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Kafr Saba

This article is about the depopulated Palestinian Arab village called Kafr Saba. For the Israeli suburban town of a similar name and in the nearby vicinity, see Kfar Saba.
Kafr Saba
Mausoleum of Nabi Yamin, with riwaq (prayer hall) to the left.
Arabic كفر سابا
Name meaning the village of Sâba[1]
Subdistrict Tulkarm

32°10′51.52″N 34°56′14.27″E / 32.1809778°N 34.9372972°E / 32.1809778; 34.9372972Coordinates: 32°10′51.52″N 34°56′14.27″E / 32.1809778°N 34.9372972°E / 32.1809778; 34.9372972{{#coordinates:32|10|51.52|N|34|56|14.27|E|type:city_region:IL |primary |name=

Palestine grid 144/176
Population 1,270 (1945)
Area 9,688[2] dunams
9.6 km²
Date of depopulation 15 May 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Hak'ramim,[4] Beit Berl, Kfar Saba, Neve Yamin

Kafr Saba (Arabic: كفر سابا‎) was a Palestinian Arab village famous for its shrine dating to the Mamluk period and for a history stretching back for more than a millennium.[5][6] The village was depopulated of its Arab residents by Jewish forces on May 13, 1948, one day before the new State of Israel was declared.[7][8]

Presently the remains of the villages consists of two domed shrines located on either side of Route 55 between Kfar Saba and Qalqiliyya. The larger of the two is called Nabi Yamin, situated on the east side. About 40 meters away, on the west side of the road, is a much smaller shrine named Nabi Serakha.[9] The Nabi Yamin shrine was later taken over by a Haredi Jewish sect.


Around year 985 C.E. Al-Muqaddasi described the place as a large village with a mosque that was situated on the road to Damascus. In 1047 Nasir-i-Khusraw described it as a town on the road to al-Ramla, rich in fig and olive trees.[10]

A five-line inscription recording the grave of Sayf al-Din Bari, dated 1299-1300 CE was recorded within the shrine enclosure in 1922. The present location of this inscription is unknown.[11] A sabil ("water fountain") is situated on the east side of the main enclosure. An inscription embedded on the right side of this sabil referred to the foundation of a fountain for the public by Emir Tankiz, governor of Damascus in 1311-1312 CE.[12]

In 1596, Kafr Saba was part of the Ottoman Empire, nahiya (subdistrict) of Bani Sa'b under the liwa' ("district") of Nablus with a population of 231. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, goats and beehives.[13]

In 1730, the Egyptian Sufi traveller al-Luqaymi visited Kafr Saba and saw the shrine for a local religious figure, Binyamin (also called al-Nabi Yamin).[10] In 1808 CE, the riwaq (prayer hall) was constructed, according to a now vanished inscription. This riwaq occupies the south side of the main enclosure of the shrine.[14] In the late nineteenth century, the village of Kafr Saba was described as a village built of stone and adobe brick and was situated on a low hill. It contained a mosque and was surrounded by sandy ground, with olive groves to the north. Its population was estimated to be 800.[15]

Part of the village was sold to the ICA during the Ottoman period. Jewish immigrants to Palestine established a moshava on the land and called it Kfar Saba.[16] The village expanded in the British Mandate period; new houses were built along the highway, and new agricultural land were cultivated to the west of the village.[10] By 1944/45 the village used 1,026 dunums for citrus and bananas, 4,600 dunums for cereals, while 355 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, of which 30 dunums were planted with olive trees.[17]

1948 War and aftermath

In the months leading up to the 1948 war, the local militia from Kafr Saba had attacked the neighboring Jewish village of Kfar Saba several times. The Arab Liberation Army (ALA), an army consisting of volunteers from several neighboring Arab countries, supported the Kafr Saba militia with troops during these intermittent attacks.[18] According to historian Benny Morris:
"By the beginning of May 1948, few Arabs were left in the Coastal Plain. On May 9, 1948 the Alexandroni Arab affairs expert, in preparation for the declaration of Israeli statehood and the expected pan-Arab invasion, ... decided to immediately 'expel or subdue' the inhabitants of the villages of Kafr Saba, al Tira, Qaqun, Qalansuwa, and Tantura. ... [O]n 13 May Alexandroni units took Kafr Saba, prompting a mass evacuation. ... The local Syrian ALA commander stood at the exit and to the village and extorted P£5 from each evacuee. Nine old men and women ... were left in the village and were later expelled.[8]
The Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, described the remaining structures on the village land in 1992:
"The village site has been used for the construction of new residential quarters within an industrial area that is part of the settlement of Kefar Sava. Some of the old village houses have survived destruction and are located today within the settlement; a number of them are used as commercial buildings. The two shrines, the school, and the ruins of the village cemetery remain. The shrines have arched entrances and are surmounted with domes. The land around the site is cultivated by Israelis."[19]

After the war, the Nabi Yamin shrine near the town was abandoned. After 1967, the ruin was taken over by an ultraorthodox Jewish sect, that claimed it was the tomb of Benjamin, father of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.[20] Meron Benvenisti writes in 2002 that, "the dedicated inscriptions from the Mamluk period remain engraved on the stone walls of the tomb, but the cloths embroidered with verses from the Qur'an, with which the gravestones were draped, have been replaced by draperies bearing verses from the Hebrew Bible."[21] Benvenisti frames this transformation, and others similar to it, in the context of, "a wholesale appropriation of the sacred sites of a defeated religious community by members of the victorious one."[22]

The town of Kfar Saba, founded in 1903, was situated southwest of the village on the eve of the war. Currently, it has expanded to cover much of the village land. Beit Berl, established in 1947 northwest of the village site, is on village land. The settlement of Neve Yamin was established in 1949 to the east of the village site on land around the shrine for al-Nabi Yamin. The settlement of Nir Eliyahu was established in 1950 about Script error: No such module "convert". northeast of the village site, on lands of nearby Qalqilyah.[19]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 174
  2. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 75
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, village #193 p xviii, Also gives the cause for depopulation
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxii: settlement #106, 1949.
  5. ^ Masalha 2007, p. 69
  6. ^ Waked, Ali (2005-05-15), Palestinians mark ‘catastrophe’, ynet, retrieved 2009-08-13 
  7. ^ Benvenisti, 2002, p. 273.
  8. ^ a b Morris, 2004, pp.246-247
  9. ^ Petersen, 2001, pp. 233, 235
  10. ^ a b c Khalidi, 1992, p. 555.
  11. ^ Petersen, 2001, p.235
  12. ^ Mayer, L. A. (1933a), p.219. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p.235.
  13. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 140. Quoted in Khalidi, p. 555
  14. ^ Petersen, 2001, p. 234.
  15. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 134. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 555
  16. ^ Karlinsky and Greenwood, 2009, pp. 158-159
  17. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 126. Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p.555
  18. ^ Morris, 2008, p.164
  19. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p.556.
  20. ^ "Nabi Yamin" at The Seven Wonders of Israel. Also Zeev Vilnay, Saintly Tombs of the Land of Israel (1985, Achi-ever Press, Israel), V.I, p. 182. Also Gideon Bar (2008), "Reconstructing the Past: The Creation of Jewish Sacred Space in the State of Israel, 1948–1967", Israel Studies 13 (3): 1–21, doi:10.2979/ISR.2008.13.3.1. 
  21. ^ Benvenisti, 2002, p.277
  22. ^ Benvenisti, 2002, p.276



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