Thursday, October 10, 2013

The True Story of Why the Arabs of Safed Left In 1948

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  
My German shepherd, Molly, and myself in February 1981 in front of our apartment building in Safed

Mahmoud Abbas or Abu Mazen, head of the PA,born on March 26, 1935,  has been telling lies to the UN about the Arabs of Safed and what they did in 1948 when Israel was established through the UN. At the time he was 13 years old.    He seems to have forgotten what he had told people earlier just this year about why the Arabs had left the city.   That's the trouble with telling lies.  You often can trip yourself up by not remembering all the stories you have told..                                                                  

    Our apartment is on the main floor, so we it came with windows barred for protection from terrorists.
My husband, myself and our German shepherd lived in Safed from July 1981 to November 1985 and I taught English at the junior high while my husband taught at the high school.  We lived in a high rise apartment building across the street on David Eliazar from the school.  One of our friends was Dov Silverman, who wrote the book, "Legends of Safed"  in which he has documented all the histories and stories he could find about this ancient and picturesque city.  This former U.S. Marine from Long Island immigrated with his family in 1972 while we had immigrated in 1980.  He worked as a teacher of English in Safed and became the high school acting principal for 2 years and then became an advisor and lecturer for teachers of English as a 2nd language.  Before this book, he had published 2 short stories and had been working on a historical and an autobiographical novel.

Palwatch has caught Abbas telling the UN that the Arabs of Safed were "uprooted and thrown into exile" in 1948.  He said they were "left" on their own," and "overcome with fear."  His story is that he was one of the victims of the Nakba, what he calls the catastrophe, meaning the establishment of the state of Israel and had been forcefully uprooted and thrown into exile.

The truth is quite different.Abbas had been born in Safed, a city on top of a mountain  with an elevation of 2,720 feet allowing people to see special panoramas.  It is a summer resort and has been  an art center with about the same altitude as Jerusalem, and was a mixed Jewish and Arab town.  This is out of his own mouth when he spoke earlier this year.  He said that they left on their own out of fear.  The reason was that in 1929 there had been "a most severe" massacre of Jews in the cities of Safed and Hebron, and that Arab residents of Safed were afraid that Jews would take revenge.  The fear caused them to flee in a disorderly manner, more likely every man for himself, probably staying in family groups.  This is quite true about what happened to the two cities of Hebron and Safed and the massacre.

James Michener, author of many famous books,  lived in Safed for a period of time while he wrote "The Source", the book that actually talked me into moving to Israel and living in Safed.  One chapter is about "The Miracle of Safed."  Dov tells about it.  During the war of Independence in 1948, Jews were outnumbered in Safed 10 to 1 and had few weapons and were in a bad position.  They did have a Davidka, a homemade mortar that made a lot of noise but wasn't very accurate.  With that they routed the invading Arabs.
Some people attribute the out of season rain that fell at that moment.  The Arabs thought that the Jews had an atom bomb and the rain was the fallout.  some Arabs thought the rain was a sign from G-d that his hand was against them.

When the Arabs left Safed , they expected to return victorious, because their leaders had told them that would happen.  Most took the route of the Wadi Amud, passing the water pumping station built by the British.  They did not blow it up, thinking they would return and the Jews would be no more.  It was the beginning of summer and the city would have had to be evacuated for lack of water had that happened.  The same pumping station was still being used in 1985 when I left.

In Dov's book, he wrote about the Arabs fleeing in such haste that they didn't take all their belongings with them.  Some buried their valuables that they couldn't carry, thinking they would return for them later.  The Jews stayed close to the Jewish Quarter after the battle where they had been allowed to be during the previous centuries under the Moslem rulers of the Ottoman Empire.  One went out to check on the deserted parts of the city and passed a horse pawing in the earth in the garden of a house owned by a very rich Arab.  A week later he saw the same horse pawing the same spot.  He then noticed that the earth under the horse had been recently turned over.  That turned out to be the spot the Arab had buried his valuables.  The horse let the Jews know about the spot.

Dov tells us that an Arab village of Akbara was on the lower western slope of Safed, just below the Rebecca Sieff Hospital.  It was started by a breakaway group of Bedouins from Tuba, a village near the Jordan River.  The original tribe still lives in Tuba.  Akbara means mouse in Hebrew.  it got its name when Jewish fighters were routed from Josephus's citadel in Safed by the 5th and 10th Roman Legion.  They hid in the small caves dotting the mountainside.  When the Roman soldiers were seen, the Jews came out of these holes and jumped them.  That's why the Romans called them mice and then rats as they became bolder in their attacks.  This shows how far back the history of the Jews were in living in Safed.  In ancient times it was known as Beit El or House of G-d.   There is even a legend there that Shem and Ever, the son and grandson of Noah, were buried in a cave next to the synagogue which bears their names.

Palestinian Arabs left Israel on their own during the war for their own reasons.  Some have blamed the local Arab leaders while others blame the Arab armies or foreign Arab government.  One man has said that the Jordanian Army told them to leave their homes in Israel.  He lived in a refugee camp in Judea/Samaria of Qalandiya and told how when he was 20 years old they left because the Jordanian army told them to leave with the promise of liberating the town in 2 hours, so they left with only their clothes.

The official PA's policy is to deny Arab responsibility for the Palestinian refugees and they claim that Israel expelled all the Arabs who left.  In the demand for a final peace deal, they want Israel to accept all refugees along with all their descendants.  This is the big sticky point in reaching a peace agreement.  This would amount to millions of returning Arabs, outnumbering Jews in Israel!  One thing they've been doing is just sitting in refugee camps having many children.  The average family has over 10 children.  They might even still continue to be allowed 4 wives and each wife could have 10 each.  This has been going on for the past 65 years.  That's about 3 generations of people.

In Hebron, which is 18 miles south of Jerusalem, the Arabs had massacred many Jews in 1929.  700 Jews had lived there then.  The survivors had to flee for their lives.  About 30 families had returned in 1931.  Arabs rioted in 1936, probably stirred up from contact with then rising Nazi Germany and their growing anti-Semitic attitude towards Jews.  By 1967 the population of Hebron was 38,310.  After the 6 Day War, some Jews again settled in Hebron because of its religious history of Judaism.  They established the Kiryat Arba quarter east of the city which had 3,700 Jews in 1988.

My city of Safed, going back to Josephus in written history, was known about in Crusader times.  It had become Templar property in Mameluke times and had become an administrative center.  Jews were well established in the 11th century and by the 16th century it became an important center of rabbinical and kabbalistic activity.  In 1948 there were 12,000 Arabs and 1,800 Jews.  The Arabs fled after fighting which  had started when the Arab invasion from many countries were threatening the Jews.  In 1990 the population of the city was 16,400.  In my building lived Arabs and Jews.

Resource: Palestinian Media Watch, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik Video by palwatch
Legends of Safed by Dov Silverman, January 6, 1984, published in July 1983, January 1984.
Letters From Israel by Nadene Goldfoot, on I tell about living in Safed.
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia 

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