|Also spelled||Beit Jibrin|
|Date of depopulation||October 29, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Current localities||Beit Guvrin (kibbutz)|
Bayt Jibrin (Arabic: بيت جبرين, also Beit Jibrin) was a Palestinian Arab village located 21 kilometers (13 mi) northwest of the city of Hebron. The village had a total land area of 56,185 dunams or 56.1 km2 (13,900 acres), of which 0.28 km2 (69 acres) were built-up while the rest remained farmland.
During the 8th century BCE, the village was part of the Kingdom of Israel. During the days of Jewish king Herod the town was the administrative center for the District of Edomea. After the First Jewish-Roman War the Romans conquered the town and it became a Roman colony and a major administrative center under the name of Eleutheropolis. In the early 7th century, Bayt Jibrin was conquered by Muslim forces led by 'Amr ibn al-'As. Under the Crusaders in the 11th century, it had a population of 1,500, compared to 100-150 in the average village of the time. It fell to the Mamluks and then the Ottoman Turks. In the 19th century, the al-'Azza family took control of Bayt Jibrin and unsuccessfully attempted to rebel against the Ottomans, ending in the exile and execution of local leaders.
Under the British Mandate of Palestine, Bayt Jibrin again served as a district center for surrounding villages. In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, it was designated as part of the Arab state, but was captured by Israeli forces during the 1948 War, causing its inhabitants to flee east. Today, many of these refugees and their descendants live in the 'Azza and Fawwar camps in the southern West Bank. The kibbutz of Beit Guvrin was established on Bayt Jibrin's lands in 1949.
- 1 Name
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Archaeology
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The town was renamed over the centuries. Its original Aramaic name Beth Gabra is preserved by the geographer Ptolemy: Βαιτογάβρα; this translates as the "house of [strong] men" or "house of the mighty one". The antecedent might be seen in the name of an Edomite king: Ḳaus-gabri or Kauš-Gabr, found on an inscription of Tiglathpileser III. In his account of the Jewish revolt in 68 CE, the Roman Jewish historian Josephus called it Betaris, describing it as one of two villages taken by the Romans "right in the heart of Idumea." The Romans gave it a Greek name, Eleutheropolis (Ἐλευθερόπολις), meaning "City of the Free". In the Peutinger Tables in 393 CE, Bayt Jibrin was called Beitogabri. In the 3rd-4th century Talmud, it was known as Beit Gubrin (or Guvrin). To the Crusaders, it was known as Bethgibelin or Gibelin. Another name in medieval times may have been Beit Jibril, meaning "house of Gabriel". In Arabic, Bayt Jibrin or Jubrin (بيت جبرين) means "house of the powerful", reflecting its original Aramaic name. and the town was probably called Bayt Jibrin or Beit Jibril throughout its rule by various Islamic dynasties.
Local folklore tells that the city now known as Bayt Jibrin was first inhabited by Canaanites. Following the destruction of Maresha—a city sparsely populated by Jews that previously served as the main settlement of Idumea—by the Parthians in 40 BCE, Bayt Jibrin succeeded it as the chief center of the area.
In the Jewish War (68 CE), Vespasian slaughtered or enslaved the inhabitants of Betaris. According to Josephus: "When he had seized upon two villages, which were in the very midst of Idumea, Betaris, and Caphartobas, he slew above ten thousand of the people, and carried into captivity above a thousand, and drove away the rest of the multitude, and placed no small part of his own forces in them, who overran and laid waste the whole mountainous country." However, it continued to be a Jewish-inhabited city until the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE).
