Village View from The Crusader Castle in 1969
Map showing the location of Tebnine within Lebanon

Location within Lebanon

Coordinates: 33°11′35.96″N 35°24′38.79″E / 33.1933222°N 35.4107750°E / 33.1933222; 35.4107750Coordinates: 33°11′35.96″N 35°24′38.79″E / 33.1933222°N 35.4107750°E / 33.1933222; 35.4107750
Grid position 188/288 PAL
Country  Lebanon
Governorate Nabatieh Governorate
District Bint Jbeil District
Highest elevation 800 m (2,600 ft)
Lowest elevation 700 m (2,300 ft)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Dialing code +961 (07)

Tebnine (Arabic: تبنين Tibnīn, also Romanized Tibnine)[1] is a Lebanese town spread across several hills (ranging in altitude from 700m to 800m (2,275 ft to 2,600 ft) above sea level) located about 25 km (16 mi) east of Tyre (Lebanon), in the heart of what is known as "Jabal Amel" or the mountain of "Amel". "Jabal Amel" designates the plateau situated between the western mountain range of Lebanon and the Galilee. (See map)


Ancient history and the First Crusade

Scholars have identified Tebnine as the town of Tafnis (תפנית) mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud[2] as a northern border of the kingdom of Judah.[3] Frankish chronicler Guillaume De Tyr (William of Tyre) refers to the town as Tibénin (..nomen priscum Tibénin..), which might be an indication that the town existed long before the Crusaders set foot in Syria.[4] Many of the existing families of Tibnine have a background makeup of Phoenician, European and Arab due to ranging influences in the region over centuries. Adolphe Chauvet noticed with surprise that a lot of the town folk in 1891 looked as blond as Germans, but gave no explanation for that: (Je suis surpris de voir passablement de blonds et de blondes, comme chez les Allemands. Le docteur Lortet a fait aussi,je crois,la mème remarque.)[5] Early Irish troops in Tebnin made the same observation many years after [6][7] However the chronicler Foucher de Chartres (Fulcher of Chartres) gave a poignant explanation: (Nam qui fuimus occidentales, nunc facti sumus orientales.= We who were Occidentals, became Orientals). Chauvet also mentions that the village history dates back to the Canaanites but unfortunately does not cite a reference for this assertion. However, in 1966 Lorraine Copeland and Peter J. Wescombe, published archaeological findings from two sites in Tibnine: Acheulean bifacial axes on the road from Tyre which are preserved at The American University of Beirut and dated to the Lower Palaeolithic era. On the road between Tibnine and Beit Yahum, Stone Age Megaliths were found and records of them preserved at the Institut de Paléontologie humaine in Paris.[8]

Hugh of Saint Omer built the castle of Toron in 1106 and died in a skirmish near Damascus.[9] In early 1107, Izz al-Mulk, Sunni governor of Tyre, raided the village and massacred its inhabitants.[9] King Baldwin I of Jerusalem named of his knights whose first name was "Onfroi" or "Henfred" to be the new lord of Tebnine. Humphrey I of Toron started the dynasty at Tebnine in 1107, most of what we know of the man comes from chroniclers of the era who never mention his origin or last name. He took the name of the castle that he was entrusted and his offsprings after all carried the surname "De Toron". It is not hard to guess on the identity of Humphrey the first as chroniclers only mention two knights with that name who participated in the First Crusade: "Humfroy De Montcayeux" and "Humfroy fils de Raoul".[10] The locals enjoyed a rather stable and semiautonomous life under Frankish rule as noted by Ibn Jubair in 1185: "The Muslim population between Tibnine and the coast enjoyed considerable rights of self-administration and enjoyment of their own customs".[11][12][13] British historian Jonathan Riley-Smith mentions that the customs house below the castle levied no duty on merchants travelling with Ibn Jubair because they were travelling towards the port of Acre, and hence concluded that King Baldwin III's officials were stationed there, even though the fortress was not in his royal domain,[14] this meant that Tibnin was an important stop on the roads between Tyre, Damascus and Jerusalem. The fertile land of Tibnin made it one of the granaries of the Crusader kingdom,[15] and under Humphrey III of Toron, the lordship had its own coinage: Forged from red copper and stamped "CASTRI TORONI".

