During the 16th century, Peqi’in is mentioned in many literary sources. The earliest documentation found in relation to the Jewish community in the village, is in the travelogue of R. Moses Basoula, written in 1522. This Jewish tourist visited Peqi’in, then known as “Buqaya.” Basoula mentions Jewish farmers and describes their difficult plight under Turkish rule. The authorities taxed the Jews heavily, and those who were unable to pay had their lands confiscated or were sent to a Turkish prison, where chances of survival were slim.
Fearing the Turkish authorities, many Jewish landowners preferred to relinquish direct ownership of property. Some Jews registered their lands in the name of Druze neighbors, and others sold some of their land holdings. From the beginning of this century – the 16th century – Peqi’in served as a vacation spot for the Jews of Tiberias during the summer days, and sheltered those fleeing the plagues and earthquakes that sometimes struck Safed and Tiberias.
Turkish tax records from this century reveal that the number of tax-paying Jewish home owners in the village of Buqaya between 1525-1526, some 33, was greater than the number of non-Jewish homeowners, some 26.
Until 1573, while the number of Jewish homeowners increased to 45, the number of non-Jewish homeowners stood at 84.
During these years, a heavy tax burden was placed on the “protected” populations in the Islamic lands, known as the jizya. This per-capita tax was a kind of recompense for the kindness that the Moslems showed the “people of the book,” – i.e. the Christians and the Jews – for permitting them to conduct their religious lives. The tax records testify to the tax collection in the village, both from olive oil and wine production, as well as weaving and dying shops.
Of special interest are the lists of Turkish taxes regarding the silk spinning in Buqaya (Peqi’in). In a composition written in 1620 by Joseph di Trani (the Maharit), the son of R. Moshe di Trani (1500-1580) who was one of the rabbis of Safed and one of the great rabbinic authorities, he wrote as follows: “In the village of Buqaya in the Upper Galilee – may it speedily be rebuilt – I was asked regarding those berries whose leaves are given as feed to the silk worms, [namely] if this can be done during the shmita year [every seventh year when the land is left to lie fallow and use of many agricultural products is prohibited].” The Maharit answered: “It has been a practice to permit this since ancient times… since from the outset they are not intended for eating. To the contrary, it would be a loss for them to leave them for fruit, since they make more and more profit from growing silk than fruit… and the elders of this city testified to consulting with Aba Mari [medieval rabbi from Provence] of blessed memory regarding this matter, and in any case since he did not object to it as he did object to a number of matters regarding the shmita year, there is certainly no fear [of violating the halakha].”
We learn from the history of Safed that the 17th century was a period of decline in the entire area, caused by intense economic shocks, persecution and natural disasters. According to scholars, it can be assumed that during the 17th century the Jewish communities of the small Galilee villages died out, with the exception of Peqi’in, regarding which a number of letters from this period have remained in our possession.
Around the year 1665, the first Druze residents arrived in Peqi’in from Aleppo, Syria. The village, which had been mostly Jewish with a Christian minority, accepted the new residents, who quickly became an integral part of the village.