Septimius Severus, Roman Emperor from 193 to 211, granted the city municipal status, renaming it Eleutheropolis meaning "City of the Free" and exempting its citizens from taxes. Coins minted by him, bearing the date 1 January 200, commemorate its founding. Eleutheropolis, which covered an area of 65 hectares (160 acres) (larger than Jerusalem at the time), flourished under the Romans, who built public buildings, military installations, aqueducts and a large amphitheater. The vita of Epiphanius of Salamis, born into a Christian family near Eleutheropolis, describes the general surroundings in Late Antique Judaea. The second chapter of the vita describes the details of the important market of Eleutheropolis. Seven routes met at Eleutheropolis, and Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, uses the Roman milestones indicating the city as a central point from which the distances of other towns were measured. The Madaba Map (dated 542-570 CE) shows Eleutheropolis as a walled city with three towers, a curving street with a colonnade in the central part and an important basilica. In the centre is a building with a yellowish-white dome on four columns. Eleutheropolis was last mentioned in the ancient sources by the near contemporary itinerarium of the Piacenza Pilgrim, about 570.
In the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, Christianity penetrated the city due to its location on the route between Jerusalem and Gaza. The city's first bishop, Justus, was one of the 70 Disciples. In 325, Eleutheropolis was the seat of Bishop Macrinus, who in that year attended the First Council of Nicaea. Epiphanius of Salamis, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, was born at Eleutheropolis; at Ad nearby he established a monastery which is often mentioned in the polemics of Jerome with Rufinus and John, Bishop of Jerusalem. Beit Guvrin is mentioned in the Talmud in the 3rd and 4th centuries, indicating a revival of the Jewish community around that time. The tanna Judah b. Jacob and the amora Jonathan (referred to in the Talmud as "Yonatan me-Bet Guvrin" or Jonathan of Bet Guvrin) were residents of the city. The Talmudic region known as Darom was within the area of Eleutheropolis ("Beit Guvrin"). Excavations at Eleutheropolis show a prosperous city, and confirm the presence of Jews and Christians in the area. It was described as one of Palestine's five "Cities of Excellence" by 4th-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus. Eleutheropolis encompassed the districts of Bethletepha, western Edom and Hebron up to Ein Gedi, and included over 100 villages.
Early Islamic period
The Muslim historian al-Biladhuri mentions Bayt Jibrin (the name given to it by the Arabs following the Muslim conquest) as one of ten towns in Jund Filastin (District of Palestine) conquered by the Muslim Rashidun army under 'Amr ibn al-'As's leadership in in the 630s. Al-Biladhuri furthermore writes that al-'As enclosed a domain to Bayt Jibrin, to which he gave the name ´Ajlun, after one of his freemen. The 1904 Analecta Bollandiana recounts that in 638 the Arabs beheaded in Bayt Jibrin fifty soldiers of the garrison of Gaza who refused to abandon the Christian religion and who were then buried in a church built in their honor. In the beginning of the power struggle between Ali and Mu'awiya for the position of caliph, al-'As left Medina in the Hejaz and resided in Bayt Jibrin with his two sons Muhammad and Abdullah—the latter died there.
Although the city may have been devastated in 788, in 796, Bayt Jibrin was reportedly destroyed by Bedouin tribesmen in an effort to combat Christian influence in the region during a civil war between the Arab tribal federations of the area. According to a monk named Stephen, "it was laid waste, and its inhabitants carried off into captivity". However, by 985, the city, by then under Abbasid rule, seemed to have recovered, judging by the writings of the Muslim geographer al-Muqaddasi:
"[Bayt Jibrin] is a city partly in the hill country, partly in the plain. Its territory has the name of Ad Darum (the ancient Daroma and the modern Dairan), and there are here marble quarries. The district sends its produce to the capital (Ar Ramlah). It is an emporium for the neighbouring country, and a land of riches and plenty, possessing fine domains. The population, however, is now on the decrease...."
