Sha'ab, Israel

  • שַׁעַבּ
  • شعب
Hebrew transcription(s)
  ISO 259 Šaˁḅ
  Also spelled Sha'av (unofficial)
Coordinates: 32°53′22″N 35°14′19″E / 32.88944°N 35.23861°E / 32.88944; 35.23861Coordinates: 32°53′22″N 35°14′19″E / 32.88944°N 35.23861°E / 32.88944; 35.23861
Grid position 172/254 PAL
District Northern
  Type Local council
  Total 5,442 dunams (5.442 km2 or 2.101 sq mi)
Population (2015)[1]
  Total 6,625

Sha'ab (Arabic: شعب; Hebrew: שַׁעַבּ; meaning "The spur")[2] is an Arab town and local council in the Northern District of Israel. It has an area of 5,442 dunams (6.4 km2 (2.5 sq mi)) of land under its jurisdiction. In 2015 its population was 6,625.


French scholar Victor Guérin associated Sha'ab with Saab, a place mentioned by 1st-century writer Josephus.[3][4] In the 14th century, the tax income from the village was given to the wakf of the madrasah and mausoleum of the Shafi'i Manjaq in Egypt.[5]

Ottoman era

In 1517, Sha'ab was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire along with the rest of Palestine. In 1573 (981 AH) Sha'ab was one of several villages in Galilee which rebelled against the Ottomans.[6] In 1596, the village appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Acre in the liwa' (district) of Safad, with a population of 139 Muslim households. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, fruit trees,"occasional revenues", and "goats and bees".[7]

According to local tradition, the village started to flourish under anti-Ottoman rebel Zahir al-Umar (ca. 1768).[8] In 1859, the population was estimated to be 1,500. Some were Catholic, the majority Muslim. The cultivated fields were estimated to be 80 feddans.[9] Guérin visited in the 1870s, and wrote that the village of Sh'aib consisted of four quarters. The inhabitants, he wrote, were for the most part Muslim, about 800, and some 20 "Schismatic Greek" families. The Muslims had two Mosques and two walis.[10][11] In 1881, Sha'ab was described as being in a valley with fine olive groves, while part of the hill behind it was cultivated in corn.[9]

British Mandate era

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Sha'ab had a population of 1,206; 1,166 Muslims and 40 Christians,[12] increasing slightly in the 1931 census to 1,297; 1,277 Muslims, 19 Christians and 1 Jew, in a total of 284 houses.[13]

The demolition of houses in Sha'ab by British forces during the 1936–1939 revolt, 1936

During the 1936 revolt in Palestine, the British Army attacked Sha'ab, demolishing 190 houses in the village. According to an eyewitness account, the British collectively punished the village for harboring a rebel who allegedly set off a roadside explosive that killed four British soldiers and injured three. A day prior to the demolition of the homes, the army rounded up around 200 of its adult male residents and led them to a valley outside the village. As they were being lined up, a rebel fighter positioned on a nearby hill began yelling and firing into the air, confusing the soldiers and causing Sha'ab's detained men to disperse chaotically. One resident named Hassan Hajj Khatib was killed.[14]

By 1945, Sha'ab had 1,740 inhabitants, all classified as Arabs. They owned a total of 17,870 dunams of land, while 121 dunams were public.[15] 3,248 dunams were used for plantations and irrigable land, 6,602 dunams for cereals,[16] while 231 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[17]

State of Israel

Sha'ab was captured by the Israel Forces (IDF) on 19 July 1948 during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The villagers surrendered without a fight,[18] and their village was subsequently depopulated in the Palestinian exodus. Still, Sha'ab was found by the IDF's Ninth Brigade still to be inhabited in December 1948, and the residents were expelled on foot.[19] The village was the headquarters and hometown of Abu Is'af, leader of one of the most effective local militias during the war and someone viewed as a hero by many Arabs in the area.[20]

Most of Sha'ab's original residents became internally displaced refugees, settling in nearby Arab villages, predominantly in Majd al-Krum and Sakhnin. Meanwhile, many refugees from the depopulated villages of al-Birwa, al-Damun and Mi'ar were settled in Sha'ab in 1948 and were joined by refugees from Kirad al-Ghannam and Kirad al-Baqqara in the Hula Valley in 1953. The original residents of Sha'ab protested their circumstances and launched a campaign soon after the end of the war to return to their homes.[21] They gained the sympathy of most of the refugees from the Hula Valley and al-Birwa, but faced resistance from the former residents of al-Damun and Mi'ar. By 1950, roughly 10% of Sha'ab's original inhabitants returned to the village and eventually many more were given permission to resettle.[22]

Notable buildings

Mosque of Zahir al-Umar

The mosque of Zahir al-Umar is situated in the centre of the old village. In 1933 it was inspected by Na'im Makhouly from the Palestine Antiquities Museum, who found that the mosque dated from the time of Zahir al-Umar. In 1933 the mosque was in disrepair. Pictures from the time show two arcades: one had four arches connected with the side wall, with two columns in the centre. A reused Ionic capital could be seen, and above the doorway was a reused Roman lintel (first noticed by Guérin in the 1870s).[8][23]

Andrew Petersen, an archaeologist specialising in Islamic architecture, surveyed the mosque in 1994. He found that the present mosque, built in the 1980s, encased the old building. The old part is the prayer hall, has an entrance to the north. This hall is square, covered with a dome. The dome rests on large squinches, which are supported by corbels. According to Petersen, the domed prayer hall is consistent with an 18th-century construction date.[23]

Tomb of Shaykh Alami

The Maqam Shaykh Alami is situated south of the mosque, within its enclosure. It is built at a slope, where the ground rises to the south. On the east side there are two entrances; to the maqam, and to an underground cistern.[23]

The building is rectangular, 10 x 20 m, with an interior divided into two. The southern part contains a mihrab and is covered with a barrel vault. The northern end is covered with a dome, and has two large cenotaphs. According to Petersen, the buildings appear medieval.[23]

See also


  1. "List of localities, in Alphabetical order" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  2. Palmer, 1881, p.116
  3. Josephus, III, § 21, cited in Guérin, 1880, p. 434-435, cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  4. TIR, p. 218, cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  5. MPF, 71, No. 53. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  6. Heyd, 1960, p. 84-85. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  7. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 193
  8. 1 2 Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  9. 1 2 Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 271
  10. Guérin, 1880, p. 434-435
  11. Conder & Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 339
  12. Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Acre, p. 37
  13. Mills, 1932, p. 102
  14. Ghandour, 2009, p. 12.
  15. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 41
  16. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 81
  17. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 131
  18. Morris 2004, p. 423
  19. Morris 2004, p. 514
  20. Cohen, 2010, p. 100.
  21. Cohen, 2010, p. 101
  22. Cohen, 2010, pp. 102-103
  23. 1 2 3 4 Petersen, 2001, p. 276


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