Balad al-Sheikh

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Balad al-Sheikh
House in Tel Hanan from Balad ash-Sheikh time 2.JPG
A house from Balad ash-Sheikh, now located in Tel Hanan, Nesher
Balad al-Sheikh is located in Mandatory Palestine
Balad al-Sheikh
Balad al-Sheikh
Arabic بلد الشيخ
Name meaning "The town of the sheikh"
Also spelled Balad ash-Shaykh
Subdistrict Haifa
Coordinates 32°46′17.78″N 35°02′31.45″E / 32.7716056°N 35.0420694°E / 32.7716056; 35.0420694Coordinates: 32°46′17.78″N 35°02′31.45″E / 32.7716056°N 35.0420694°E / 32.7716056; 35.0420694
Palestine grid 154/241
Population 4,120[1] (1945)
Area 9,849[1] dunams
9.8 km²
Date of depopulation April 25, 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Secondary cause Influence of nearby town's fall
Current localities Nesher

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.[3]


Sheikh Abdullah as-Sahli grave in Balad ash-Sheikh cemetery, 2010

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.[4] The village contains a maqam ("shrine") dedicated to him. His grave is located in the Balad al-Sheikh cemetery on Mount Carmel.

In 1816, British traveller James Silk Buckingham passed by "Belled-el-Sheikh".[5] In 1875, the village was estimated at having a population of 500, and with olive, palm trees and springs near it.[6]

At the time of the 1931 census, the town had 144 occupied houses and a population of 747 Muslims, including Bedouin tribes that lived nearby.[7]

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.[1]

The Jezreel Valley railway line passed about 0.5 kilometers (0.31 mi) east of the village.[4] 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, Hanan Zelinger of the Haganah was killed in the operation. A Jewish village, Tel Hanan (now part of the town of Nesher), was built there in his name.

Arab-Jewish confrontations[edit]

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.[8][9] In 1934, a new cemetery for Muslim residents of Haifa,[10][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.[11] The grave was vandalized in 1999.[citation needed]

Remains of a Jewish passenger bus attacked near Balad al-Sheikh in September 1938

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.[12][dead link] On May 21, 1936, a Jewish bus was shot at when it was passing the village[13][dead link] In October 1936, an engagement between Arab militants and the British military, supported by aircraft, took place near the village.[14] 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.[15][dead link]

Additional attacks on Jewish buses occurred from July to October 1938.[16][dead link] On July 13, 1938, two buses were shot; one of them was set on fire.[17][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.[18][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.[19][dead link] [20][dead link]

1948 Arab–Israeli War[edit]

Grave of Izz al-Din al-Qassam who was buried in Balad al-Sheikh in 1935

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.[21] On December 8, 1947, residents of Balad ash-Sheikh killed 2 Jews driving near the village.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31][32]

Most of the fleeing or exiled residents of Balad ash-Sheikh are internally displaced Palestinians and presently reside in various Arab neighborhoods in Haifa or Acre.

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.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hadawi, 1970, p.47
  2. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvii, village #144. Also gives causes of depopulation
  3. ^ Haifa District: Balad al-Shaykh Town Statistics and Facts
  4. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p. 152.
  5. ^ Buckingham, 1821, p.114. Ref. from Petersen, 2002, p. 109.
  6. ^ Conder and Kitchener: SWP I, 1881, p.281. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 152.
  7. ^ E. Mills, ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine. p. 88. 
  8. ^ Tzadok Eshel, The Cement and his Manufacturers, The Portland Cement Company "Nesher", 1976 p. 68
  9. ^ Aharon Kaminker, Neighborhood in the shadow of Chimney smoke, 1978, p 93-97
  10. ^ The Palestine Post, Location of Haifa cemetery, May, 22, 1936
  11. ^ Kahlidi, 1992, p. 152
  12. ^ The Palestine Post, Security in the North, May, 5, 1936
  13. ^ The Palestine Post, Crime, May, 22, 1936
  14. ^ The Palestine Post, Fighting on Carmel, October, 9, 1936
  15. ^ The Palestine Post, How constable Fares was killed, February, 26, 1937
  16. ^ The Palestine Post, Delegation sees Haifa district commissioner, August, 19, 1938
  17. ^ The Palestine Post, Fresh Outburst of Mob Violence n Haifa, July, 13, 1938
  18. ^ The Palestine Post, Extensive searches in Haifa and countryside, April, 19, 1939
  19. ^ The Palestine Post, Haifa, Sunday, May, 29, 1939
  20. ^ The Palestine Post, Mordechai Shechtman, May, 28, 1939
  21. ^ The Palestine Post, Riots mark start of strike, December, 3, 1947
  22. ^ The Palestine Post, 6 Arabes killed in Haifa, December, 12, 1947
  23. ^ The Palestine Post, Legionnaire shoots Jews, December, 10, 1947
  24. ^ Zev Vilnay, Ariel – Ariel – Entziklopediya Lidiyat HaAretz (10 volumes) (1976–82), p 927
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Yoav Gelber, Independence Versus Nakbah: The Arab–Israeli War of 1948, forthcoming, Zmora-Bitan, 2004, p. 139
  28. ^ The Palestine Post, Haifa traffic moving again, January, 18, 1948
  29. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p.207-208
  30. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p. 207
  31. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004) p. 208
  32. ^ Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, Yale University Press, 2008
  33. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.154


External links[edit]