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David Hacohen reported on the news of the Safad Massacre in 1929:

In the bloody Arab riots of 1921, when Yosef Hayyim Brenner, the distinguished socialist pioneer and author, was among those murdered, I was not in Palestine. . . But in the second half of 1929, where there was a fresh wave of murderous Arab attacks throughout Palestine, from Hebron to Safed, I was back at home...

I believe I was the first Jew to reach Safed from the outside after the massacre there. One Friday morning we heard that there had been a pogrom in Safed. We read the official announcement: "On August 29, at 6:15, disturbances broke out in Safed. The army arrived on the scene at 8:35 and immediately restored order. There were some fatal casualties and many houses were burnt. The Jewish inhabitants were at once transferred to safety. Since then calm has prevailed in Safed."

August 29 was a Thursday. Throughout the day rumors continued to come in that the pogrom in Safed was still going on. But Government House provided us with no further information about events in Safed, which was included in the jurisdiction of the Haifa district commissioner. We had enough experience not to trust the reassuring official announcement...

We set out on Saturday morning. . . I could not believe my eyes. . . I met some of the town's Jewish elders, who fell on my neck weeping bitterly. We went down alleys and steps to the old town. Inside the houses I saw the mutilated and burned bodies of the victims of the massacre, and the burned body of a woman tied to the grille of a window. Going from house to house, I counted ten bodies that had not yet been collected. I saw the destruction and the signs of fire. Even in my grimmest thoughts I had not imagined that this was how I would find Safed where "calm prevailed."

The local Jews gave me a detailed description of how the tragedy had started. The pogrom began on the afternoon of Thursday, August 29, and was carried out by Arabs from Safed and from the nearby villages, armed with weapons and tins of kerosene. Advancing on the street of the Sefardi Jews from Kfar Meron and Ein Zeitim, they looted and set fire to houses, urging each other on to continue with the killing. They slaughtered the schoolteacher, Aphriat, together with his wife and mother, and cut the lawyer, Toledano, to pieces with their knives. Bursting into the orphanages, they smashed the children's heads and cut off their hands. I myself saw the victims. Yitshak Mammon, a native of Safed who lived with an Arab family, was murdered with indescribable brutality: he was stabbed again and again, until his body became a bloody sieve, and then he was trampled to death. Throughout the whole pogrom the police did not fire a single shot. The British police commander, Farradav, walked up and down the main street of the town, where everything was quiet, and did not go down to the scene of the massacre...

The district commissioner defended his own conduct. He said he had known that the situation there was serious, and had therefore demanded that troops be sent in, but they had arrived too late. . . I was unsparing in my criticism of him for not having visited Safed. I said that this showed in the clearest possible way that the government was to blame for what had happened. Riots had been taking place for the past seven days, seven whole days since the Hebron massacre. Incitement to violence in the Safed mosques and provocative stone throwing and threats in the streets had been daily occurrences. The warship and troops had already arrived by then. The looting, destruction, burning, and killing had begun already on Thursday evening and continued all that night and all the next day. Why, then, had the government put out its falsely reassuring announcement?

Instead of protecting the Jewish population and its property, the police commander had evacuated four thousand Jews from their homes to the courtyard of Government House, leaving their homes to be looted and burned. While the looting and killing were still going on, the police were searching the Jews for arms...

My thoughts about the Safed tragedy gave me no peace for a long time. How had such a thing happened? What was the explanation for the terrible loss of Jewish life and property, 18 killed, about 40 wounded, and 200 houses burned and looted?

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(Reprinted with permission from Time to Tell, 1985, Herzl Press - World Zionist Organization)

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