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Hebrew transcription(s)
 • Hebrew גִ'שׁ/גִ'ישׁ, גּוּשׁ חָלָב
 • ISO 259 Ǧiš, Guš Ḥalab
Arabic transcription(s)
 • Arabic الجش
Jish is located in Israel
Coordinates: 33°1′18.76″N 35°26′46.81″E / 33.0218778°N 35.4463361°E / 33.0218778; 35.4463361Coordinates: 33°1′18.76″N 35°26′46.81″E / 33.0218778°N 35.4463361°E / 33.0218778; 35.4463361
Grid position 191/270 PAL
District Northern
 • Type Local council
 • Head of Municipality Elias Elias
 • Total 6,916 dunams (6.916 km2 or 2.670 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 3,000

Jish (Arabic: الجش‎; Hebrew: גִ'שׁ, גּוּשׁ חָלָב‎,[1][2] Gush Halav) is an arab town in Upper Galilee, located on the northeastern slopes of Mount Meron, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Safed, in Israel's North District.[3] Its population is predominantly Arab Maronite Catholic and Melkite Greek Catholic Christians (55% and 10% accordingly), with an Arab Sunni Muslim minority (about 35%).[4][5]

Archaeological finds in Jish include two historical synagogues, a unique mausoleum and burial caves from classic era.[6] According to Roman historian Josephus, Gischala was the last city in the Galilee to fall to the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War.[7] Historical sources dating from the 10th-15th centuries describe Jish (Gush Halav) as a village with a strong Jewish presence.[6] In the early Ottoman era Jish was wholly Muslim.[8] In the 17th century, the village was inhabited by Druze.[6] In 1945, under the British rule, Jish had a population of 1,090 with an area of 12,602 dunams.


The Arabic name Jish means the "High Place" During the classic era the town was known as Gischala - a Greek transcription of the Hebrew name Gush Halav, lit. "abundance of milk", which may be a reference to the production of milk and cheese, for which the village had been famous since the early Middle Ages,[7] or to the fertile surroundings.[9] Other scholars believe the name Gush Halav refers to the light color of the local limestone, which contrasted with the dark reddish rock of the neighboring village, Ras al-Ahmar.[7]



Settlement in Jish dates back 3,000 years. The village is mentioned in the Mishnah as Gush Halav, a city "surrounded by walls since the time of Joshua Ben Nun". Caananite and Israelite remains from the Early Bronze and Iron Ages have been found there.[7]

Roman and Byzantine period[edit]

Further information: Siege of Gush Halav

Both Josephus and later Jewish sources from the Roman-Byzantine period mention the fine olive oil for which the village was known.[9] According to the Talmud, the inhabitants also engaged in the production of silk.[7] Eleazar b. Simeon, described in the Talmud as a very large man with tremendous physical strength, was a resident of the town. He was initially buried in Gush Halav but later reinterred in Meron, next to his father, Shimon bar Yochai.[10][verification needed]

After the fall of Gamla, Gush Halav was the last Jewish stronghold in the Galilee and Golan region during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE). Gischala was the home of Yohanan of Gush Halav, known in English as John of Gischala, a wealthy olive oil merchant who became the chief commander of in the Jewish revolt in the Galilee and later Jerusalem.[11] Initially known as a moderate, John changed his stance when Titus arrived at the gates of Gischala accompanied by 1,000 horsemen and demanded the town's surrender.[12]

In addition to Jewish burial sites and structures dated to 3rd - 6th centuries,[6] Jewish-Christian amulets were discovered nearby.[13] Christian artifacts from the Byzantine period have been found at the site.[14]

Arab, Crusader and Mamluk rule[edit]

Historical sources from the 10th-15th centuries describe Gush Halav (Jish) as a large Jewish village.[6] It is mentioned in the 10th century by Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi. Jewish life in the 10th and 11th centuries is attested to by documents in the Cairo Geniza.[citation needed] In 1172, the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela found about 20 Jews living there.[15] Ishtori Haparchi also attended a megilla reading when he visited in 1322.[10][verification needed]

Ottoman rule[edit]

In 1596, Jish appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Jira of the Liwa of Safad. It had a population of 71 Muslim households and 20 Muslim bachelors.[8] It paid taxes on goats and beehives.[8]

In the 17th century, the village was inhabited by Druze.[6] The Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, who passed by the village in 1648, wrote

Then comes the village of Jish, with one hundred houses of accursed believers in the transmigration of souls (tenāsukhi mezhebindén). Yet what beautiful boys and girls they have! And what a climate! Every one of these girls has queenly, gazelle-like, bewitching eyes, which captivate the beholder—an unusual sight.[16]

The Galilee earthquake of 1837 caused widespread damage and over 200 deaths.[6] Three weeks afterward, contemporaries reported "a large rent in the ground...about a foot wide and fifty feet long." All the Galilee villages that were badly damaged at the time, including Jish, were situated on the slopes of steep hills. The presence of old landslides has been observed on aerial photographs. The fact that the village was built on dip slopes consisting of soft bedrock and soil has made it more vulnerable to landslides.[17] According to Andrew Thomson, no houses in Jish were left standing. The church fell, killing 130 people and the old town walls collapsed. A total of 235 people died and the ground was left fissured.[17]

At the end of the 19th century, Jish was described as a "well-built village of good masonry" with about 600 Christian and 200 Muslim inhabitants.[18]

British Mandate[edit]

At the time of the 1922 census of Palestine, Jish had a population of 721; 380 Christians and 341 Muslims.[19] The Christians were classified as 71% Maronite and 29% Greek Catholic (Melchite).[20] By the 1931 census, Jish had 182 inhabited houses and a population of 358 Christians and 397 Muslims.[21]

