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The Jerusalem Light Rail in Shuafat

Shu'fat (Arabic: شعفاطŠuʿafāṭ), also Shuafat and Sha'fat, is a Palestinian Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, forming part of north-eastern Jerusalem.[1] Located on the old Jerusalem-Ramallah road about three miles north of the Old City, Shu'fat has a population of 35,000 residents. Shu'fat refugee camp was established by King Hussein in 1965 to house Palestinian refugees from the Jerusalem, Lydd, Jaffa and Ramleh areas, after the Mascar camp in the Jewish quarter of the Old City had been closed.[2]

Shu'fat borders Pisgat Ze'ev and Beit Hanina on the north, Shu'fat refugee camp on the east, French Hill on the south, and Ramat Shlomo on the west.[3][4] Shu'fat is located in the part of the West Bank which was included in the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem after its occupation in 1967.


Shuafat Road


The place was known to the Canaanites and Crusaders as Dersophath;.[5][dubious ][6] Biblical identifications include Gebim, a village in north Jerusalem whose inhabitants fled the approaching Assyrian army, according to the Book of Isaiah,[7] Mizpah in Benjamin,[8] and Nob.[9] Tell el-Ful, on the neighborhood's outskirts, is believed to have been King Saul's capital of ancient Israel at Gibeah.[10] Jordan's King Hussein also built a palace here. Shuafat has been the site of intermittent habitation since at least 2000 BC,[5] and a number of ancient artifacts have been discovered there.

The remains of a Crusader structure in the center of the village that was possibly a church.[6]

Following a 1991 archaeological dig in Shuafat by Alexander Onn and Tzvi Greenhut, a room dating to the 2nd century BC was identified as a prayer room or synagogue, making one of the oldest ever found. However the site was can no longer be identified and has been questioned.[11][12][13][14]

During an archaeological salvage dig conducted near the Shuafat refugee camp in preparation for the laying of the tracks for the Jerusalem Light Rail system, the remains of an ancient Roman settlement, dating back to the Roman Empire were discovered. The settlement was described as a 'sophisticated community impeccably planned by the Roman authorities, with orderly rows of houses and two fine public bathhouses to the north.' The findings are said be the first indication of an active Jewish settlement in the area of Jerusalem after the city fell in 70 A.D.. The main indication that the settlement was a Jewish one is the assemblage of stone vessels found there. Such vessels, for food storage and serving, were only used by Jews because they were believed not to transmit impurity. Archaeologists believe stone basins discovered at the site were used to hold ashes from the destroyed Temple.[1][15]

Ottoman era[edit]

Local legend holds that the modern settlement was established several hundred years ago by immigrants from the Hejaz.[16][17]

In 1596, the village was inhabited by eight Muslim families who paid taxes on wheat, barley, vineyards and other agricultural produce.[18] In 1883 it was described as follows: "A small village, standing on a flat spur immediately west of the watershed, surrounded with olive-trees. It has wells to the north. There is a sacred chapel of Sultan Ibrahim in the village."[8] The census of 1931 recorded 539 Muslims living there.[19]

British Mandate era[edit]

The town of Shuafat was to be the most northernmost point of the corpus separatum proposed in 1947 for Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, which "in view of its association with three world religions" was to be "accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control".[20]

Jordanian era[edit]

In mid-February, during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, leader of Palestinian irregulars in the area, tried to persuade the residents of Shuafat to attack the neighbouring Jewish village of Neve Yaakov but the invitation was declined.[21][22] On 13 May the villagers were evacuated on orders from the Arab Legion. Shortly afterwards the Palmach captured Shuafat, destroying many of the buildings.[23] Shuafat was occupied by Jordan, which unilaterally annexed the West Bank in April 1950.

Shuafat refugee camp[edit]

In the wake of the 1948 war, the Red Cross accommodated Palestinian refugees in the depopulated and partly destroyed Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.[24] This grew into the Muaska refugee camp managed by UNRWA, which housed refugees from 48 locations now in Israel.[25] Over time many poor non-refugees also settled in the camp.[25] Conditions became unsafe for habitation due to lack of maintenance and sanitation, but neither UNRWA nor the Jordanian government wanted the negative international response that would result if they demolished the old Jewish houses.[25]

In 1964 a decision was made to move the refugees to a new camp constructed on mostly Jewish land near Shuafat.[25] Most of the refugees refused to move, since it would mean losing their livelihood, the market and the tourists, as well as reducing their access to the holy sites.[25] In the end, many of the refugees were moved to Shuafat by force during 1965 and 1966.[24][25]

State of Israel[edit]

After the Six-Day War, East Jerusalem, including the town and refugee camp, was occupied and later annexed by Israel, in a move not internationally recognized, and were incorporated into the Jerusalem municipal district.[26][1] The residents were offered Israeli citizenship, but most refused it as they considered the area to be illegally occupied. Many accepted permanent residency status instead.[1]

Shuafat seen from the south

The Shuafat refugee camp is the only Palestinian refugee camp located inside Jerusalem or any other Israeli-administered area. While its residents carry Jerusalem identity cards, which grants them the same privileges and rights as regular Israelis, the camp itself is largely serviced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, even though 40 - 50% of the camp's population are not registered refugees. The Israeli West Bank barrier was partially constructed between the camp and the rest of Shuafat and Jerusalem. Some health services are provided by Israeli clinics in the camp. The Israeli presence is limited to checkpoints controlling entry and exit. According to Ir Amim, the camp suffers from high crime because Israeli Police rarely enter due to security concerns, while the Palestinian Civil Police Force does not operate in Israeli-administered municipalities. Unlike other UN-run refugee camps, residents of Shuafat camp pay taxes to the Israeli authorities.[3][27]

