16th Century Safed, Zionism and Palestine
Safed in northern Palestine was the site of a significant revival of Jewish Culture in the sixteenth century. The town attracted many exceptional figures from Spain, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, who manifestly reshaped the Jewish world. It has been a formative period, crucial for the developments of Jewish culture, both in the Muslim world (in particular in North Africa) and in Eastern Europe, mainly Hassidism. In his recent book, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin has proposed to view Safed and Zionism as two different models of Jewish settlement in Palestine/the Land of Israel. Each of these approaches refers to a different historical period (Zionist to the biblical past, Safed to the period after the destruction of the Second Temple), and consequently provides a different understanding of the present and of redemption. In spite of the undeniable impact of sixteenth century Safed for later generations, modern Jewish historiography abandoned its legacies, or considered them as mere manifestations of traditional values and oriental culture. In contrast, he suggests to rethink “Safed” as a beginning of modernity, as a starting point for a counter-history of Europe, and for a different perspective on the history and presence of Palestine.