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Though Jews resettled Safed in 1662, it became a majorly Muslim center of the Ottoman Sanjak of Safed.In 1700, a group of over 1,500 Ashkenazi Jews performed aliyah and settled in Jerusalem.In 1488, when Rabbi Ovadiya from Bertinoro arrived in the Mamluk domain of Syria and sent back letters regularly to his father in Italy, many in the diaspora came to regard living in Mamluk Syria as feasible.

At this time there was a small community in Jerusalem headed by Rabbi Levi ibn Haviv also known as the Mahralbach.Rabbi Yeshaye Horowitz, the Shelah Hakadosh, arrived in 1620.In early Middle Ages, the Jewish communities of southern Bilad al-Sham (Eretz Yisrael), living under Muslim protection status, were dispersed among the key cities of the military districts of Jund Filastin and Jund al-Urdunn, with a number of poor Jewish villages existing in the Galilee and Judea.Despite temporary revival, the Arab Muslim civil wars of the 8th and 9th centuries drove many non-Muslims out of the country, with no evidence of mass conversions, except for Samaritans.Apart from the Old Yishuv centres in the four holy cities of Judaism, namely Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias and Safed, smaller communities also existed in Jaffa, Haifa, Peki'in, Acre, Nablus and Shfaram.

Petah Tikva, although established in 1878 by the Old Yishuv, nevertheless was also supported by the arriving Zionists.

The Old Yishuv was thus generally divided into two independent communities – the Sephardim (including Musta'arabim), mainly constituting the remains of Jewish communities of Galilee and the four Jewish holy cities, which had flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; and the Ashkenazim, whose immigration from Europe was primarily since the 18th century.

The 'Old Yishuv' term was coined by members of the 'New Yishuv' in the late 19th century to distinguish themselves from the economically dependent and generally earlier Jewish communities, who mainly resided in the four holy cities of Judaism, and unlike the New Yishuv, had not embraced land ownership and agriculture.

The Crusader period marked the most serious decline, lasting through the 12th century.

Maimonides traveled from Spain to Morocco and Egypt, and stayed in the Holy Land, probably sometime between 11, before settling in Egypt.

The Mamluk period saw an increase in the Jewish population, especially in the Galilee, but the Black Death epidemics had cut the country's demographics by at least one-third.