Crusader and Mamluk eras
In 1099, Crusaders invaded Palestine and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1135, King Fulk of Jerusalem erected a castle on the lands of Bayt Jibrin, the first of a series of Crusader fortifications built at this time to ensure control over the ports of Caesarea and Jaffa. In 1136, King Fulk donated the castle to the Knights Hospitallers. In 1168, the Hospitallers were granted a charter to establish a Frankish colony, which they named "Bethgibelin". Christian settlers in Beit Jibrin were promised a share of property looted from the Muslims. It was on the itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, who found three Jews living there when he visited the country. The Ayyubid army under Saladin sacked Bethgibelin in 1187, after most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem came under Muslim control after his victory at the Battle of Hittin. Soon after its capture Saladin ordered the demolition of the Crusader castle. From 1191-1192, the town was held in probate by Henry of Champagne, as lord of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, while Saladin and Richard the Lionheart negotiated a ceasefire.
However, the Crusaders remained in control of Bethgibelin until 1244, when the Ayyubids reconquered it under Sultan as-Salih Ayyub. By 1283, the Mamluks had taken control and it was listed as a domain of Sultan Qalawun. The city prospered under the Egypt-based Mamluk Sultanate and served as a postal station. During Mamluk rule, Bayt Jibrin administratively belonged to Hebron and was under the jurisdiction of the Shafi'i (a school of law in Sunni Islam) qadi (head judge) of that city.
Ottoman rule and the 'Azza family
Bayt Jibrin, along with the whole of Palestine, came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire after it defeated the Mamluks at the Battle of Marj Dabiq in 1516. Bayt Jibrin was incorporated into the Ottoman nahiya (subdistrict) of Hebron (al-Khalīl) under the Liwa of Gaza ("District of Gaza"). The Ottomans did not exercise strict control over their territories and tended to keep local leaders in their traditional positions as long as they complied with the higher authorities and paid imperial taxes. Under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, in 1552, the destroyed Crusader castle was partially rebuilt in order to protect the main road between Gaza and Jerusalem. In 1596, the inhabitants of Bayt Jibrin, consisting of 50 Muslim families, paid taxes on wheat, barley and sesame seeds, as well as goats and beehives.
In the 19th century, Bayt Jibrin was headed by members of the 'Azza family, who had ruled the area since migrating to Palestine from Egypt. In the 1840s, after the Ottomans attempted to crush local leaders in the Hebron region for their refusal to pay taxes, the 'Azza family joined a revolt against Ottoman rule. They had aligned themselves to the 'Amr clan of Hebron. Between 1840-46, hostilities were raging between the Qays and Yaman tribo-political factions in southern Palestine. The 'Azza and Amr families, loyal to the Qays, were constantly clashing with the Yaman-aligned Abu Ghosh. In 1846, the shaykh of Bayt Jibrin, Muslih al-'Azza, (known as the "giant of Bayt Jibrin"), the leader of the 'Amr clan and other local leaders were exiled, but were allowed to return in the early 1850s.
In 1855, the newly appointed Ottoman pasha ("governor") of the sanjak ("district") of Jerusalem, Kamil Pasha, attempted to subdue the rebellion in the Hebron region. Pasha and his army marched towards Hebron in July 1855, and after crushing the opposition, he ordered the local shaykhs to summon to his camp. Several of the shaykhs, including the leader of the 'Amr clan and Muslih al-'Azza, did not obey the summons. Kamil Pasha then requested that the British consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, serve as an envoy and arrange a meeting with Muslih. Finn sent his vice-consul to assure Muslih of his safety in Hebron and convinced him to meet with Pasha. Muslih was well received in Hebron and returned to Bayt Jibrin escorted by twenty of the Pasha's men. Soon after, the Pasha paid a visit to Bayt Jibrin to settle their affairs and collect the town's late taxes. The Pasha took an oath of loyalty from all the local shaykhs in the Hebron region, including those under the rule of Muslih al-'Azza.
In 1838, American archeologist Edward Robinson was able to locate the site of Bethgebrim. He cited William of Tyre's reference to the Arabic name. Later travelers who visited Bayt Jibrin during that time were very impressed both by the shaykh of Bayt Jibrin, as well as by his "castle" or "manor". At the time, the remains of the Crusader fortress still served for defensive purposes in the village. According to Bayt Jibrin's shaykh, in 1863, he was in command of 16 villages in the area and was pledged "to provide as many as 2,000 men to the government if necessary." In 1864, however, Muslih's brother told a traveler that Muslih and his property had been seized on "false charges of treason," and that he had been banished to Cyprus and then beheaded.
