yitzhar. As of this writing, it is under Israeli military occupation.



Jews have lived in Tiberias since Roman times. Since the 3rd century, it was the seat of rabbinic scholarship, in which position it remained until the 10th century. Afterwards, it continued to be a seat of scholarship, but this time, only second in importance to Jerusalem. From the 8th to the 10th centuries, it was also the center of the literary movement of the Masorah system of Hebrew philology. In 1204, it became the burial place of Maimonides. Eventually, however, as a result of the many Arab wars in the region, Tiberias was almost abandoned, but was renewed in the latter 16th century by the Ottoman Jewish banker and diplomat Don Joseph Nasi. Still, the incessant local civil wars of the surrounding Bedouin wreaked havoc on the community, but since 1740, when Rabbi Haim Abulafia, with the help of Bedouin Sheikh Daher el Omer revived the community, the situation stabilized and this became one of the few places where Jews actually lived in peace and prosperity along with the local Arabs.
But it turned out to be only a temporary situation. In the 1936–39 Arab riots, there were repeated Arab assaults on Jews and over 30 persons were killed.  
Arab arson attack of a local synagogue, 1938
survivor of the Arab massacre, 1938
photo by the American Colony in Jerusalem?
At the beginning of the War of Independence, an undeclared truce existed between local Jews and Arabs. However, it was broken in April 1948 with an attack by Arabs who anticipated the Syrian invasion of the area and some Jews fled for their lives, thus, decreasing the Jewish population to 4000. Following the Haganah's counterattack, all Arab inhabitants left in the same night, making Tiberias the first town of mixed population in the country to become all Jewish in the wake of the war.
(Source, Encyclopedia Judaica)