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Kafr Bir'im

Kafr Bir'im
The church of Kafr Bir'im
Arabic كفر برعم
Also spelled Kefr Berem
Subdistrict Safad

33°02′36.53″N 35°24′50.56″E / 33.0434806°N 35.4140444°E / 33.0434806; 35.4140444Coordinates: 33°02′36.53″N 35°24′50.56″E / 33.0434806°N 35.4140444°E / 33.0434806; 35.4140444{{#coordinates:33|02|36.53|N|35|24|50.56|E|type:city_region:IL |primary |name=

Palestine grid 189/272
Population 710 (1945)
Area 12,250 dunams
12.3 km²
Date of depopulation early November 1948[1]
Cause(s) of depopulation Expulsion by Yishuv forces
Current localities Bar'am[2][3] Dovev[3]

Kafr Bir'im, also Kefr Berem (Arabic: كفر برعم‎, Hebrew: כְּפַר בִּרְעָם), was a Palestinian Arab village in Mandatory Palestine, on the site of the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Bar'am. It is located in modern-day northern Israel, Script error: No such module "convert". south of the Lebanese border and Script error: No such module "convert". northwest of Safed. The village was situated Script error: No such module "convert". above sea level, with a church overlooking it at an elevation of Script error: No such module "convert".. The church was built on the ruins of an older church destroyed in the earthquake of 1837. In 1945, 710 people lived in Kafr Bir'im, most of them Christians. By 1992, the only standing structure was the church and belltower.



See also: Kfar Bar'am

Kafr Bir'im is built on the site of the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Bar'am, from which the name is derived.[4] The remains of the a 3rd-century Synagogue of Kfar Bar'am are still visible.[5]

Middle Ages

A visitor in the thirteenth century described an Arab village containing the remains of two ancient synagogues.[6]

Ottoman period

In 1596, Kafr Bir'im appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Jira of the Liwa of Safad. It had a population of 114 Muslim households and 22 bachelors.[7]

Kafr Bir'im was badly damaged in the Galilee earthquake of 1837. The local church and a row of columns from the ancient synagogue collapsed.[8] In the 19th century the village had a population of 160 males, all Maronites and Melkites.[9] During the 1860 civil war in Lebanon, Muslims and Druzes attacked the Christian village.[10] In the late nineteenth century the village was described as being built of stone, surrounded by gardens, olive trees and vineyards, with a population of between 300 and 500.[11]

British rule

In 1945, Kafr Bir'im had a population of 710, consisting of 10 Muslims and 700 Christians, with 12,250 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey.[12] The village population in 1948 was estimated as 1,050 inhabitants.

Israeli rule

File:Maronite ruins.jpg
Ruins of the depopulated village

Kafr Bir'im was captured by the Haganah on October 31, 1948 during Operation Hiram. In November 1948 most of the inhabitants were expelled until the military operation was complete, and none were subsequently permitted to return.[13] Today the villagers and their descendants number about 2,000 people in Israel. In addition, there are villagers and descendants in Lebanon and in western countries.[14]

In 1949, with cross-border infiltration a frequent occurrence, Israel did not allow the villagers to return to Bir'im on the grounds that Jewish settlement at the place would deter infiltration.[15] Kibbutz Bar'am was established by demobilized soldiers on the lands of the village.

In 1953, the residents of former Kafr Bir'im appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel to return to their village. The court ruled that the authorities must answer to why they were not allowed to return. On September 16, 1953 the village was razed and 1,170 hectares of land were expropriated by the state.[16]

The leader of Melkite Greek Catholics in Israel, Archbishop Georgios Hakim, alerted the Vatican and other church authorities, and the Israeli government offered the villagers compensation. Archbishop Hakim accepted compensation for the land belonging to the village church.[17]

In the summer of 1972, the villagers of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit went back to repair their churches and refused to leave. Their action was supported by archbishop Hakim's successor, Archbishop Joseph Raya. The police removed them by force. The government barred the return of the villagers so as not to create a precedent.[18] In August 1972, a large group of Israeli Jews went to Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit to show solidarity with the villagers. Several thousand turned out for a demonstration in Jerusalem.[19][better source needed] The Israeli authorities said most of the inhabitants of the village had received compensation for their losses, but the villagers said they had only been compensated for small portions of their holdings.[20] In 1972, the government rescinded all "closed regions" laws in the country, but then reinstated these laws for the two villages Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit.

This was met with criticism by the opposition parties. In the 1977 election campaign Menachem Begin, then leader of the right-wing Likud party, promised the villagers that they could return home if he was elected. This promise became a great embarrassment to him after he had won, and a decision on the issue was postponed as long as possible. It was left to his agriculture minister to reveal to the public that a special cabinet committee had decided that the villagers of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit would not be allowed to return.[21]

The operational name of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972 was named after this village and Iqrit.[22]

On March 24, 2000, Pope John Paul II appealed to Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak to do justice for the uprooted of Kafr Bir'im.[23]

See also


  1. Morris, 2004, p. xvi, village #38. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  2. Morris, 2004, p. xxii, settlement #160
  3. 3.0 3.1 Khalidi, 1992, p. 461
  4. The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, By Ludwig Köhler, Walter Baumgartner, Johann Jakob Stamm, Mervyn Edwin John Richardson, Benedikt Hartmann, Brill, 1999, p. 1646
  5. Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman world: toward a new Jewish archaeology, Steven Fine, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 13-14
  6. Judaism in late antiquity, Jacob Neusner, Bertold Spuler, Hady R Idris, BRILL, 2001, p. 155
  7. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 175
  8. 1837 earthquake in southern Lebanon and northern Israel N. N. Ambraseys, in Annali di Geofisica, Aug. 1997, p. 933
  9. Robinson and Smith, 1856, pp. 68-71
  10. Maḥmūd Yazbak. Haifa in the late Ottoman period, 1864-1914, Brill, 1998. pg. 204. ISBN 90-04-11051-8.
  11. Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 198. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 460
  12. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 70
  13. Justice for Ikrit and Biram, Haaretz October 10, 2001
  15. Morris, 1997, p. 124
  16. Sabri Jiryis: "Kouetz 307 (27. Aug. 1953): 1419"
  17. Sabri Jiryis: Israel Government Yearbook 5725 (1964):32
  18. Sabri Jiryis: Haaretz 24 July 1972, Yedioth Aharonoth, 30 June 1972
  19. Sabri Jiryis and Chacours autobiography
  20. Sabri Jiryis: compensation for only 91.6 out of Script error: No such module "convert". had been given in Ikrit, in Kafr Bir'im only "negligible" amounts
  21. Jerusalem Post, 18 January 1979, ref. in Gilmour, p.103
  22. Morris & Black, 1991, p. 270
  23. [1][dead link]



External links