The Late Crusader period (1187-1266)

After the Battle of Hattin in 1187, Saladin saw no threat of a Christian army in the foreseeable future and sent his nephew and most celebrated general, Al-Muzaffar Umar, north to besiege the castle of Toron for three days. Toron's garrison was cut off,weak, and unprepared with no leader as its lord Humphrey of Toron was captured at Hattin. Soon the Frankish nobles conceded the surrender of the castle, and Saladin allowed them five days[16] to make a safe passage to Tyre with their fortunes and families. Muslim prisoners were freed and many of the crusaders were taken hostage.[17]

al-Isfahani's description of the siege

Subsequently, Saladin asked his nephew to rebuild the castle and El-Seid tribesmen who were direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammad and who were trusted confidantes to Saladin, allowed other tribesmen of Fawaz tribe, adepts of Sufism to live in the Land of Tibnine.

On the 28th of November 1197, while most of Syria expected the amalgamate of crusaders from the Duchy of Brabant, German forces, and knights of the king Amalric II of Jerusalem to head towards Jerusalem or Damascus, the crusaders laid siege to the castle of Tibnine to give Christian Tyr a breathing space. The siege was carried out with great energy and as the Christian forces managed to dig a small hole in the great walls of the castle, the Muslim garrison feared a fate like that of Maarat al-Numaan which was still fresh in the memory of Syrians, and offered to surrender. Despite the mild objections of the ruler of Tebnine (Husam El-Din Beshara),[18] representatives of the families of Tebnine came down the hilly side of the castle to the Frankish camp and asked for safety (Al-Aman) in exchange for the liberation of 500 Christian slaves. Ibn-Athir, the famous Arab historian, winks that a lot of the rumors circulating in Tebnine about what the crusaders would do if the castle was taken by assault, came from none other than other Frankish lords who were not very happy to see a successful campaign led by king Amalric II of Jerusalem, added to the fact that most of them had forged alliances with the sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt and were in no hurry to see it obliterated over some revolting massacres committed in Tebnine. The Germans would hear of no surrender. Tebnine promised pillage and fortune as well as glory to the knights who will return it to hand of the Christians. Chronicler Ernoul describes how the crusaders refused the Muslim offer and admits that it was a mistake not to accept the honorable offer of surrender.[19] Their arrogance made them parade the messengers in front of the secret dig that the crusaders were working under the wall of the castle. Tebnine's garrison was more resolved to resist than ever. It was indeed the site of that dig that witnessed the fiercest fight that day. The warriors of Tebnine fought so ferociously that the dig was rendered useless, and the crusaders forced to retreat from their attack. The siege continued, and the besieged thought that another offer to capitulate, made from a stronger position, would yield a more positive outcome. Once more, representatives of Tebnine families carried the offer of surrender as long as their lives are spared, and once more the response was less than polite from the German chancellor. When the messengers were back in the castle, they informed the garrison of the insulting reception that they received from the Franks, and the will to fight was again strong. Towards the evening, carrier pigeons brought news of reinforcements on the way dispatched by the sultan Al-Kamil. In February 1198, under the threat of the looming Ayyubid army, and the war of succession in Germany between Philip of Swabia and Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor, the German forces ended the siege of Tibnine when the Chancellor and his princes abandoned their men to their fate outside the gates of Toron, as described by Helmold von Bosau.[20] And so, it was at the walls of Tibnine that the German crusade of 1197 ended in disgrace.

In 1229, under the pressure of king Frederick II's Sixth Crusade, Egyptians sultan Al-Kamil who was Saladin's brother, returned the Seigneurie (lordship) of Toron (Tibnin) to the Franks.[21] This placed the lordship of Tibnin in the hands of the French Baron Philip of Montfort, who arrived in Upper Galilee as one of the few knights to make it to the Holy Land in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, which had been initially launched under the leadership of Theobald of Champagne and had ended by conquering Constantinople. Montfort married Maria of Antioch-Armenia, the last remaining heiress to the Toron family, and seized the riches of Tibnin and its castle and imposed a tax on caravans using the spring beneath the castle. It was from Tibnin that Philip of Montfort would contemplate ways to seize Tyre from the hands of Richard Filangieri, who was the confidant of Frederick II.[4]

After the conquest by the Mamluk Sultan Baibars in 1266, the Fawaz and Sayed families were entrusted with the defense of the land.