Bayt Jibrin's status began to decline throughout the 1800s. According to Western travelers it was "a small and insignificant village". The primary reasons for the decline was the Bedouin raids on Bayt Jibrin's countryside villages, the 'Azza revolt, tribal warfare among the inhabitants of the towns and villages throughout Palestine and epidemics which struck the town and the nearby area.
British Mandate era
After the British army captured Palestine from the Ottomans in 1917-1918, Bayt Jibrin resumed its role as an important town in the District of Hebron. The population was entirely Muslim, and had two schools, a medical clinic, a bus and a police station. The town's inhabitants cultivated grain and fruit, and residents from nearby towns flocked to its weekly market or souk. During the winter of 1920-1921 there was a severe outbreak of malaria. 157 villagers (one-sixth of the population) died with the mortality rate in the district reaching 68 per 1,000. Crops remained unharvested due to lack of people strong enough to work in the fields. The new British regime began a program of sealing open wells, improving drainage and distributing quinine across Palestine.
On January 10, 1938, during the Arab National revolt of 1936-1939 J. L. Starkey, a well-known archaeologist, was killed by a group of armed Arabs on the track leading from Bayt Jibrin to Hebron. Bayt Jibrin was in the territory allotted to the Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The first Battalion of the Egyptian Army were ordered to take up position in Bayt Jibrin during the second half of May during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. At the same time, the New York Times correspondent reported that thousands of Jaffa's inhabitants had fled inland, including "large numbers" to the Bayt Jibrin area.
In October 1948, the Israeli Army (IDF) launched Operation Yoav, which differed from operations three months earlier, as the IDF was now equipped with aircraft, artillery, and tanks. On October 15–16, the IDF launched bombing and strafing attacks on a number of towns and villages, including Bayt Jibrin. According to Morris, the towns caught in the fighting were neither psychologically nor defensively prepared for aerial strikes, and Israeli Air Force bombing of Bayt Jibrin on October 19 set off a "panic flight" of residents from the town.
On October 23, a United Nations-imposed ceasefire went into effect, however, there was an IDF raid on the neighboring police fort on the night of October 24, which resulted in more villagers fleeing Bayt Jibrin. Israeli troops from the Giv'ati Brigade then occupied Bayt Jibrin and its police fort on October 27.
In 2008, a former resident of the town who was eight months old at the time of the raid, described his family's ordeal as follows:
In the 1948 war, the village was attacked by Israeli military units and bombed by Israeli aircraft. By that time, Beit Jibreen already hosted many refugees from neighboring villages. The fighting and bombing frightened the people. They escaped the fighting and sought shelter in the surrounding hills. [My] family found protection in a cave 5 km east of the village. They had left everything in their home, hoping to return after a few days when the attack would be over. The Israelis, however, did not allow them to return. Several men of Beit Jibreen were killed when they tried to go back.
Bayt Jibrin was situated on a plain 275 meters (902 ft) above sea level west of the Hebron Hills, 21 kilometers (13 mi) northwest of Hebron. Nearby localities included the depopulated villages of Kudna to the north, al-Qubayba to the southwest, al-Dawayima to the south and the existing Palestinian towns of Beit Ula to the east and Idhna to the southeast. Historically, it was located on the main road between Cairo to Hebron, via Gaza.
In 1945, Bayt Jibrin's total land area was 56.1 km2 (21.7 sq mi), 98% of which was Arab-owned. The town's urban area consisted of 287 m2 (0.071 acre), with 33.2 km2 (8,200 acres) of cultivable land and 21.6 km2 (5,300 acres) of non-cultivable land. 54.8% of the town's land was planted with cereal crops, 6.2% with olives and 4.4% with irrigated crops.
