‘Time tunnel’ through four centuries uncovered in northern city of Safed

Remains from buildings dating back to 16th century, and an attack tunnel from the 1948 War of Independence, among finds discovered during work to build mountain viewpoint

Archaeological remains spanning four centuries uncovered in the northern city of Safed. (Safed Municipality)
Archaeological remains spanning four centuries uncovered in the northern city of Safed. (Safed Municipality)

Remains of buildings spanning hundreds of years of history have been uncovered in the northern city of Safed, including a 16th century water hole and a more recent tunnel dug to attack to attack Jewish positions during the 1948 War of Independence, the Safed municipality said in a statement Tuesday.

The remains were discovered during excavation work to build a lookout point over Mount Meron that is being installed at the city’s Ashtam Square.

“This is a fascinating and exciting find that unfolds an extensive history of the city and a kind of time tunnel of different periods in the history” of the city, said Safed Mayor Shuki Ohana.

Oren Zingboim of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained there are four layers to the finds at the site: a building from the 20th century constructed during the British Mandate of Palestine on top of a 19th century floor, beneath which are remains of a construction destroyed in the 1837 earthquake the leveled much of the city, plus the remnant of a wall from the 17th century.

“All of that is covering an opening to an amazing water hole and reservoir from the 16th century,” Zingboim said in the statement.

Archaeologists also found the remains of a tunnel dug during the War of Independence by Arabs from the Muslim Quarter, who were hoping to attack the Ashtam building, which was a key stronghold and weapons storage site for the Jewish fighters in the city.

According to the statement, the tunnel’s presence aligned with a report by Benjamin Geiger, the Haganah militia force commander in Safed during the 1948 War of Independence, who wrote about the fighting and noted that he had heard the sound of digging.

Archaeological remains spanning four centuries uncovered in the northern cit of Safed. (Safed Municipality)

Researchers assessed that the site was at the heart of the city during the 16th century, considered the golden age of the of the Ottoman Empire rule during which Safed saw rapid development and expansion.

At the time, Jews expelled from Spain were arriving in the city, which saw good relations between the Jewish and Muslim residents, the statement said. During that period, Safed was a central cultural hub with ties to cities across the Mediterranean.

The Safed municipality has initiated a project to preserve the site and begun a more detailed examination of the finds. Eventually the site will be developed as a tourist attraction, the statement said.

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