The Ottoman Era

In 1596, it was named as a village, Nafs Tibnin, in the Ottoman nahiya (subdistrict) of Tibnin under the liwa' (district) of Safad, with a population of 148 households and 13 bachelors, all Muslim. The villagers paid a taxes on agricultural products, such as s wheat, barley, summer crops, fruit trees, goats and beehives, in addition to "occasional revenues"; a total of 8,900 akçe.[22][23]

Between 1639 and 1649, Ali and Hussein 'al-Saghir' eliminated opposing Shiite families and established a single family rule over Hunin, Ma'raka, Qana, and Tibnine (commonly called Bilad Bishara = land of bishara). The 'al-Saghir' brothers fostered the strength of their feudal system by aligning themselves with the Druze emirs, and were even tolerated by Emir Fakhr ad-Din II. Their reign lasted until the tyrant Jezzar Pasha ascended to power in Acre in the eighteenth century, who with the aid of the obedient emir Bashir Shihab II, crushed 'al-Saghir's autonomous feudal system in the area and kicked their men out of Tibnine. However, in 1783, 'al-Saghir' clansmen and other, aligned themselves with emir Yusuf Shihab and ousted the forces of Jezzar Pasha from Tibnine, and reclaimed the castle as their home base, only to be betrayed by Yusuf Shihab and sent to Acre to be promptly executed.[24] In the later days of the Ottoman Empire, Tibnine was the "Chef-Lieu" of "Bilad Bcharrah" where the Ottoman Kaymakam took residence.[5] This is how American traveler Rob Morris found the town in 1868. Morris describes the enchanting beauty of the town and despite being certain of his credentials being honored by the Pasha occupying the castle, he takes up residence with one of the families in the village, and mentions the tyranny with which the Ottoman troops treated the locals.[25]

In 1875, Victor Guérin visited, and found here 600 Metualis and 250 Greek Orthodox.[26]

In 1881, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described it: "A village, built of stone. The Mudir of the district resides in the castle. The inhabitants are about 450 (Guerin says 600) Metawileh and 250 Christians. There is a Maronite chapel in the village. It is situated on a hill, and there are figs and arable land around. The water supply is from a large birket and twenty to twenty-five cisterns in and round the village."[27]

The French Mandate Era

After Lebanon was placed under the colonial power of the French, a southern rebel attempted to assassinate General Henri Gouraud. Adham Khanjar attempted to recruit followers in Tebnine and may have had some success initially due to the desire of some among the locals who wished unity with Syria.[28] However, Adham Khanjar's sectarian views alienated the residents of Tebnine who always boasted an acceptance and coexistence between Christians and Moslems, and eventually rooted all support for Adham Khanjar's band from the city. After Khanjar's capture, and the subsequent rebellion in Jabal al-Druze, members of the band of rebels that Adham Khanjar led, returned home only to be promptly arrested by the French authorities. In 1921, Under orders from Henri Gouraud, the occupying French forces in Lebanon responded to sectarian clashes in the south with a massive campaign targeting Shiite villagers. The military commanders demanded strict and draconian restitution from poor villagers who were not involved in the clashes to begin with. The spirit of revolt was being slowly stewing for some time and it came to a head when the collaborators with French set up a market in Tebnine to sell the goods that were confiscated from the surrounding villages. It was a cheap tactic that was employed by the French and their collaborators more than once. Tebnine was the seat of the "Saghir" dynasty from which the Feudal "Asa'ad" family claims decent; If Tebnine was made to appear appeasing the occupiers, it will make the "Asa'ad" family appear in cahoots with French and reflect badly on their standing among the Shiites in south Lebanon. This is also why no taxes were levied on Tebnine after the sectarian incidences of 1920. In 1922, French colonials divided the province of Saida and created the Bint Jubeil province which included Tebnine.[29]

