||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (September 2013)|
|Name meaning||"The town of the sheikh"|
|Also spelled||Balad ash-Shaykh|
|Date of depopulation||April 25, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Secondary cause||Influence of nearby town's fall|
Balad al-Sheikh (traditional transliteration) or Balad ash-Shaykh (most recent form of transliteration; Arabic: بلد الشيخ) was a Palestinian Arab village located just north of Mount Carmel, 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) southeast of Haifa. Currently the town's land is located within the jurisdiction of the Israeli city, Nesher.
The town is named after Sheikh Abdullah as-Sahli, a renowned Sufi, who was granted the taxes collected from the village by Sultan Salim II. The village contains a maqam ("shrine") dedicated to him. His grave is located in the Balad al-Sheikh cemetery on Mount Carmel.
According to the British Population Survey - Village Statistics, 1945, the town had a total land area of 9,849 Turkish dunams, although only 5,844 dunams were privately owned by Arabs; most of the remainder was public property. In 1945, the town had a population of 4,120 Arab inhabitants making it one of the larger localities in the area.
The Jezreel Valley railway line passed about 0.5 kilometers (0.31 mi) east of the village. The Balad al-Sheikh Railway Station, also known as Shumariyyah (Şumariye in Turkish) and after 1948 as Tel Hanan, was built in 1904 as the second station in the original line. In 1913, the Ottomans built an extension of the valley line to Acre, with this station serving as terminus. When the Haganah attacked Balad al-Sheikh on the night of December 31, 1947 – January 1, 1948, an attacker named Hanan Zelinger was killed in the operation. A Jewish village, Tel Hanan (now part of the town of Nesher), was built there in his name.
The village was the source of attacks on Jews as early as 1929 when its residents attacked the local cement factory and burned down a women's farm. In 1934, a new cemetery for Muslim residents of Haifa,[dead link] was established near the village and in 1935 Izz ad-Din al-Qassam was buried there, making the area a source of tension between Jews and Arabs. The grave was vandalized in 1999.
During the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, there were frequent attacks on Jewish passenger buses near Balad al-Sheikh. On May 1936, a police station was opened in Balad al-Sheikh in an attempt to crack down on the attacks on Jewish buses and property.[dead link] On May 21, 1936, a Jewish bus was shot at when it was passing the village[dead link] In October 1936, an engagement between Arab militants and the British military, supported by aircraft, took place near the village. On February 22, 1937, two British policemen were attacked in the village, one was killed. It was stated that he was killed because he took part in the investigations of the murder of three Jews at Yagur in 1931.[dead link]
Additional attacks on Jewish buses occurred from July to October 1938.[dead link] On July 13, 1938, two buses were shot; one of them was set on fire.[dead link] On April 18, 1939, a wide military and police search was conducted in Balad ash-Sheikh looking for the suspects of the killings in Haifa. A large number of Arabs were interrogated and ten were arrested.[dead link]
On May 26, 1939, Mordechai Shechtman, a train driver, was shot in the head by two Arabs who ambushed him at the railroad switch stop near Balad ash-Sheikh. He died soon thereafter.[dead link] [dead link]
1948 Arab–Israeli War
After the United Nations resolution for the Partition Plan for Palestine several attacks occurred in the village against Jews. On December 2, 1947, a bus which brought workers from the Nesher Cement Factory was shot at when it passed by the village. On December 8, 1947, residents of Balad ash-Sheikh killed 2 Jews driving near the village. On December 10, 1947 a patrol of Jewish Settlement Police that was escorting Jewish buses on the road, fired on a number of Arabs that blocked the road near the village. Several families left the village.
Following the attacks, the Jewish transportation stopped for a while to travel through the village. The transportation from Haifa to Nesher, Yagur and Jezreel Valley travelled through Check Post junction, Krayot, Kfar Hasidim and Yagur.
On December 30, 1947, a grenade attack by Irgun killed 6 Arab civilians in front of the Haifa Oil Refinery, after which the Arab crowd went in and killed 39 Jewish refinery workers. During the night of the following day, Haganah troops entered the town disguised as Arabs and killed 14 residents, 10 of whom were women and children. In an alternative description by controversial Israeli historian Aryeh Yitzhaki, the attack was carried out by a combination of Palmach and Haganah forces who entered the town and fought mostly inside the houses. Because of this, most of the sixty residents that were killed were non-combatants (note that Yitzhaki speaks of 60, while Miller mentions 14; altogether figures vary between 14 and 70 - see Balad al-Shaykh massacre). In this action, three members of the Haganah were also killed. Following the attack, on January 7, 1948, part of the residents of the village left and were replaced by Arab volunteers who came from Haifa to defend the village. On January 15, 1948, a young Jewish woman who was visiting Nesher went for a walk alone, and was found later stabbed to death near Balad al-Sheikh.
