Arab Riots of 1929 in Safed

Safed Jews, along with those in a number of other Jewish areas, endured a horrific Arab riot in 1929. Between 1922 and 1928, the relationship between Arabs and Jews had been tolerable and relatively peaceful in Safed and in other areas in Palestine. This was soon to change, however.


In late 1928, a new phase of violence began that would have terrible consequences for the Jews in Safed and in other areas of Palestine. There were minor disruptions that set off the riots that involved disputes about the right to pray at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. In August, 1929, these disputes led to an outbreak of Arab violence. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, declared that Jews were endangering the mosques and other Islamic holy sites. He called on all Arabs to slaughter the Jews with his words, "Itback al-Yahud."

The British Lack of Help

On August 22, 1929 Jewish leaders in Palestine met with the British Deputy High Commissioner to make him aware of the fears of Arab riots. The British Commissioner assured the Jews that he was in control of the situation and that his government would protect the Jews. The next day, the Riots of 1929 started through Palestine and lasted for seven days. The British did virtually nothing during this time to keep the Jews safe.

August 23, 1929

On this day, Arab mobs attacked Jews in many areas of Palestine, including Jerusalem, Motza, Hebron, Safed, Jaffa and more. The Haganah (a Jewish defense force which would later become the Israeli Army)  defended the Jews of Jerusalem and were able to stop the riots there in a day or two. The violence in Jerusalem, however, started by rumors about Jews defiling Muslin holy places and other such fabrications, created even more problems in the rest of the country. Attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa were thwarted by Jewish resistance, but areas like Hebron and Safed were hit hard. In Hebron, 67 Jews were killed and in Safed, 18 were massacred. In total, all around Palestine, over 133 Jews were killed and more than 300 were wounded.

Safed Museum

There is a poignant museum in Safed called the Meiri Museum of Safed History that shows what happened there in 1929. Many of the pictures are incredibly graphic and show what the Jewish people underwent during this horrific time in Safed history.

Results of the Riots

As a result of the riots, many of the Jews left Safed and all Jews were sent out of Hebron. The British Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield, announced the formation of a Commission of Inquiry into the riots. Although the British had done nothing to protect the Jews during the riots, they investigated the riots after they were over. In 1930 they issued a new policy whitepaper. This paper was clearly pro-Arab and recommended limiting Jewish immigration and land ownership in Palestine.  In essence, the 1930 Paper punished the Jews for the riots and supported the Churchill Paper of 1922. The Zionist movement was incredibly insulted by these conclusions.