The Lebanese Civil War

Leading up to the civil war, like most of the surrounding area, the town was grounds to para-military actions carried out by the Palestine Liberation Organization: The Palestinian guerrilla fighters enjoyed wide spread support after 1967 war and for a short period past the 1968 Cairo accord which granted the PLO free range in Southern Lebanon to carry out missions aimed at liberating Palestine. Tebnine remained mostly unaffected by sectarianism despite the co-existence of Muslims and Christians, and despite some of the Christians being aligned with the cause of right wing militias, whilst the majority of the Shiite residents of the city sympathized with the PLO and the various Lebanese Leftist Groups aligned with the Palestinians.Support waned in the later years as the PLO proved to be a corrupt and abusive force to the villagers. In 1982 the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon wrecked the city as it did to most of the surrounding, and the PLO were rooted out and never really recovered the previous role. The Shiite residents of the town, were mostly aligned with the Amal Militia, whose leader Nabih Berri is a Tebnini. At the end of the civil war, Amal handed over its heavy weapons to the National Lebanese Army and largely discontinued its resistance work against the occupying Israelis. This in turn allowed Hezbollah to dominate residents' sympathies. The town as a whole however, was subjected to the taunting of the South Lebanese Army (Israelis backed Phalanges) who would every now and then fire on the outskirts of the town.

Israel-Lebanon conflict

In May 1978, the United Nations took over the security of South Lebanon by replacing the Lebanese Army. South Lebanon was in chaos in the wake of the first Israeli invasion aiming at pushing the PLO guerrillas behind the Litany river. The passing of UN security Council motion 425 established an interim UNIFIL force in the area. The Irish Battalion named the Tebnine army base Camp Shamrock, with a scorpion for its sigil as the land upon which the camp was constructed was rampant with the black scorpions of Tebnine with their venomous stings. For the most part, the UN were a welcome sight in Tebnine, and the Irish battalion in particular, spared no expense in the aid of the locals from social services to continuous blood donations to the Tebnine Red Cross unit, as well as sheltering the innocent civilians from the ravages of the Israeli occupying forces and their puppet guerrilla: the South Lebanon Army. The feeling of friendship grew between the locals and the Irish which translated into endless soccer tournaments as well as being invited to weddings, dabkahs, and other social events. Camp Shamrock was responsible for the building and partial maintenance of the Tebnine Orphanage.[30]

The home of the Tebnine mayor damaged during the war.
The old center (Zakouk)

During the war between Israel and Lebanon in July 2006, like other villages, Tebnine had many homes destroyed but not of the magnitude of villages like Bint Jbeil, Qana and Aita Shaab.

In the old center (Zakouk), located in the upper part of town near The Crusader Castle, most of the homes are completely destroyed or damaged.

Near the government hospital there is a central hub for transportation in and out of the village. The Israelis dropped several bombs near it forcing some 2000 civilians to take refuge inside of the hospital.[31]

It has been estimated that Israel dropped 100,000 cluster bombs in the area of Tebnine and the surrounding villages.[32] Two hundred cluster bombs were found by bomb defusing experts on the first day of the ceasefire near the government hospital, where the civilians were hiding. Experts say it will take months, if not years, to remove the unexploded bombs. A Chinese battalion attached to the U.N. forces in southern Lebanon was clearing 250 to 300 unexploded devices a day.

For the first time since the civil war in 1975, The Lebanese Army has returned to South Lebanon including Tebnine as one of the conditions of UN Resolution 1701.

Tebnine's Hall Town

Geography and Demographics

The town's population are mostly Shiite Muslims, with a small minority of Maronites. No exact population count has been taken since the census of 1932, however estimates show that the population could be around 5,000.

Tebnine has several provincial institutions such as a governmental hospital, a police station, post office as well as touristic sites such as cafes and commercial shops. It is known as one of the most diverse villages in south Lebanon.