In a survey conducted as part of the research for the book Negotiating Jerusalem (2000), it was reported that 59% of Israeli Jews supported redefining the borders of the city of Jerusalem so as to exclude Arab settlements such as Shuafat, in order to ensure a "Jewish majority" in Jerusalem.[28]

In July 2001, the Israeli authorities destroyed 14 homes under construction in Shuafat on the orders of then mayor Ehud Olmert, who said the structures were built without permits. No one was yet living in them.[29] The families acknowledged they do not own the land they built on, but believed they had permission to build there from Islamic Trust religious authorities and argue that obtaining permits to build legally is nearly impossible. Olmert said the houses were being constructed on public land in a "green area" and posed a security threat to the Jews of Pisgat Zeev.[30] According to Isabel Kershner of the New York Times, Shuafat suffered from an absence of municipal planning, overcrowding, and potholed roads in 2007.[1]

As prime minister, Ehud Olmert questioned whether the annexation of areas like Shuafat into the Jerusalem area was necessary.[31] The Israeli initiative to transfer control of the area to the Palestinian National Authority led to a split in the community: A camp official favored being under Palestinian sovereignty, while the neighborhood's mukhtar rejected the plan, citing his residents' participation in Israeli elections as well as the danger of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel[32]

Urban development[edit]

In 2012, Sorbonne scholar Prof. Sylvaine Bulle cited the Shuafat refugee camp for its urban renewal dynamic, seeing it as an example of a creative adaptation to the fragmented space of the camps towards creating a bricolage city, with businesses relocating from east Jerusalem there and new investment in commercial projects.[33]

Three stations of the First 'Red' Line of the Jerusalem Light Rail are situated in Shuafat: Shuafat North, Shuafat Central and Shuafat South.[34][35]

The neighbourhood’s Main Street, Shuafat Road, was previously part of route 60. In the 1990s a new route was built to the east of the neighbourhood, a dual carriageway with 3 lines in each direction, relieving traffic congestion along the road.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Isabel Kershner (June 5, 2007). "Under a Divided City, Evidence of a Once United One". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  2. ^ UNWRA. "Shu'fat refugee camp". Retrieved 2013-05-19. 
  3. ^ a b "New checkpoint opened at entrance to Shuafat". The Jerusalem Post. December 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Jerusalem Neighborhood Profile: Shuafat Refugee Camp" (DOC). Ir Amim. August 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  5. ^ a b Mariam Shahin (2005). Palestine: A Guide. Interlink Books. p. 334. ISBN 1-56656-557-X. 
  6. ^ a b Denys Pringle (1997). Secular Buildings in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: An Archaeological. Cambridge University Press. p. 94. ISBN 0-521-46010-7. 
  7. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans. 2000. p. 487. ISBN 0-8028-2400-5. 
  8. ^ a b C. R. Conder, Survey of Western Palestine, Vol. III (1883) pp13-14.
  9. ^ C. Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible (1887), pp158–159.
  10. ^ Discovering the World of the Bible, LaMar C. Berrett
  11. ^ The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, Richard Bauckham
  12. ^ The Cambridge History of Judaism: The late Roman-Rabbinic period, William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, Steven T. Katz
  13. ^ The ancient synagogue from its origins to 200 A.D.: Anders Runesson, Donald D. Binder, Birger Olsson
  14. ^ The Ancient Synagogue: "Birthplace of Two World Religions"
  15. ^ Amiram Barkat (2 January 2006). "Shuafat dig reveals first sign of Jewish life after destruction of Second Temple". Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  16. ^ Beit Hanina Community Center
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (1977), Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century, Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft, p. 120 
  19. ^ Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns, and Administrative Areas (1932), p43
  20. ^ Paul Jacob Ignatius Maria de Waart (1994). Dynamics of Self-Determination in Palestine: Protection of Peoples As a. BRILL. p. 216. ISBN 90-04-08286-7. 
  21. ^ Benny Morris (1987). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949. Cambridge University Press. p. 38]. ISBN 978-0-521-33889-9. 
  22. ^ "American Newlyweds in Israel, 1948". American Jewish Historical Society. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  23. ^ Benny Morris (1987). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949. Cambridge University Press. pp. 67,113,158]. ISBN 978-0-521-33889-9. 
  24. ^ a b Meron Benvenisti (1976). Jerusalem: The Torn City. Isratypeset. p. 70. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f Avi Plascov (1981). The Palestinian Refugees in Jordan 1948–1957. Frank Cass. 
  26. ^ Noah Browning, 'In bleak Arab hinterland, hints of Jerusalem's partition,' Reuters December 20, 2013.
  27. ^ "Jerusalem Neighborhood Profile: Shuafat Refugee Camp" (DOC). Ir Amim. August 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  28. ^ Jerome M. Segal (2000). Negotiating Jerusalem. SUNY Press. p. 127. ISBN 0-7914-4537-2. 
  29. ^ Violence flares in Jerusalem as Israeli bulldozers destroy dozen 'illegal' homes
  30. ^ Tracy Wilkinson (July 10, 2001). "Israel Razes 14 Arab Homes at Refugee Camp". Los Angeles Times. p. in print edition A-4. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  31. ^ "Olmert hints at possible concessions in Jerusalem". Ynet. October 15, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  32. ^ "Shuafat area residents split over plan to divide Jerusalem in two". The Jerusalem Post. October 2007. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  33. ^ Esther Zandberg (2008-10-23). "Their Shoafat outshines her Paris". HAARETZ. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  34. ^ Stations
  35. ^ "The Jerusalem Light Rail Map", Citypass, retrieved 2009-11-08 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°48′55.00″N 35°13′48.00″E / 31.8152778°N 35.2300000°E / 31.8152778; 35.2300000