Thursday, October 18, 2018

Earthshattering Moments in One of Israel’s Holiest Cities

Tzfat (Safed), the Israeli city in the rolling hills of the Galilee, is known as one of the four holy cities of Israel, along with Tiberias, Hebron and, of course, Jerusalem. It was the home of the 15th century renaissance of the mystical study of Kaballah, and served, as well, as the residence of the Arizal, Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the author of L’cha Dodi, and many other great Torah sages.

While many earthshattering historical moments took place in Tzfat, it is also a location prone to earthquakes. On the 9th of Cheshvan, corresponding to October 31, 1759, an earthquake struck that nearly destroyed Tzfat. 

Tzfat is located on the Dead Sea Transform, a fault that runs from the northern Red Sea, through Israel’s Jordan Valley, to the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey. The October 1759 earthquake was estimated at 6.6 on the surface wave magnitude scale, and caused a massive landslide within the city built on the side of a mountain. 140 Jews died in the quake and 200 homes were destroyed. An exodus from Tzfat ensued, leaving just 50 families. A 1730 census indicated 1800 Jewish residents of Tzfat. A more intense earthquake on November 25 of the same year, destroyed all the villages in the Beqaa valley, northwest of Tzfat in Lebanon. This earthquake almost mimicked the damage the region had sustained in a Syria-based earthquake in 1202. 

Of all of Tzfat's synagogues, only the Alsheich synagogue withstood the 1759 blast. 

Hassidic Jews returned to Tzfat in 1764 to rebuild the ancient holy city. Another earthquake, measured at a magnitude of 6.9, devastated Tzfat on January 1, 1837. Once again, the Alsheich synagogue was unaffected and eyewitnesses claim that the southern wall of the Abuhav synagogue, where the Ark stood, was not destroyed. 


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 

No comments: