James Morris

Time and Remains – part I

Jaba’, district of Haifa.

Jaba’, district of Haifa.

Jaba’, district of Haifa.

In 1948 Jaba was small agricultural village with a population of 1140 and 158 houses. The first attack on the village took place in February, the New York Times reporting Zionist forces “arriving in two armoured buses, they opened fire, raided a house and smashed up its interior before moving of again”. Strategically located above the coastal highway the village was used by Arab snipers to fire on Jewish traffic. It was heavily bombed from the air before being attacked during the second truce in late July 1948. Its population was expelled to the Jenin district of the West Bank and the village was entirely flattened except for a local shrine. In September UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte condemned Israel’s destruction of villages in the area and demanded that Israel restore at its own expense all houses damaged or destroyed during and after the attack. He also demanded that the estimated 8000 expelled inhabitants from the locality be allowed to return. Israel rejected the demands. On 17th September 1948 Bernadotte was assasinated in Jerusalem on the orders of future prime minster Yitzhak Shamir.  A pine forest and recreational facilities now cover the site. No signposts exist to record the history of the village.

Lydda, district of al-Ramle

Lydda, district of al-Ramle

Lydda, district of al-Ramle.

A predominantly Muslim town of 20,000 people in 1947, it was allocated to the Arab state by the UN partition plan, Resolution 181. As part of Israeli Operation Dani, Lydda was the first city in Palestine to be bombarded from the air, prior to the artillery attack. The ground assault by the 89th armored Battalion under the command of Moshe Dayan started on the 11 July 1948. The Chicago Sun Times reported, ’practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the wayside’. The New York Herald Tribune reported “the Israeli jeep column raced into Lydda with rifles, Stens, and sub-machine guns blazing. It coursed through the main streets, blasting at everything that moved … the corpses of Arab men, women, and even children were strewn about the streets in the wake of this ruthlessly brilliant charge.” The small Arab Legion force had withdrawn from the city along with other Arab volunteers leaving it only lightly defended. The men of Lydda took shelter in the Dahamish Mosque. IDF troops threw grenades and fired bazooka rockets into the compound. The following day 176 bodies were found inside. The estimates of Palestinian deaths vary from 254 (IDF) to 1700 (Palestinian accounts). Yitzhaz Rabin issued the order “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.…”

Abu Zurayq, district of Haifa

Abu Zurayq, district of Haifa

Abu Zurayq, district of Haifa

In the years proceeding the 1948 war Zionist organisations gathered intelligence on Arab villages so as to assist with land purchases and potential future military encounters. In 1940 the preparation of ‘village dossiers’ was initiated. By 1948 over 600 had been completed. The 1944 Abu Zurayq dossier presented a picture of a peaceful agricultural community of 80 families. The village land was exceptionally fertile and owned communally. Crops included tobacco, olive, apple and plum. Some villagers tended sheep. The village economy was good, the people heathy, with reasonable rates of literacy amongst the men. A school was built in 1936. It was reported that the teacher did not express political opinions and that he sort out the company of local Jews. He was well liked. A small mosque was built in 1938. During the Arab uprising the people were peaceful and opposed the armed bands. The British searched the village but found no weapons. Economic and social relations with the local Kibbutz were good. After Abu Zurayq was attacked by Haganah forces on April 11 1948 and the population were expelled towards Jenin in the West Bank, a nieghbouring kibbutznik wrote of his horror at seeing that when ‘defenseless, beaten peasants’ tried to surrender, ‘most were killed (i.e. murdered)’. He reported that men hiding in the village were shot dead, women raped and every farmer from the nearby moshava took part in looting. He demanded from Jewish leaders that their troops be made to abide by the Geneva Convention. The village was entirely flattened and a coniferous forest planted over it.

Kafr Bir’im, district of Acre

Kafr Bir’im, district of Acre

Kafr Bir’im, district of Acre

By 1948 Bir'im had a population of 1050 people, made up of both Maronite and Melkite Christians. Relations with Jewish settlers were very strong; when Zionist troops arrived at the village on 29th October 1948 they were received by the village priests with a white flag and food. On the 13th November the entire population was forcibly expelled from the village with a promised they would be allowed to return at a later date. After living rough through the winter villagers were eventually resettled in the houses of expelled Muslims in the neighbouring village of Jish. In 1953 the villagers won a case in the High Court which permitted them to return to their homes; the following day the Israeli army declared the area a military zone and that afternoon bombarded the village from the air, watched by the returning population from a place they have since called ‘the crying hill’. Though the villagers political campaign continues to this day the village site is now an archeological park and a third century synagogue has been reconstructed amongst the ruins of Kafr Bir’im. The villagers have to pay an entrance fee to visit the site, but are allowed to use the restored church on religious holidays. The park information focuses on the locations ancient Jewish history, a small mention of an Arab village is made in the final paragraph.

Khirbat al-Tannur, district of Jerusalem

Khirbat al-Tannur, district of Jerusalem

al-Tannur, district of Jerusalem.

A small villafe from which little information has survived On the eve of the 1948 war it had a population of 40, with 10 houses. It was probably occupied during Operation ha-Har in mid October. The population is likely to have been expelled to East Jerusalem. The village site is now a popular picnic and recreational area amongst Jewish Israelis, especially around the village spring. The Jewish National Fund information boards make no reference to the village, though numerous derelict and overgrown buildings remain standing.

Iqrit, district of Acre.

Iqrit, district of Acre.

Iqrit, district of Acre.

Situated on a hill top close to the Lebanese border, the village featured in both Canaanite and Crusader history. By 1945 it had the relatively modest number of 50 houses, a predominantly Melkite Christian population and some 25 square kilometres of land. The village was captured on the 31st October 1948, after most of northern Galilee had fallen. 10 days later the entire population was expelled as part of the campaign to create an ‘Arab-less border strip’; they were informed they would soon be able to return. Some left for Lebanon but most were moved to a village further south where they lived as internal refuges. In 1951 the military authorities took village elders to a hillside near Iqrit to watch the old stone houses being blown up with dynamite and tank fire. Villagers have used petitions, court cases and parliament to try to establish a right of return. In 1972 Golda Meir stated, ‘It is not only consideration of security [that prevent] an official decision regarding Bi’rim and Iqrit, but the desire to avoid [setting] a precedent. We cannot allow ourselves to become more and more entangled and to reach a point from which we are unable to extricate ourselves.’ Villagers are allowed to hold a church service once a month, and tend the cemetery.

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

The village site, now almost surrounded by Jerusalem, has been populated since ancient times and was known to Israelites, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders and Ottomans. By the 1940’s it had a predominantly Muslim population of 2550 people. In early 1948 Lifta was occupied and cleared during the Haganah bid to open the western corridor from Tel Aviv into Jerusalem. The Palestinian population became refugees in East Jerusalem and the village lands were divided by the 1949 green line. Village houses were not flattened and Lifta remained the only one of the six cleared but not destroyed Palestinian villages, not to have been repopulated by Jewish citizens. Under the 1950 Absentee Property Law Palestinian villagers have been refused permission to reoccupy houses that they, or their ancestors once owned. In 1987, the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority announced it would restore the “long-abandoned village” and turn it into an open-air natural history and study center that would “stress the Jewish roots of the site.” In 2004 a redevelopment project proposed to turn the site into a luxury residential and commercial neighbourhood. In 2011 the Israel Land Administration requested tenders for bids for Lifta’s land. In February 2012 the Administrative Court in Jerusalem ruled in favour of a request to cancel the ILA sale by Lifta refugees. The site of the mosque has been transformed into a mikveh – a Jewish ritual bath.