Many of Tebnine's natives live abroad primarily in the United States and Canada although many are scattered throughout the entire world. Most Tebnine natives return during the summer where the village becomes a lively place as people come from both Beirut and foreign countries for their summer vacation.

The nightlife is marked with a family-like gathering of the townspeople who often dress fashionably and "hang out" at the various cafes.

Tebnine is also well known for the Kazdoura (promenade) a long stretch of road that extends from the beginning to the end of the village and where the townspeople often take their evening strolls. It also hosts a weekly flea market called the Souq al-jumaa (Friday's market).

Many of the townspeople speak some English due to the large number of immigrants as well as the presence of UNIFIL Peacekeepers.

The year before the Israelis aggression of 2006, Tebnine had a record number of foreigners and returning nationals visit the village. However, like most of the south, the town was devastated by Israeli shells but have since rebuilt.


Tebnine enjoys a temperate climate which is characteristic of south Lebanon: Mild rainy winters and arid summers with a few excessively warm days. In recent years, due to the warming of the planet and deforestation, the amount of precipitation is noticeably reduced.

Landmarks and events

Tebnine Heritage Festival

In 2012, funding from the E.U. allowed Tebnine to celebrate its Heritage Festival in the old Castle, where lighting had been refurbished by the French troops of UNIFIL.

Crusader Castle

The Crusader Castle in the village of Tebnine

Hugh of Saint Omer (also known as Hugh of Falkenberg), the second prince of Galilee and governor of Tiberias, organized many attacks against Tyre but his forces were always tired by the long distance between his base in Tiberias and his coastal target. He ordered the construction of the castle in 1105 to have a refuge against his pursuers.[33] It was named Toron, which in old French meant isolated or peaking hill. According to The Survey Of Western Palestine, Hugh was also responsible for the construction of the fortification found on a steep hill east of Tibnine, an area still called "Al Hosn" (Fortification) to this day. Shortly after the death of Hugh of Saint Omer, Tyre's garrison, under the command of its governor 'Izz al-Mulk', launched a sortie against the fortress and razed its surroundings. King Baldwin I of Jerusalem recaptured and rebuilt the castle and gave its rule to Gervaise of Bazoches of Tiberias, but he was shortly after captured by the forces of Damascus under the command of Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin, who made Gervaise choose between Islam or death.[34] The seigneurie of Toron passed to a knight called 'Onfroi' who took the title of 'de Toron', (Humphrey I of Toron) and so began the story of one of the most prestigious crusader families of the kingdom of Jerusalem.[34] Toron was then detached from the Principality Of Galilee and made into an independent lordship, though some historians argue a later date for that detachment.[35] The fortress was later conquered by Saladin in 1187 and then taken back by the Franks in 1229. Mamluke Sultan Al-Zahir Baibars of Egypt finally conquered it in 1266 after the fall of Safed and it remained in Arab hands until the Ottomans turned it into a jail.[36]

As late as 1921, two marble lions guarded the main entrance to the castle.[37] The chained beasts are a source of mystery for their presence can not be dated or traced back to any of the various factions that ruled the city. The lions are missing nowadays, most likely carried off and sold by the locals.

The castle has been confused with other castles in the country, e.g. Beaufort Castle. But it is originally the Toron des chevaliers. Today it is mostly referred to as "The Tebnine Castle".

The Crusader Castle has been used by many different factions and armies over the years because of its strategic position overlooking miles of terrain.

With its historic castle and South Lebanon's history of occupiers and conquerors that include Alexander the Great, Tebnine has the potential to be a monumental tourist attraction in more peaceful times.

