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Ein al-Zeitun

Ein al-Zeitun
Old mosque of Ein al-Zeitun, 2007[1]
Arabic عين الزيتون
Name meaning "spring of olives"[2]
Also spelled Ayn az-Zaytun
Subdistrict Safad

32°59′14.02″N 35°29′29.58″E / 32.9872278°N 35.4915500°E / 32.9872278; 35.4915500Coordinates: 32°59′14.02″N 35°29′29.58″E / 32.9872278°N 35.4915500°E / 32.9872278; 35.4915500{{#coordinates:32|59|14.02|N|35|29|29.58|E|type:city_region:IL |primary |name=

Palestine grid 196/265
Population 820[3] (1945)
Area 1,100[3] dunams
1.1 km²
Date of depopulation May 2, 1948[4]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities None

Ein al-Zeitun, also spelled Ein Zaytun, Ein ez-Zeitun, Ain al-Zaytun or Ain el-Zeitun, was a Palestinian Arab village, located Script error: No such module "convert". north of Safad in the Upper Galilee. In 1945, the village had a population of 820 inhabitants and a total land area of 1,100 dunams.[3] Ein al-Zeitun was entirely Muslim. The village's small population and land area as well as its proximity to Safad made it a suburb of the city. The village was depopulated in 1948, after the Ein al-Zeitun massacre.


Ein al-Zeitun was located on the western slope of Wadi al-Dilb, next to the highway leading to Safad, Script error: No such module "convert". north of the city.


Wadi al-Dilb may have been the wadi that Al-Dimashqi (d. 1327) called Wadi Dulayba, which he described as lying between Mirun and Safad. Al-Dimashqi described a spring where water gushed forward for one or two hours, allowing people to collect drinking water and wash, before it abruptly retreated.[5] The village name, which was Arabic for "spring of olives", did indicate that there was a spring in the vicinity.[6]

Under the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Ein al-Zeitun was a town in the nahiya ("subdistrict") of Jira, part of Sanjak Safad, with a mixed population of Muslims and Jews. Tax registers in 1596 recorded 59 Muslim households and 6 bachelors, plus 45 Jewish households and 3 bachelors. It paid taxes on olives, grapes, wheat and barley, as well as on vineyards and orchards.[7][8]

The village was destroyed, along with Safed and other nearby villages, in an earthquake in 1837.[9]

Victor Guérin, who visited in the 1870s, found a village with two springs, surrounded by slopes covered in olives, figs, walnuts and vegetables. The population consisted of 350 Muslims.[10]

In the late nineteenth century, Ain al Zeitun was described as a stone-built village on top of a hill north of Safad. The village had then a population of 200-350, and it was surrounded by arable land.[11]

In the British Mandate period, the town contained a mosque and a boys' elementary school. The villagers, who were all Muslim, cultivated olives, grain and fruit, especially grapes. In 1944/45, with a population of 820, a total of 280 dunums of village land was used for cereals, while 477 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.[12][13]

1948 War and aftermath

File:Safad 1946.jpg
Ein al-Zeitun 1946

According to Ilan Pappé, the Jewish troops followed a policy of massacres in villages close to Arab urban centres, in order to precipitate the flight of the people in the cities and towns nearby. This was the case of Nasir al-Din near Tiberias, Ein al-Zeitun near Safad, and Tirat Haifa near Haifa. In all villages groups of "males between the age of 10 and 50", were executed in order to intimidate and terrorise the village population and those living in nearby towns.[14]

Ein al-Zeitun was captured by Palmach troops on May 2, 1948. Immediately prior to the capture, most of the young and middle-aged males fled the town. The remaining population was expelled by Israeli forces in the following days. Between 30 and 70 unarmed Arab prisoners were killed afterwards. One man, Rashid Khalil, was killed after a group of the village's inhabitants attempted to return to Ein al-Zeitun.[12][15][16]

Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, describing the place in 1992, found that:
The rubble of destroyed stone houses is scattered throughout the site, which is otherwise overgrown with olive trees and cactuses [cacti]. A few deserted houses remain, some with round arched entrances and tall windows with various arched designs. In one of the remaining houses, the smooth stone above the entrance arch is inscribed with Arabic calligraphy, a fixture of Palestinian architecture. The well and the village spring also remain.[12]

In 2004 the remains of the Ein al-Zeitun mosque was turned into a milk farm. The Jewish owner removed the stone that indicated the founding date of the mosque and covered the walls with Hebrew graffiti.[1]

Portrayals in art

Oral histories from Ein al-Zeitun provided Elias Khoury with material for his 1998 book Bab al Shams (Gate of the Sun), which was filmed in 2004.[17][18]

Israeli author Netiva Ben-Yehuda was in the village when the massacre happened, and wrote the following about it:

But Yehonathan continued to yell, and suddenly he turned with his back to Mairke, and walked away furiously, all the time continuing to complain: "He is out of his mind! Hundreds of people are lying there tied! Go and kill them! Go and waste hundreds of people! A madman kills people bound like this and only a madman wastes all the ammunition on them!...I don´t know who they had in mind, who is coming to inspect them, but I understand it´s become urgent, suddenly we have to untie the knots around these POW´ s hands and legs, and then I realized they are all dead, "problem solved".[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b Pappé, 2006, p. 217
  2. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 65
  3. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 69
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvi, village #53. Also provides cause of depopulation.
  5. ^ Nukhbat, cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 436.
  6. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 436
  7. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 175.
  8. ^ Note that Rhode, 1979, p. 6 writes that the register that Hütteroth and Abdulfattah studied was not from 1595/6, but from 1548/9
  9. ^ Nicholas N. Ambraseys (4 August 1997). "The earthquake of 1 January 1837 in Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel". Annali Di Geofisica XL (N): 923–935. 
  10. ^ Guérin, 1880, p. 427 ff
  11. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p.196. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.437
  12. ^ a b c Khalidi, 1992, p. 437
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 118
  14. ^ Pappé, 2006, p.110
  15. ^ Nazzal, 1978, p.37
  16. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 202
  17. ^ Pappé, 2006, pp.111, 113
  18. ^ Bab el Shams
  19. ^ Ben Yehuda: Between the Knots, pp. 245-6. Cited in Pappé, 2006, p. 112



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