Nabi Rubin, district of al-Ramle

Nabi Rubin, district of al-Ramle

Nabi Rubin, district of al-Ramle

The village of Nabi Rubin was a place of deep religious significance, known to Muslims as the burial place of Reuben, son of the Patriarch Jacob and Leah. A tomb built in 1437 by a Mamluk district governor, had, by the seventeenth century, become the focus of a month long festival beginning on the new moon each August. In the years preceding 1948 a tent city would be constructed annually to accommodate and feed up to 30,000 pilgrims. On the 9th May 1948 the 52nd and 53rd battalions of the Jewish Giv’ati brigade launched “Operation Lightening” in accordance with Plan Dalet, to initiate the clearing of villages in the area. If they did not surrendered immediately they were to be mortared and stormed ‘in the manner of scorched earth’. Numerous non-combatant Arabs were shot dead. Attempts to force the evacuation of Nabi Rubin initially failed, but it was partially cleared in early June. In late August ‘Operation Cleaning’ was launched to clear the remaining villagers and any returnees from the area; reports state that ‘stone houses and wooden shacks were torched, and 10 Arabs killed’. The remains of the village were abandoned and later flattened. The minaret was torn down in 1991. The tomb now sits abandoned amongst sand dunes and surrounded by a broken fence and barbed wire; no signs exist to record its history.

al-khisas, district of Safad

al-khisas, district of Safad

al-khisas, district of Safad

Administered under Ottoman rule from Damascus, Al Khisas came under the jurisdiction of Mandatory Palestine through an Anglo-French border agreement in 1923. During the 18 – 19 December 1947, five months before the creation of the state of Israel, “Palmah troops had blown up a house killing half a dozen women and children. Another handful of Arabs were killed in a simultaneous raid on a neighbouring mansion” (B Morris). Some Jewish authorities called for severe punishment of those involved. Ben Gurion ruled that judicial and disciplinary matters were best left to the Hagahan. No one was ever disciplined or tried. The attack had resulted from a local blood feud initiated by the killing of an Arab man by Jewish irregulars. Local Jewish leaders had tried to get the attacked called off but were over ruled by Yigal Allon. The attack started an exodus of people into neighbouring Syria. The village was razed, nothing visible remains. If is now a JNF picnic site and no signposts recognise the existence or record the history of the village. The neighbouring mansion is currently a hotel inside Kibbutz HaGoshrim

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

Lifta, district of Jerusalem

The village site, now almost surrounded by Jerusalem, has been populated since ancient times and was known to Israelites, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders and Ottomans. By the 1940’s it had a predominantly Muslim population of 2550 people. In early 1948 Lifta was occupied and cleared during the Haganah’s bid to open the western corridor from Tel Aviv into Jerusalem. The Palestinian population mainly became refugees in East Jerusalem and the village lands were divided by the 1949 green line. Village houses were not flattened and Lifta remained the only one of the six undestroyed Palestinian villages not to have been repopulated by Jewish citizens. Under the 1950 Absentee Property Law Palestinian villagers have been refused permission to reoccupy houses that they, or their ancestors once owned. In 1998 the surviving refugess and their decendants were estimated to number 18,165. In 1987, the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority announced it would restore the "long-abandoned village" and turn it into an open-air natural history and study center that would "stress the Jewish roots of the site." In 2004 a redevelopment project proposed to turn the site into a luxury residential and commercial neighbourhood. In 2011 the Israel Land Administration requested tenders for bids for Lifta’s land. In February 2012 the Administrative Court in Jerusalem ruled in favour of a request to cancel the ILA sale by Lifta refugees. The ruins are signposted and have a national trail passing through them. The site of the Mosque has been transformed into a mikveh – a Jewish ritual bath.

