History

The 1517 Hebron Massacre

The Jewish community fought, but were overwhelmed during the Ottoman conquest of the Land of Israel.

26.4.17, 19:39
(IMAGE: A map of the Mediterranean from Abraham Ortelius's atlas Teatrum Orbis Terarum, Antwerp, 1570. The city of "Ebron" is circled in red. Credit: Wiki Commons.)
 
The Hebron massacre of 1929, instigated by Haj Amin al-Husseini is well known. Lesser so are the horrors that occurred in 1834 during the invasion of Ibrahim Pasha from Egypt. Due to lack of modern documentation, the massacre of 1517 is even more obscure but still an important part of Jewish history in Hebron. 
 
The events of 1517 took place during the Ottoman–Mamluk War which resulted in the Turkish based Ottoman Empire wresting control of the Land of Israel (and most of the Middle East) from the Egyptian based Mamluks. Attacks occurred in Tzfat as well.
 
A letter signed Japheth b. Manasseh describes the events. The Hebrew text is printed in Sefer Hevron by Oded Avisar. It reads as follows:
 
"In the seventh month, on the holiday of Succoth in 1517, the cruel tyrant; the Wrath of the Holy One Be He, Murad Bey, deputy of the Sultan and ruler of Jerusalem, decided in his heart to take out his fury on the Jews in his city and those living in Hebron. And he said 'I will take booty from them and take the Jews in the two cities captive so long as they have the power to see me.' And he carried out his decree. On that day, his men came to Hebron and killed many of the Jews who fought for their lives and plundered all their belongings until not one refugee or survivor was left in the Land. And a small remainder of those not felled by the sword fled to the Land of Beirut. And prior to departing, they hurried to bring along their Torah scrolls, and requested to remove their holy books. And in our numerous sins, we did not find anything. It is written and signed here by Rabbi Korpo on the sixth day of Tevet, 1519 - Yafeth ben Menashe."
 
Sefer Hebron adds, "this certificate demonstrates that there was a relatively large Jewish community in Hebron ('many Jews') which dared fight for its survival." (translated by Eitan Divinsky)
 
It is interesting to note that the Hebron Jewish community apparently armed itself in self defense despite a massive foreign army.
 
The Solomon Goldman Lectures suggests that the stable financial position of the Hebronite Jews at the time was what attracted the Turkish soldiers to engage in the mass plunder. It further states, "The Turks' conquest of the city in 1517, was marked by a violent pogrom of murder, rape, and plunder of Jewish homes. The surviving Jews fled to Beirut, not to return until 1533." (p. 56.)
 
The massacre was referenced in Toldot Tzfat by Nathan Schur who refers to it as a pogrom, as does Dr. Yitzchak Alfasi in Hakrei Eretz Yisrael, Dr. Giora Pozilov in Vehayu Einekha Ro'ot et Morekha, and several other scholars.
 
In the northern city of Tzfat (also spelled Safed), similar occurrences took places. Neil Asher Silberman writes in Heavenly Powers: Unraveling the Secret of the Kabbalah:
 
"The bloodiest outbreak occurred in Safed in January 1517, when a mob of local Muslims, inflamed by their former overlords and by rumors of the defeat of the Ottomans in Cairo, led an open rebellion with great bloodshed in an attempt by the now-dispossessed local nobles to reassume control. A crowd of Muslims inflamed by their former overlords murdered the Ottoman governor and plundered the Jewish Quarter, killing or wounding many in the community."
 
REFERENCES:
 
*  The Solomon Goldman Lectures. Spertus College of Judaica Press. 1999. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-935982-57-2.
* Neil Asher Silberman (March 2001). Heavenly Powers: Unraveling the Secret of the Kabbalah. Castle Books. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-7858-1324-8.
* Oded Avisar. Sefer Hebron, Jerusalem, Keter.1970.  p. 43. 
* Nathan Schur. Toldot Zefat (History of Safed), Am Oved / Dvir, 1983, ISBN 965-01-0097-00.
* Yitzchak Alfasi. Hakrei Eretz Yisrael (2005) (text here)
* Justus Weiner. The Hebron Protocol: The End Of The Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End Of The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process? (1997 Boston University International Law Journal).
* Giora Pozilov. Vehayu Einekha Ro'ot et Morekha. (And Your Eyes Shall See Your Teachers: The Sages of the Four Holy Cities, Volume 1) (2000) - Hebrew imprints, p. 245
 
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