The Bayt Jibrin region contains a large number of underground caverns, both natural formations and caves dug in the soft chalk by inhabitants of the region over the centuries. There are said to be 800 such caverns, 80 of them, known as the Bell Caves, on the grounds of the Beit Guvrin National Park.
In 1838, the American Bible scholar Edward Robinson visited Bayt Jibrin, and identified it as ancient Eleutheropolis. The ruins of three Byzantine-era churches are located in Bayt Jibrin. A church on a northern hill of the town, later used as a private residence, had elaborate mosaics depicting the four seasons which were defaced in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. A church south of the town, known as Khirbet Mar Hanna was dedicated to Saint Anne — mother of the Virgin Mary. In Christian tradition, Bayt Jibrin is the birthplace of Saint Anne. Today, the apse and arched windows are still intact. The largely preserved remains of the amphitheater built by the Romans were excavated by archaeologist Amos Kloner. Among the unique finds was a Roman bath that has been confirmed to be the largest in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Nahal Guvrin region have unearthed artifacts from a village believed to be 6,500 years old. The finds include pottery vessels and lithic tools, among them flint sickle blades, cultic objects, clay figurines of horned animals, ceramic spindle whorls and animal bones belonging to pigs, goats, sheep and larger herbivores. The inhabitants probably chose this area due to the arable land and copious springs flowing in the summer months. Archaeologists believe the villagers grew grain, as indicated by the sickle blades and the grinding and pounding tools, and raised animals that supplied milk, meat and wool, as attested to by the spindle whorls. The settlement was small in scope, approximately 1.5 dunams, but there is evidence of bartering, based on the presence of basalt vessels and other lithic objects brought to the site from afar.
During the Roman period, Bayt Jibrin had a mixed population of Jews, Christians and pagans. Under Muslim rule, Islam gradually became the dominant religion and by the 1900s, the entire population was Muslim.
In Ottoman tax records from 1596, the town had a population of 275 inhabitants. In the 19th century its population reached 900. This rose to about 1,000 in 1912, and to 1,420 in the next decade. According to the 1931 census of Palestine, Bayt Jibrin's population was 1,804. A 1945 land and population survey by Sami Hadawi reported a dramatic increase to 2,430. The general growth pattern over every 9–11 years from 1912 to 1945 was around 400-500. In 1948, the projected population was 2,819.
Bayt Jibrin, together with Hebron and the surrounding villages, was known for its fine Palestinian embroidery. An example is a woman's jillayeh (wedding dress) from Bayt Jibrin, dated about 1900, in the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The dress is made of handwoven indigo linen with long, pointed wing-sleeves. The qabbeh ("chest-piece") is embroidered with the qelayed pattern; the maya ("water") motif, el-ferraneh ("the bakers wife") pattern, and the saru ("cypress") motif. The side panels are also covered with cross-stitch embroidery in a variety of traditional patterns.
Also on show is a late 19th-century shambar (large veil) from Bayt Jibrin worn at weddings and festivals. It is made of embroidered handwoven black silk with a separate heavy red silk fringe. A woman wore the shambar mainly on her wedding day, positioned so that when she covered her face the embroidered end would show. Another item in the collection is a headdress (iraqiyeh) embroidered with cross-stitch and decorated with Ottoman coins minted in AH 1223 (1808), as well as Maria Theresa coins. The iraqiyeh was worn by married women and elaborate pieces were passed down as family heirlooms. Long embroidered headbands made of cotton hanging from both sides were wrapped around the woman's braids to facilitate the bundling of her hair, then secured to the back of the headdress.