In 1945, Jish had a population of 1,090 and the village spanned 12,602 dunams, mostly Arab-owned.[22] Between 1922 and 1947, the population increased by 70%.[23]

State of Israel[edit]

Israeli forces captured Jish on 29 October 1948, in Operation Hiram,[24] after "a hard-fought battle."[25] Benny Morris reports allegations that ten prisoners of war, identified as Moroccans fighting with the Syrian Army, and a number of villagers, including a woman and her baby, were murdered.[26] The Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, ordered an investigation of the deaths[27] but no IDF soldiers were brought to trial.[28]

Elias Chacour, now Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, whose family resettled in Jish, wrote that when he was eight years old he discovered a mass grave containing two dozen bodies.[29]

Many of the residents of Jish forced to leave the village in 1948 fled to Lebanon and became Palestinian refugees. Christians from the nearby town of Kafr Bir'im resettled in Lebanon and Jish,Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page).

In December 2010, a hiking and bicycle path known as the Coexistence Trail was inaugurated, linking Jish with Dalton, a neighboring Jewish community. The 2,500 meter-long trail, accessible to people with disabilities, sits 850 meters above sea level and has several lookout points, including a view of Dalton Lake, where rainwater is collected and stored for agricultural use.[30]


Further information: Maronites in Israel

Today, 55% of the inhabitants of Jish are Maronite Christians, 10% percent are Melkites and 35% percent are Muslims.[4][5] The total population of the village is 3,000 people (2010).[31]


Tomb of the Prophet Joel in Jish

Jish is located in Upper Galilee, in the Northern district of Israel. The town is close to Mount Meron, the tallest standing mountain of Galilee. Recently, a new road has connected Jish with the nearby Jewish village of Dalton.

Religious sites and shrines[edit]

According to Christian tradition, the parents of Saint Paul were from Jish.[32] Other churches in Jish are a small Maronite Church that was rebuilt after the 1837 earthquake and the Elias Church, the largest in the village, which operates a convent.[33]

The tombs of Shmaya and Abtalion, Jewish sages who taught in Jerusalem in the early 1st century, are located in Jish.[9] According to tradition, the prophet Joel was also buried there.[33]


Remains of Gush Halav synagoguge

Eighteen archaeological sites have been excavated to date in Jish and vicinity.Archaeologists have excavated a synagogue in use from the 3rd to 6th centuries CE.[6] Jewish-Christian amulets were discovered nearby.[13]

Coins indicate that Jish had strong commercial ties with the nearby city of Tyre. On Jish's western slope, a mausoleum was excavated, with stone sarcophagi similar to those seen at the large Jewish catacomb at Beit She'arim. The inner part of the mausoleum contained ten hewn loculi, burial niches known in Hebrew as kokhim. In the mausoleum, archaeologists found several skeletons, oil lamps and a glass bottle dating to the fourth century CE.[citation needed]

A network of secret caves and passageways in Jish, some of them located under private homes, is strikingly similar to hideaways in the Judean lowlands used during the Bar Kokhba revolt.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 76
  2. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 225
  3. ^ Yoav Stern (30 July 2007). "Galilee villages launch campaign to attract Christian pilgrims". Haaretz. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  4. ^ a b YNET [1] On the slopes of a hill, at an elevation of 860 meters surrounded by cherry orchards, pears and apples, built houses, especially church building looks from afar. Number of inhabitants 3,000 divided by 55% Maronite Christian, 10% Greek Catholics and the rest are Muslims.
  5. ^ a b "Population" (in Hebrew). Jish local council. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Projects - Preservation
  7. ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem, 1978, "Giscala," vol. 7, 590
  8. ^ a b c Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 176
  9. ^ a b c The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 539.
  10. ^ a b el-Jish/Gush Halav
  11. ^ Redefining ancient borders: The Jewish scribal framework of Matthew's Gospel, Aaron M. Gale
  12. ^ Excavations at the ancient synagogue of Gush Ḥalav, Eric M. Meyers, Carol L. Meyers, James F. Strange
  13. ^ a b The missing century: Palestine in the fifth century : growth and decline, Zeev Safrai
  14. ^ Eliya Ribak (2007). Religious Communities in Byzantine Palestina. BAR International Series 1646. Oxford: Archaeopress. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-4073-0080-1. 
  15. ^ A. Asher (c. 1840). The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela 1. NY: Hakesheth. p. 82.  This passage is not present in the edition of M. N. Adler (1907). The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela. London: Oxford University Press. p. 29. 
  16. ^ Stephan H. Stephan (1935). "Evliya Tshelebi's Travels in Palestine, II.". The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 4: 154–164. 
  17. ^ a b Damage Caused By Landslides During the Earthquakes of 1837 and 1927 in the Galilee Region
  18. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 198
  19. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Safad, p. 41
  20. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XVI, p. 51
  21. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 107
  22. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p70. [2]
  23. ^ Transformation in Arab Settlement, Moshe Brawer, in The Land that Became Israel: Studies in Historical Geography, Ruth Kark (ed), Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1989, p.177
  24. ^ Morris, 2004, p.473
  25. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 500–501
  26. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 481, citing Israeli sources but noting their lack of clarity
  27. ^ Gelber, 2001, p.226
  28. ^ Morris, 2008, p. 345
  29. ^ Elias Chacour; David Hazard (2003). Blood Brothers. Chosen Books. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8007-9321-0. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  30. ^ Galilee Coexistence Trail Inaugurated, Jerusalem Post
  31. ^ Cite error: The named reference AramaicLaStampa was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  32. ^ Galilee villages launch campaign to attract Christian pilgrims
  33. ^ a b Gush Halav
  34. ^ ERETZ Magazine


External links[edit]