Umm al-Fahm

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Umm al-Fahm
Hebrew transcription(s)
 • Hebrew אֻם אל-פַחְם
Arabic transcription(s)
 • Arabic أم الفحم
Skyline of Umm al-Fahm
Skyline of Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-Fahm is located in Israel
Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-Fahm
Coordinates: 32°31′10″N 35°09′13″E / 32.51944°N 35.15361°E / 32.51944; 35.15361Coordinates: 32°31′10″N 35°09′13″E / 32.51944°N 35.15361°E / 32.51944; 35.15361
District Haifa
 • Type City
 • Mayor Khaled Hamdan
 • Total 22,253 dunams (22.253 km2 or 8.592 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 48,500[1]
Name meaning Mother of Charcoal[2]

Umm al-Fahm (Arabic: أمّ الفحم‎, Umm al-Faḥm; Hebrew: אֻם אל-פַחְם) is a city which is located 20 kilometers northwest of Jenin in the Haifa District of Israel with a population of 48,500,[1] nearly all of whom are Arab citizens of Israel.[3] The city is situated on the Umm al-Fahm mountain ridge, the highest point of which is Mt. Iskander (522 meters above sea level), overlooking Wadi Ara. Umm al-Fahm is the social, cultural and economic center for residents of the Wadi Ara and Triangle regions.


Historical population
Year Pop.   ±%  
1955 6,100 —    
1961 7,500 +23.0%
1972 13,400 +78.7%
1983 20,100 +50.0%
1995 29,600 +47.3%
2008 45,000 +52.0%
2010 47,400 +5.3%
2011 48,500 +2.3%
Source: [1]

According to the Muslim historian al-Maqrizi, Umm al-Fahm was established in 1265. Its name means "Mother of Charcoal" in Arabic,[4] the village was surrounded by natural forests which were used to produce charcoal. Several archaeological sites around the city date to the Iron Age, as well as Muslim, Roman and Hellenistic periods.

In the late 19th century, Umm al-Fahm was described as having around 500 inhabitants, of which some 80 people were Christians. The place was well-built of stone, and the villagers were described as being very rich in cattle, goats and horses. A Muqam for a Sheik Iskander was noted on a hill above.[5]

In the 1931 census of Palestine, Umm el Fahm was located in the sub-district of Jenin and had a population of 2443; 16 Christians and the rest Muslim, in 488 inhabited houses.[6]

Umm al-Fahm sheikh signs an oath of allegiance to Israel, 1949

In 1948, there were 4,500 inhabitants, mostly farmers, in the Umm al-Fahm area. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Lausanne Conference of 1949 awarded the entire Little Triangle to Israel, which wanted it for security purposes. On 20 May 1949, the city's leader signed an oath of alliegiance to the State of Israel. Following its absorption into Israel, the town's population grew rapidly. By 1960, Umm al-Fahm was given local council status by the Israeli government. In 1965-1985, it was governed by elected councils. In 1985, Umm al-Fahm was granted official city status.

In October 2010, a group of 30 right-wing activists led by supporters of the banned Kach movement clashed with protesters in Umm al-Fahm.[7] Many policemen and protesters were injured in the fray.[8]


Since the establishment of Israel, Umm al-Fahm has gone from being a village to an urban center that serves as a hub for the surrounding villages. Most breadwinners make their living in the building sector. The remainder work mostly in clerical or self-employed jobs, though a few small factories have been built over the years.[citation needed] According to CBS, there were 5,843 salaried workers and 1,089 self-employed in 2000. The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker was NIS 2,855, a real change of 3.4% over the course of 2000. Salaried males had a mean monthly wage of NIS 3,192 (a real change of 4.6%) versus NIS 1,466 for females (a real change of -12.6%). The mean income for the self-employed was 4,885. 488 residents received unemployment benefits and 4,949 received an income guarantee. In 2007, the city had an unofficial 31 percent poverty rate.[4]


School in Umm al-Fahm

According to CBS, there are a total of 17 schools and 9,106 students in the city: 15 elementary and 4 junior high-schools for more than 5,400 elementary school students, and 7 high schools for more than 3,800 high school students. In 2001, 50.4% of 12th grade students received a Bagrut matriculation certificate.

