Safed in the 1930s - with the Abbo Family

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to go to a party at my dear friend, Rafi Abbo's house. The party was in memory of an incident that had occurred to this family decades ago in Safed. Little did I know that my friend, who I have known for over a decade, is part of the rich heritage and history of Safed.

This story, which he told, exemplifies how one family helped others from their home in Safed, even at risk to their own lives. The Abbo family has lived in Safed since the 19th century, and has influenced the people of Safed throughout the generations.

Illegal Immigrants in the 1930s

People who were oppressed or escaping persecution always knew that the Abbo home in Safed was a safe haven for them. In the early 1930s, the home became a way station for Jewish immigrants who were considered illegal by the ruling British. The entire Abbo family was active in aiding these Jews. Raphael Abbo would take immigrants on foot across the northern border to their home. His father, Meir, would give them both shelter and clothing. They would make appropriate false papers for these Jews and help them to resettle in Palestine. Meir had a close connection to an Arab who was a longtime government worker. Through the Arab, he was able to get original stamps to prepare documents showing that these new immigrants had actually been born in Palestine.

A Tip Comes

After working quietly for two years, the Abbo family was raided by the British. On January 24, 1935, the British made a surprise visit to the Abbo home and searched it. The stamps had been hidden in the body of an oil lamp. The chief inspector was just about to look in the lamp when a sheet of paper fell out of it. It was King George's reply to a letter that Meir Abbo had sent to him congratulating him on becoming king!

Running Out

With shock, the British inspectors refolded the note, replaced it in the lamp, asked for an apology from the Abbo family and left the house! The Abbos were actually speechless for quite awhile - in disbelief at the miracle that had occurred. Meir Abbo was so excited and amazed that he wrote a note to future generations in his prayer book. He wrote that the 12th of Shvat, 5695, when the government searched the house and they were spared, was to be a day of celebration and praise.

And so I sat, at Rafi Abbo's table on the 12th of Shvat, celebrating this miracle with his family and admiring this part of Safed history that lives on to this day.