Notable people

See also


  1. From a personal name, according to Palmer 1881, p. 34
  2. Jerusalem Talmud / Shevi'it / Daf 16A: "ובירייא רבתא תפנית" http://www.sefaria.org/Jerusalem_Talmud_Shevi'it.16a.1?lang=he&layout=block&sidebarLang=all
  3. Revue des études juives volume 46 / École des hautes études en sciences sociales (1903); page 126: "Tibnin peut plutôt être comparée avec Tafnis du talmud..."
  4. 1 2 Grousset, René (1934). Histoire Des Croisades Et Du Royaume Franc De Jérusalem Tome I. Paris: Librarie Plon. pp. 245–247. ISBN 2262015708.
  5. 1 2 Chauvet, Adolphe (March 1891). "La Palestine et La Syrie". La Société Normande de Géographie. XIII: 73–106.
  6. The legacy of foreign invasions cannot just be seen in the stones of Tibnin castle. The eyes and hair of some of today's inhabitants show the stamp of an alien presence in the hills. One of the most unusual sights for a first time visitor to the Iris battalion area is the number of local people with blue eyes and blonde or red hair.
  7. McDonald, Henry (1993). Irishbatt: the story of Ireland's Blue Berets in the Lebanon. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p. 37. ISBN 0717121348.
  8. Copeland, Lorraine; Wescombe, Peter J. (1965). Inventory of stone-age sites in Lebanon. Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique. pp. 86–87.
  9. 1 2 Pringle, 1998, p. 367
  11. Smail, 1995, p. 54
  12. le Strange, 1890, pp. 545-546
  13. Ibn Jubayr, 1884, p.448
  14. Riley - Smith, 1973, pp. 28, 65, 168, 171
  15. Prawer, Joshua (1972). The Latin Kingdom Of Jerusalem. London: Weidenfeld And Nicolson. p. 359. ISBN 0297993976.
  16. Regan, Geoffrey (1987). Saladin and the Fall of Jerusalem. Beckenham, Kent BR3 1AT: Croom Helm. p. 137. ISBN 0-7099-4208-7.
  17. الأصفهاني, عماد الدين (1888). كتاب الفتح القسي في الفتح القدسي. Leyde, E.J.Brill. pp. 25–27.
  18. Humphreys, 1977, p. 107
  19. Les Alemans se fient moult en lor force et en lor fausse vertu, ne n'orent pitié des esclas crestiens que l'on lor devoit rendre,ne ne conurent le bien el l'onor qui lor avenait
  20. Le chancelier et les autres princes, abandonnant le siêge, ont secrètement fait leurs bagages, constitué un convoi and sont partis pour Tyr. Aussitot l'armée en fait autant et qui å cheval, qui å pied, reprend dans le plus grand désordre et le plus grand abattement le chemin de Tyr.
  21. Dussaud, René (April 1941). "L'histoire du royaume de Jérusalem en fonction de ses fortresses d'apres un livre récent". Syria: Tome 22. 22: 271–283. doi:10.3406/syria.1941.4246. JSTOR 4196366.
  22. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 180
  23. Note that Rhode, 1979, p. 6 writes that the register that Hütteroth and Abdulfattah studied was not from 1595/6, but from 1548/9
  24. Winter, 2010, pp. 142–143
  25. Morris, 1876, p. 531
  26. Guérin, 1880, pp. 377-380
  27. Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, pp. 95-96
  28. خير الله, شوقي (1990). مذكرات شوقي خير الله. Beirut: دار الجديد. pp. 187–190.
  29. رضا, أحمد (2009). مذكرات للتاريخ. Beirut: دار النهار. pp. 138–179–180–183–227.
  30. http://www.peace.ie/lebanon/orphanage.html
  31. "Lebanon: Deliberate destruction or "collateral damage"? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure" Amnesty International
  32. Amnesty International
  33. Smail, 1995, pp. 210–211
  34. 1 2 Pirie-Gordon, H. (July 1912). "The Reigning Princes Of Galilee". The English Historical Review. 27 (107): 445–461. doi:10.1093/ehr/xxvii.cvii.445.
  35. Tibble, Steven (1989). Monarchy and Lordships in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099 - 1291. Walton St,Oxsford: Oxford University Press. pp. 13–23, 28, 52, 60–5, 70–2, 89–92, 95–8, 168. ISBN 0-19-822731-0.
  36. Toron Castle or Tebnine Lebanon
  37. Le Lasseur, Denyse (April–May 1921). "Mission Archéologique a tyr". Syria. 2. 3: 116–133. JSTOR 4389751. Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)


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