The Ma'alot Massacre

Safed's history, like that of most of Israel, is paved in the blood of its people. Throughout history, the Jewish people have had to fight to keep their land and to keep their safety. One incident, in 1974, hit the town of Safed very deeply.

Ma'alot, 1974

Ma'alot is located in the Western Galilee, 20 kilometers eat of Nahariya and about an hour's drive from Haifa. It was founded in the 1950s by North African Jews who came to Israel as refugees from hostile Arab nations where they were no longer safe.

May 15, 1974

On this day, which was Israel's Independence Day, a group of 11th grade students from Safed were on a field trip in the Golan. They intended to hike for the day, enjoy the country and its birthday, and then return to Safed the next day. That night the children slept in a school in Ma'alot. During the night, three Arab terrorists who were dressed as IDF soldiers attacked the school. They killed the guard and some of the children. While some of the children escaped through a second story window, approximately 102 children from Safed were held hostage.

Who Were These Terrorists?

The next morning, the terrorists were identified as part of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or the DFLP. They had come from Lebanon and targeted the children in this school. The DFLP was a Marxists-Leninist, pro-Soviet group that had split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1969. They demanded that Arab terrorists be released from Israeli prison or they would start to kill the children from Safed. They set their deadline for 6:00 pm on the same day.

Emergency Meetings

The Knesset convened an emergency session. Israel had always forbidden negotiating with terrorists, but this was a very hard stand to take with over one hundred children held hostage. They forced an exception and by 3:00 pm they had reached a decision to negotiate. The DFLP declared, however, that there was no time for negotiating - only for giving into their demands.

Golani Help

At 5:45 pm a Golani unit stormed the building. All of the terrorists were killed during the raid, but only after they took the lives of 21 of the children. The total number of killed was 26 - including several people who were murdered the night before as the terrorists made their way to the school. In Beirut, there were demonstrations honoring the fallen "martyrs" of the cause by Nayef Hawatmeh, the DFLP leader and his followers.

Tragedy for Safed

This incident certainly marked a tragedy for the people of Safed, some of whom lost their children. It is a part of Israeli history, and Safed history in particular, that shows the difficulties that the Jewish people in Israel face at all times.