In early April 1948, a unit of the Arab Legion that had garrisoned the village left the area. This led the villagers to abandon the houses in the southeastern part of the village, near the Legion camp and move to the village center.
On April 22, after the Battle of Haifa, the vast majority of Haifa's non-Jewish citizens abandoned it. At the same time, many of Balad ash-Sheikh's residents left the village, including women and children.
On April 24, 1948, the Carmeli Brigade a unit of the Haganah surrounded the village, asking the residents to hand over all their weapons. They handed them 22 old and useless rifles and asked for ceasefire. The Haganah replied that they should hand over all their weapons. The residents did not reply, instead they asked the British Army for help. On April 25, at 05:00 AM, the Haganah fired several shells from three-inch mortars. Many adults male fled and left the women and children behind. A British army unit that came at 06:00 reported that there was almost no return fire from the village. The British advised the villagers to leave the village and they did it with British escort.
Walid Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian historian, described the town in 1992:
Many of the Arab houses and shops are still standing and are occupied by the settlement's inhabitants. The cemetery is visible and is in a state of neglect.
- Hadawi, 1970, p.47
- Morris, 2004, p. xvii, village #144. Also gives causes of depopulation
- Haifa District: Balad al-Shaykh Town Statistics and Facts
- Khalidi, 1992, p. 152.
- Buckingham, 1821, p.114. Ref. from Petersen, 2002, p. 109.
- Conder and Kitchener: SWP I, 1881, p.281. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 152.
- E. Mills, ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine. p. 88.
- Tzadok Eshel, The Cement and his Manufacturers, The Portland Cement Company "Nesher", 1976 p. 68
- Aharon Kaminker, Neighborhood in the shadow of Chimney smoke, 1978, p 93-97
- The Palestine Post, Location of Haifa cemetery, May, 22, 1936
- Kahlidi, 1992, p. 152
- The Palestine Post, Security in the North, May, 5, 1936
- The Palestine Post, Crime, May, 22, 1936
- The Palestine Post, Fighting on Carmel, October, 9, 1936
- The Palestine Post, How constable Fares was killed, February, 26, 1937
- The Palestine Post, Delegation sees Haifa district commissioner, August, 19, 1938
- The Palestine Post, Fresh Outburst of Mob Violence n Haifa, July, 13, 1938
- The Palestine Post, Extensive searches in Haifa and countryside, April, 19, 1939
- The Palestine Post, Haifa, Sunday, May, 29, 1939
- The Palestine Post, Mordechai Shechtman, May, 28, 1939
- The Palestine Post, Riots mark start of strike, December, 3, 1947
- The Palestine Post, 6 Arabes killed in Haifa, December, 12, 1947
- The Palestine Post, Legionnaire shoots Jews, December, 10, 1947
- Zev Vilnay, Ariel – Ariel – Entziklopediya Lidiyat HaAretz (10 volumes) (1976–82), p 927
- Research Guide to the Israel-Palestinian conflict: Balad esh-Sheikh Robin C. Miller cites Wilson, Cordon and Search, pp. 158 and Walid Khalidi in his book All That Remains, pp.151-154.
- Research Guide to the Israel-Palestinian conflict: Balad esh-Sheikh Robin C. Miller cites Arieh Yitzhaqi in the April 14, 1972, issue of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, translated in "From the Hebrew Press," Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 1, no. 4 (summer 1972), p. 144. Also quoted by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, pp. 88.
- Yoav Gelber, Independence Versus Nakbah: The Arab–Israeli War of 1948, forthcoming, Zmora-Bitan, 2004, p. 139
- The Palestine Post, Haifa traffic moving again, January, 18, 1948
- Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p.207-208
- Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p. 207
- Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p. 208
- Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, Yale University Press, 2008
- Khalidi, 1992, p.154
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Balad ash-Sheikh.|
- Conder, Claude Reignier and H.H. Kitchener (1881): The Survey of Western Palestine: memoirs of the topography, orography, hydrography, and archaeology. London:Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. vol 1
- Buckingham, James Silk (1821), Travels in Palestine Through the Countries of Bashan and Gilead, East of the River Jordan, Including a Visit to the Cities of Geraza and Gamala in the Decapolis
- Hadawi, Sami (1970), Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine, Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center
- Khalidi, Walid (1992), All That Remains, Washington D.C., Institute for Palestine Studies, ISBN 0-88728-224-5
- Morris, Benny (2004), The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00967-6
- Mülinen, Egbert Friedrich von 1908, Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Karmels "Separateabdruck aus der Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palëstina-Vereins Band XXX (1907) Seite 117-207 und Band XXXI (1908) Seite 1-258." Beled esch-schech: p.175 ff.
- Petersen, Andrew (2002), A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine: Volume I (British Academy Monographs in Archaeology) p. 108-109