Akbara, the Arabic Village was a Jewish town until the 11th Century / DR.Rivka Shpak Lissak

Akbara was until recently an Arab village in the upper-eastern Galilee, not far from Safed. About 1,000 people lived in the village. However, in 1982 the village was annexed to Safed and became a city neighborhood.

The First Temple Period (1,000 – 587BCE)

Akbara was an Israeli village. Prof.Benyamin Mazar found the name of Akbara on Tiglath Pilesser the 3rd monument from 732 BCE. The
Assyrian king conquered the northern part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 732 BCE and turned it into an Assyrian province. He took 650 war prisoners from Akbara and deported them to Assyria. According
to the archaelogical survey of the Galilee, most Israeli residents of the region were expelled during the end of the 8th century BCE, and the region remained mostly unsettled during the 7th century and at least part of the 6th century.

The Second Temple Period (538BCE – 70 CE)

Akbara was a Jewish town during the Second Temple Period, although there is no information when it was resettled. Josephus Plavius, governor of the Galilee in 66 CE, fortified its walls in preparation of the Great Revolt (66- 70 CE). Near Akbara there are cliffs. The Jews of Akbara found shelter in its caves from the Romans.

The Roman and Byzantine Periods ( 70 – 640 CE )

Akbara survived the Great Revolt and was settled by Jews along the Roman and Byzantine periods. Joseph Breslavski wrote in his Book "Do You Know the Country," that most of the Galilee remained Jewish during those periods as can be seen from the Archaelogical remains and especially the remains of old synagogues. Akbara was mentioned in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds and in the Madba map of Holy places from the 6th century. Akbara was famous for its fish production.

Rabbi Yanai established a Beit Misrash (Jewish Learning School) in Akbara. He owned vintages and a lot of property in Akbara.
Akbara was famous for its scholars. Rabbi shimon Bar Yohai, Rabbi Elazar his son, Rabbi Hanania Bar Akbari and Rabbi Hossi. All of them except Rabbi Shimon were buried in Akbara.

The Arabic- Muslim Period (640 – 1099)

Akbara continued to be settled by Jews during the Arabic-Muslim Period,
according to records from the Cairo Genizah from the 11th century.

The Crusader Period (1099 – 1260)

One of Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Ramban was a famous Rabbi from Spain) students visited Jewish settlements in the Galilee, including Akbara. Prof. Joshua Prawer, came to the conclusion that the visit took place a short time before the end of the Crusaders period. It seems that Akbara was not settled at that time, which means that it was deserted some time after the 11th century.
There is no information on what happened to the Jews of Akbara.

The Mameluk Period (1260 – 1516 )

During the Mameluke Period, Jewish Akbara was deserted.

The Ottoman Period (1516 – 1918)

In 1522 the Jewish traveler, Moshe Bassula visited the site of Akbara and found 2 walls from the ruined synagogue. Rabbi Ytzhak Luria migrated from eastern Europe to the Holy Land and settled in Safed in 1570. He visited ruined Akbara some time berfore his death in 1572. Izhak Ben Zvi wrote in his book "Eretz Israel under Ottoman Rule," that the ruins of the synagogue were still there in the 19th century.

Since the 16th century rumours began to spread that the treasures of the second temple were hidden in the caves of Akbara. The rumour appeared for the first time in a book written by Naftali Ben Itzhak Elhanan, "The King's Valley," published in 1648 in Amsterdam. Rabbi Haim Hurwitz repeated this rumour in his book "Hibbath Jerusalem."

A Turkish traveler by the name Chalvi visited Akbara in 1648 and described the caves in which Jews found shelter from the Romans. Akbara was still unsettled at that time.

It seems that Muslims settled in Akbara some time after the middle of the 17th century.

There is a gap of hundreds of years between the end of Jewish Akbara and the Arabic settlement. The Arabs did not change the name of the village. According to the Palestinian web site, the Nakba, 90 Arabs lived in Akbara in the 19th century.

Napoleon heard the rumours on the treasures in the caves of Akbara and sent in 1799 soldiers to look after the treasures. They found nothing. Some treasure robbers searched after the treasures with no results as well.

The British Mandate Period (1918 – 1948)

According to the Nakba site the Arab population of Akbara grew from 147 in 1922 to 430 in 1948.

During Second World War the British army built fortifications not far from the village in preparation for a German invasion.


During the war of independence a Palmah unit of the Israeli army conquered the cliffs that controlled Akbara in order to prevent its residents from helping the Arabs of Safed. The village was conquered in May 9, 1948. The village residents fled or were expelled. After the war the Israeli government settled Arabs from the village Kadita in the deserted village.

In 1988 the 2 walls of the ancient synagogue were uncovered. Also, stones from ancient houses were found in the walls of the Arabic houses.

In 1982 Akbara was annexed to the city of Safed and became a part of the city. 400 Arabs live there today.

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