‘Imwas, district of al-Ramle

‘Imwas, district of al-Ramle

‘Imwas, district of al-Ramle

Possibly constructed on the ruins of the biblical village of Emmaus, where Jesus appeared to followers after his resurrection, the Palestinian village was occupied and cleared of its population during the 1967 six day war. Zionist forces had tried to conquer the village in 1948 because of its strategic location over looking the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem highway. Their failure meant it was incorporated into the Jordanian West Bank. The villagers put up no resistance to the occupation in 1967 and the whole population of 2000 people, along with 3500 from two neighbouring villages, were given an hour to pack before being expelled to refugee camps in the West Bank. The three villages were promptly flattened. In his diary Moshe Dayan wrote, “houses were destroyed not in battle, but as punishment...and in order to chase away the inhabitants”. An Israeli soldier, horrified by what he saw, wrote a letter to parliament prophesising that “the children straggling along the roads wailing and crying bitter tears will be the fedayeen (warriors) in another 19 years.” Unlike the rest of the West Bank, the land of the three villages was fully annexed into Israel, an act considered illegal in international law. Starting in 1972, 15 million dollars was raised by the JNF in Canada to covert the site into a huge national park. Canada Park was opened by the Canadian Prime minister John Diefenbaker in 1975 and finished in 1984. It attracts 300,000 visitors each year and is the most popular recreational park and nature reserve in Israel. Some campaigners in Canada want the park’s name changed to end this association with their country. No signs in the park tell the story of ‘Imwas, or the other two villages.

Ein Houd, district of Haifa

Ein Houd, district of Haifa

Ein Houd, district of Haifa

In mid July 1948 Ein Houd was occupied and cleared, with little resistance, following a naval bombardment.  Some villagers refused to leave Israel and settled in nearby caves, before establishing a neighbouring settlement they called New Ein Houd. Though granted Israeli citizenship they were classified as ‘present absentees’ and forbidden from returning to their nearby homes. In 1953, the Romanian painter Marcel Janco convinced the authorities to spare the original village from demolition and allow him to establish a Bohemian artists colony, as a safe haven for Jewish art. The village was renamed from the Arabic Ein Houd, Spring of the trough, to the Hebrew Ein Hod, Spring of Glory;  and transformed into a Utopian community and tourist attraction. The Mosque was turned into a bar and cafe and a statue of a naked women positioned in front.  The cemetery was paved over to make a car park. Artists occupied the homes of the expelled Palestinians.  The Palestinian village of New Ein Houd remained unrecognized by the Israeli state until 2005, before which it received no services including electricity, sewage treatment or paved roads, it had no postal address and each house was permanently scheduled for demolition.  As New Ein Houd’s land was confiscated its young men find employment as labourers in Ein Hod and neighbouring Jewish settlements.

Huj, district of Gaza.

Huj, district of Gaza.

Huj, district of Gaza.

The village was founded in the early nineteenth century, and by 1945 had a population of 1,040, of which three quarters were Arab and one quarter Jewish. The Arab population were considered to be friendly to the Yishav, and harboured Haganah troops against the British, for which the Mukhtar was shot dead by a local mob in Gaza City in 1947, accused of collaboration. The Palestinian villagers were expelled to the Gaza Strip in May 1948 by the Negev Brigade, and the village looted and blown up. An appeal to be allowed to return, supported by the department of Minority Affairs, was refused by military authorities. In 1998 an estimated 6,000 Huj refugees and their descendants lived in the Gaza strip. These included the medical doctor, peace campaigner and author Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three daughters were killed in 2009 during Operation Cast Lead when IDF shells were fired at the Jabalia refugee camp. Sycamore Ranch, the former home of Ariel Sharon, occupies 4 square kilometres of the village’s land. He is buried with his second wife Lily on the small hill where the village once stood. The village site is the location of a popular annual anemone festival marking the beginning of spring. The village itself has been completely erased.

Deir Yassin, district of Jerusalem

Deir Yassin, district of Jerusalem

Deir Yassin, district of Jerusalem

In 1948 the village of Deir Yassin, situated on the Western edge of Jerusalem, had a population of around 600 people. In January villagers signed a peace agreement with the neighbouring Jewish suburb of Giv’at Shaul, promising to inform on Arab militia activity. On the 9th April the village was attacked by the Jewish Irgun and Lehi Militia (the Stern gang) resulting in the most infamous massacre of non-combatants during the conflict. The militia gunned down villagers in the street and threw hand grenades into occupied houses. Having ransacked and looted the village, survivors were rounded up and paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem as trophy. The Militia initially claimed to have killed 250 people though this is now considered an exaggeration resulting from the excitement of battle. The number of 107 dead has become generally accepted, with a further 25 young prisoners later executed in a nearby quarry. As a consequence fear and panic spread through out the Palestinian population and large numbers began to leave for neighbouring countries and the West bank as refugees . The remaining village houses now form part of a psychiatric institution, and village lands have been occupied by an expanded Giv’at Shaul. The cemetery is abandoned. No memorial exists for the dead.