Local government[edit]

The growing influence of fundamentalist Islam has been noted by several scholars.[vague][9][10][11][12]

Since the 1990s, the municipality has been run by the Northern Islamic Movement. Ex-mayor Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested in 2003 on charges of raising millions of dollars for Hamas. He was freed after two years in prison.[4] Sheikh Hashem Abd al-Rahman was elected mayor in 2007.[13] He was replaced in November 2008 by Khaled Aghbariyya.[14]

In a survey of Umm al-Fahm residents conducted by and published in the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab in July 2000, 83% of respondents opposed the idea of transferring their city to Palestinian jurisdiction.[15]

Because of the proximity to the border of the West Bank, the city is named very often as possible canditate for a land-swap in a peace treaty with the Palestinians to compensate land used by Jewish settlements. The latest proposal by Avigdor Lieberman was rejected by Arab politicians as ethnic cleansing.[16]

Arts and culture[edit]

The Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery was established in 1996 as a venue for contemporary art exhibitions and a home for original Arab and Palestinian art. The gallery operates under the auspices of the El-Sabar Association.[17] Yoko Ono held an exhibition there in 1999,[18] and some of her art is still on show. The gallery offers classes to both Arab and Jewish children and exhibits the work of both Arab and Jewish artists. In 2007, the municipality granted the gallery a large plot of land on which the Umm al-Fahm Museum of Contemporary Art will be built.[4] The architects are Amnon Bar Or, Lior Tsionov and Lior Vitkon.[19]

Green Carpet is an association established by the residents to promote local tourism and environmental projects in and around Umm al-Fahm.[3]


The city has several football clubs. Maccabi Umm al-Fahm currently play in Liga Leumit, the second tier of Israeli football. Hapoel Umm al-Fahm played in Liga Artzit (the third tier), prior to their folding in 2009. As of 2013, Achva Umm al-Fahm play in Liga Bet (the fourth tier)[20] and Bnei Umm al-Fahm play in Liga Gimel (the fifth tier).[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Statistical Abstract of Israel 2012 - No. 63 Subject 2 - Table No. 15". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  2. ^ Palmer, 1881, p.154
  3. ^ a b Zafrir, Rinat (2007-12-03). "Green Cities / Wasting away". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d Prince-Gibson, Eetta (2007-11-08). "Land (Swap) for Peace?". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  5. ^ Conder & Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p.46
  6. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 71
  7. ^ "Riot police called in as Arabs and extremists face off in Israel". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  8. ^ , Esther. "إثر مسيرة استفزازية نفذها العشرات من أنصار اليمين". Al-Arabiya. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  9. ^ Bassam Eid. "The Role of Islam in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict". Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. 
  10. ^ David Rudge. "Strong Islamic Sentiment Drives Arab Elections". Jerusalem Post. 
  11. ^ Gordis, Daniel. "Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End". John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  12. ^ Israeli, Raphael. "Fundamentalist Islam and Israel: essays in interpretation". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1993. p 95.
  13. ^ Ashkenazi, Eli (2004-03-30). "Umm al-Fahm Mayor Welcomes Possible Return of Lands". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  14. ^ "The Results: Umm al-Fahm". Mynet. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  15. ^ MEMRI - Israeli Arabs Prefer Israel to Palestinian Authority
  16. ^ Israeli Arabs reject proposed land swap, Al-Jazeera on 13. January 2014
  17. ^ "Umm el-Fahim Art Gallery". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  18. ^ Patience, Martin (2006-03-10). "Israeli Arab Gallery Breaks Taboos". BBC. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  19. ^ "Architect’s Statement, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery website". Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  20. ^ a b "The Israel Football Association". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]