Sha'ab, Israel

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Hebrew transcription(s)
 • Hebrew שַׁעַבּ
 • ISO 259 Šaˁḅ
 • Also spelled Sha'av (unofficial)
Arabic transcription(s)
 • Arabic شعب
PikiWiki Israel 5068 view on shaab from tzorit.jpg
Sha'ab is located in Israel
Coordinates: 32°53′22″N 35°14′19″E / 32.88944°N 35.23861°E / 32.88944; 35.23861Coordinates: 32°53′22″N 35°14′19″E / 32.88944°N 35.23861°E / 32.88944; 35.23861
Grid position 172/254 PAL
District Northern
 • Type Local council
 • Total 5,442 dunams (5.442 km2 or 2.101 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Total 6,000

Sha'ab (Arabic: شعب‎; Hebrew: שַׁעַבּ; meaning "The spur")[1] is an Arab town (a local council) in the North District of Israel. It has an area of 5,442 dunams (6.4 km2 (2.5 sq mi)) of land under its jurisdiction and in 2006 had a population of 6,000.


French scholar Victor Guérin associated Sha'ab with Saab, a place mentioned by 1st-century writer Josephus.[2][3] In the 14th century, the tax income from the village was given to the wakf of the madrasah and mausoleum of the Shafi'i Manjaq, Egypt.[4]

Ottoman era[edit]

In 1517, Sha'ab was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire along with the rest of Palestine. In 1573 (981 AH) Sha'ab was one of several villages in Galilee which rebelled against the Ottomans.[5] In 1596, the village appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Acre in the liwa' (district) of Safad, with a population of 139 Muslim households. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, fruit trees,"occasional revenues", and "goats and bees".[6]

According to local tradition, the village started to flourish under anti-Ottoman rebel Daher el-Omar (ca. 1768).[7] In 1859, the population was estimated to be 1,500. Some were Catholic, the majority Muslim. The cultivated fields were estimated to be 80 feddans.[8] Guérin visited in the 1870s, and wrote that the village of Sh'aib consisted of four quarters. The inhabitants, he wrote, were for the most part Muslim, about 800, and some 20 "Schismatic Greek" families. The Muslims had two Mosques and two walis.[9][10] In 1881, Sha'ab was described as being in a valley with fine olive groves, while part of the hill behind it was cultivated in corn.[8]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Sha'ab had a population of 1,206; 1,166 Muslims and 40 Christians,[11] increasing slightly in the 1931 census to 1,297; 1,277 Muslims, 19 Christians and 1 Jew, in a total of 284 houses.[12]

By 1945, Sha'ab had 1,740 inhabitants, all classified as Arabs. They owned a total of 17,870 dunams of land, while 121 dunams were public.[13] 3,248 dunams were used for plantations and irrigable land, 6,602 dunams for cereals,[14] while 231 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[15]

1948 War and aftermath[edit]

Sha'ab was captured by the Israel Forces (IDF) on July 19, 1948 during the First Arab-Israeli War. The villagers surrendered without a fight,[16] and their village was subsequently depopulated in the Palestinian exodus. Still, Sha'ab was found by the IDF's Ninth Brigade still to be inhabited in December 1948, and the residents were expelled on foot.[17] The village was the headquarters and hometown of Abu Is'af, leader of one of the most effective local militias during the war and someone viewed as a hero by many Arabs in the area.[citation needed]

Most of Sha'ab's original residents became internally displaced refugees, settling in nearby Arab villages, predominantly in Majd al-Krum and Sakhnin. Meanwhile, many refugees from the depopulated villages of al-Birwa, al-Damun and Mi'ar were settled in Sha'ab in 1948 and were joined by refugees from Kirad al-Ghannam and Kirad al-Baqqara in the Hula Valley in 1953. The original residents of Sha'ab protested their circumstances and launched a campaign soon after the war's end to return to their homes.[18] They gained the sympathy of most of the refugees from the Hula Valley and al-Birwa, but faced resistance from the former residents of al-Damun and Mi'ar. By 1950, roughly 10% of Sha'ab's original inhabitants returned to the village and eventually many more were given permission to resettle.[19]

Notable buildings[edit]


The mosque of Zahir al-Umar is situated in the centre of the old village. In 1933 it was inspected by Na'im Makhouly from the Palestine Antiquities Museum, who found that the mosque dated from the time of Zahir al-Umar. In 1933 the mosque was in disrepair. Pictures from the time show two arcades: one had four arches connected with the side wall, with two columns in the centre. A reused Ionic capital could be seen, and above the doorway was a reused Roman lintel (first noticed by Guérin in the 1870s).[7][20]

Andrew Petersen, an archaeologist specialising in Islamic architecture, surveyed the mosque in 1994. He found that the present mosque, built in the 1980s, encased the old building. The old part is the prayer hall, has an entrance to the north. This hall is square, covered with a dome. The dome rests on large squinches, which are supported by corbels. According to Petersen, the domed prayer hall is consistent with an 18th-century construction date.[20]

Shayk's tomb[edit]

The Maqam Shaykh Alami is situated south of the mosque, within its enclosure. It is built at a slope, where the ground rises to the south. On the east side there are two entrances; to the maqam, and to an underground cistern.[20]

The building is rectangular, 10 x 20 m, with an interior divided into two. The southern part contains a mihrab and is covered with a barrel vault. The northern end is covered with a dome, and has two large cenotaphs. According to Petersen, the buildings appear medieval.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p.116
  2. ^ Josephus, III, § 21, cited in Guérin, 1880, p. 434-435, cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  3. ^ TIR, p. 218, cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  4. ^ MPF, 71, No. 53. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  5. ^ Heyd, 1960, p. 84-85. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  6. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 193
  7. ^ a b Petersen, 2001, p. 275
  8. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 271
  9. ^ Guérin, 1880, p. 434-435
  10. ^ Conder & Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 339
  11. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Acre, p. 37
  12. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 102
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 41
  14. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 81
  15. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 131
  16. ^ Morris 2004, p. 423
  17. ^ Morris 2004, p. 514
  18. ^ Cohen, 2010, p. 101
  19. ^ Cohen, 2010, pp. 102-103
  20. ^ a b c d Petersen, 2001, p. 276


External links[edit]