Eilabun, district of Tiberias

Eilabun, district of Tiberias

Eilabun, district of Tiberias

With a history traceable back to the sixteenth century, the predominantly Christian village had a population of around 550 by 1945. In September 1948, during a local procession, the decapitated heads of two IDF soldiers missing after an attack on a military outpost, were carried through the streets. Eilabun fell to Israeli forces on 30th October, after which the villagers took refuge in the church and raised a white flag in surrender. Rather than spare the Christian village, as was common in large parts of central Gallilee, the Golani brigade, angered by stories of the procession, ordered the population to gather in the village square from where they took seventeen young men prisoner and expelled the remaining population to neighbouring Maghar. Twelve of the prisoners were executed at different points around the square, so as to make it look as if they died in battle. Two elderly un-armed Palestinian men were also shot dead that day. The soldiers looted both the village and the villagers and, using the remaining five men as a human shield, transported the refugees in cattle trucks to the Lebanese border. Numerous Christian religious leaders and some Israelis opposed the expulsion and appeals were made to the Vatican to intervene. Despite political opposition in Israel, Eilabun refugees were allowed to return from Lebanon in mid 1949. Palestinians who avoided permanent exile lived under military rule within Israel until 1966. Permission to erect a memorial to the executed men at the entrance to the village was refused by the Israeli authorities. The memorial was built and remains in the village cemetery.

al-Ghabisiyya, district of Acre

al-Ghabisiyya, district of Acre

al-Ghabisiyya, district of Acre

The Muslim village was allocated to the Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition plan. It surrendered in May 1948 during operation Ben Ami, but Carmeli troops "entered the village with guns blazing", killing several inhabitants in revenge for participation in a previous attack on a Jewish convoy. Many dispersed villagers remained in Israel and attempted to return to the village, in response it was declared a closed military area in 1950. Despite a high court ruling in the villagers favour, the land was appropriated by the state in 1952. A neighbouring kibbutz which had started cultivating village land, declared “Arabs of Ghabisiyya should on no account be allowed to return to their village". The village was destroyed in 1955 apart from the mosque and cemetery. In 1972 a committee of ex villagers requested permission to maintain these remains, but permission was refused. In 1994 the committee began renovating the Mosque and praying there. In 1996 the Israel Land Authority sealed the mosque. On appeal to Prime Minister Shimon Peres the committee received a reply on his behalf: "The government of Israel regards itself as obligated to maintain the holy places of all religions, including, of course, cemeteries and mosques sacred to Islam. The prime minister has stated that the government would see to the renovation and the restoration of the dignity of mosques in abandoned villages, including the mosque in Ghabisiyya." In 1997 Police removed copies of the Quran and prayer rugs and resealed the mosque. In the following court case the ILA declared "The village of Ghabisiyya was abandoned by its inhabitants and destroyed during the War for Independence".... [the mosque..had stood].."lonely and neglected"..."and since it was in a run-down and unstable state that constituted a threat to the safety of those inside it, it was decided by the Ministry of Religions to seal it and fence it off." The villagers continue to pray on land outside the mosque.