In Islamic tradition, Bayt Jibrin is the burial place of the sahaba (companion) of the prophet Muhammad, Tamim al-Dari, who was famously known for his piety and briefly served as the Governor of Jerusalem in the late 600s. Al-Dari and his family were granted the Hebron Hills, including Bayt Jibrin and were assigned as the supervisors of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. His sanctuary is the most venerated site in Bayt Jibrin, located just northwest of it. Until the present day al-Dari's sanctuary has been a place of local Muslim pilgrimage. Other Islamic holy sites in the village include the maqam for a local shaykh named Mahmud and a tomb for a shaykha named Ameina.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bayt Jibrin.|
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- Furrer, Konrad (1865): Wanderungen durch Palästina, p 97 ff Later edition quoted in Schölch
- Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine. 1: Judee, pt. 2. (pp. 331)
- 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 0-521-00967-7
- Peters, John P. and Theirsch, H. (1905): Painted Tombs in the necropolis of Marissa (Marêshah), London: Palestine Exploration Fund, p. 7.
- Richard, Jean (1921) "The Crusaders c1071-c1291" reprinted 2001 Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-62566-1
- Robinson, Edward (1856): Biblical researches in Palestine, 1838-52. A journal of travels in the year 1838. By E. Robinson and E. Smith. Drawn up from the original diaries, with historical illustrations, Visited "Beit Jibrin" in 1838.
- Schölch, Alexander (1993): Palestine in Transformation, 1856-1882, ISBN 0-88728-234-2,
- Sharon, Moshe (1999), Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, Vol. II, B-C, BRILL, ISBN 90-04-11083-6 (Bayt Jibrin p 109-142)
- Sharon, Moshe (2004), Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, Vol. III, D-F, BRILL, ISBN 978-90-04-13197-2 (Bayt Jibrin p.xxxiv)
- Stillman, Yedida Kalfon (1979), Palestinian Costume and Jewelry, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, ISBN 0-8263-0490-7
- le Strange, Guy (1890), Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500, Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund
- William McClure Thomson, (1859): The Land and the Book: Or, Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery, of the Holy Land Vol II, (Beit Jibrin: p. 358-360, 371, 375)
- Tristram, H. B. (1865): The land of Israel: Travels in Palestine. (Mohammed Isa of Bayt Jibrin: February–April 1864, p. 374, p. 377, p. 378, p. 381 and p. 506)
- Carel Willem Meredith van de Velde (1854): Narrative of a Journey Through Syria and Palestine in 1851 and 1852. VOL II. Visited March, April 1852. (Search for "Beit Jebrin" og "Mosleh-el-Hasy": p. 72, 73, 138, 139, 142, 147-154, 157, 185, 190, 191)
- Weir, Shelagh (1989). Palestinian Costume, London: British Museum Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7141-2517-2. (exhibition catalog)
- Welcome To Bayt Jibrin
- Bayt Jibrin from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center.
- Bayt Jibrin by Rami Nashashibi (1996), Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society.
- The Imaginary Village by Sandy Tolan & Melissa Robbins
- Testimony: Army demolishes village housing over 200 Palestinians, west of the Barrier, Oct. 2007, Btselem
- Army demolishes village housing over 200 Palestinians, west of the Barrier, 25 November 2007, Btselem
- Edward Robinson: Biblical researches in Palestine, 1838-52. A journal of travels in the year 1838. (1856) p. 57ff: Eleutheropolis
- Amos Kloner, 1999. "The City of Eleutheropolis": in The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, (Jerusalem) pp 244–246. Eleutheropolis in the late Roman and Byzantine period
- Archaeological World: Eleutheropolis
- Catholic Encyclopedia 1908, s.v. "Eleutheropolis"
- Jewish Encyclopedia: "Eleutheropolis"
- pictures of Eleutheropolis
- Early pictures of mosaics at Eleutheropolis, many now in Istanbul:
- Mosaic of warrior, (approximately 1900 to 1926)
- Mosaic of tethered horse, (approximately 1900 to 1926)
- Another view of mosaic floor, (approximately 1900 to 1926)
- Mosaic of Greek inscription, (approximately 1900 to 1926)
- Mosaic of maiden with fruit, (approximately 1900 to 1926)
- Mosaic of maiden with fruit, (approximately 1900 to 1926)