Balad al-Shaykh, district of Haifa

Balad al-Shaykh, district of Haifa

Balad al-Shaykh, district of Haifa

Situated 7 km from central Haifa the village gained notoriety as the burial place of Sheikh ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam after he was shot dead by the British in 1935. al-Qassam, a Muslim preacher and political activist started numerous resistance movements opposing the presence of the Italians, French, British and Zionist in former Ottoman lands. In 1930 he formed the militant Black Hand, to promote popular armed struggle against the British and the Zionists in Palestine. Labeled a terrorist he was tracked down by British police to a remote cave, where upon he instructed his followers to die with him as martyrs; for which he was proclaimed a popular hero. His funeral was the largest political gathering ever to assemble in Mandatory Palestine, which prompted Ben Gurion to comment "Now for the first time, the Arabs have seen someone offer his life for the cause. This will give the Arabs the moral strength they lack." The militant Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades took his name, as did the home made Qassam rockets fired out Gaza into Israeli towns. In late 1947 Palmah troops attacked Balad al Sheikh leaving 60 men, women and children dead. The village was occupied by the Carmeli Brigade in late April 1948, after an attack with 3 inch mortars and machine guns; there was little resistance. The emptied village was settled by new Jewish residents and some buildings still remain in the town now called Nesher, a suburb of Haifa. The semi derelict cemetery remains. al Qassam’s tomb was desecrated in 1999.

Saydun, district of al-Ramla

Saydun, district of al-Ramla

Saydun, district of al-Ramla

By 1948 Saydun was a small, predominantly Muslim, agricultural village mainly cultivating grain; though evidence suggests it had been a larger and wealthier settlement in the nineteenth century. It was probably depopulated by Palmach and Haganah troops during Operation Nachshon on 6th April 1948 as part of a plan to clear the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem of potentially hostile bases. The neighbouring village of Abu Shusha was attacked in mid May 1948 around the time Israel declared independence. During the attack a well documented massacre occurred in which up to 70 non combatant villagers were allegedly killed. Israeli historian, Aryeh Yitzhaki, explains the events of Abu Shusha, citing a testimony of one Kheil Mishmar from the guards unit: “A soldier of Kiryati Brigade captured 10 men and 2 women. All were killed except a young woman who was raped and disposed of. At the dawn of 14 May, units of Giv’ati brigade assaulted Abu Shusha village. Fleeing villagers were shot on sight. Others were killed in the streets or axed to death. Some were lined up against a wall and executed. No men were left; women had to bury the dead.” Saydun was probably flattened soon after its clearing. One building of unknown origin remains.

Qisarya, district of Haifa.

Qisarya, district of Haifa.

Qisarya, district of Haifa.

Known as Caesarea to the Romans, a had port existed here, on and off, since ancient times. In the mid nineteenth century the site was reoccupied by Bosnian Muslim immigrants and a fishing community established. Village lands belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church and from the 1920's to the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association.
At the start of hostilities in 1947 villagers approached local Jews to form non-belligerency agreements and were reported by the Mapam politician Aharon Cohen to have done ’all in their power to keep the peace’. In February 1948 the village was occupied by the Haganah, the occupants expelled and the village demolished – except for buildings of Crusader or Roman origin. It was the first Palestinian village to be razed during the 1948 war.
The site is now a tourist attraction offering a ‘Time Trek – Caesarea Harbor Experience’, the mosque is currently part of a restaurant complex having been previously used as a bar and warehouse.

Assir village (unrecognised), al-Naqab/Negev

Assir village (unrecognised), al-Naqab/Negev

Assir village (unrecognised), al-Naqab/Negev

Before 1948 the Negev Bedouin made up the vast majority of the population of Beersheba district (al-Naqab/Negev), living as nomadic desert pastoralists. During and shortly after the 1948 conflict the majority were either expelled or fled to the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan or the Sinai. The remaining population was forcibly relocated to an enclosed zone in the north east of the district covering only 10% of their former territory; remaining under military law until 1966. Within the borders of this zone more than half of the population refused to take up residence in the officially established townships, often because they believed the land belonged to members of another Bedouin group, and as such, under Bedouin law, they did not have the right to reside there. As Israeli Law does not recognize traditional Bedouin ownership rights, the villages that they established are considered illegal under Israeli law and are classified as ‘unrecognised’. As such they receive little or no services such water, electricity, paved roads, health care and rocket sirens. Under a law passed in September 2011, 30,000 Bedouin will be relocated from these unrecognized villages into planned towns. The Bedouin were not consulted and the majority oppose the law. 2000 square kilometers of land currently under Bedouin control will be confiscated. The unrecognized villages will be razed.

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