Abu Ghosh clan

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The Abughoshes history originates during the Ottoman Empire.

Origins of the family[edit]

The Abu Ghoshes (also written AbuGosh/ AbouGhawsh), known as “ancien seigneurs feodaux”, are an old wealthy landowning family, who ruled the Jerusalem mountains and controlled the pilgrimage route from the coast to Jerusalem during the Ottoman Empire.

Some historians are of the opinion that the AbuGhoshes came from East Europe. Others believe that the AbuGhoshes’ origins go back to the Crusaders who came to Jerusalem with Richard Coeur de Lion in the 12th century AD (probably because many of them have blond hair and blue eyes). Members of the family and some other historians hold the view that the AbuGhoshes came originally from the Arab Peninsula. They were four Emirs of Yemen, who were brothers, when they arrived to Egypt. From Egypt they came to Palestine with the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire and were entrusted with the control of the pilgrimage route to the holy places of Jerusalem (see the Egyptian royal manuscripts).

The AbuGhoshes were settled in the sixteenth century AD on the mountains of Jerusalem, about 10 km west of the Jerusalem city, where they still reside now. There is no doubt that the AbuGhoshes became related to the Palestinian people who lived at the site at that time, through marriage, as well as with the descendants of the Crusaders, who are known to have lived in the same region at the same time. Archeological excavations have revealed that the site where the AbuGhoshes live is one of the most ancient inhabited sites in the southern Levant. This site used to be “Kiryat Ye'arim” a Hebrew name meaning "Town of Forests". Following the Arab Islamic conquest, the site was called “kiryat al-Inab”. This site took later,in the 18th century, the name of the family “kiryat AbuGhosh”. The site is now called “AbuGhosh”, a Muslim Palestinian small town near Jerusalem. The majority of its inhabitants today are the descendants of the old feudal family of the 16th century.


At the beginning of the Ottoman Empire Sultan Suleiman entrusted the AbuGhoshes with the control of the route from the coast to Jerusalem and granted them an official permission “farman” to impose a toll on all pilgrims and visitors entering Jerusalem. The churches of Jerusalem also paid a tax to the AbuGhoshes in a one off yearly payment for their visitors.[1]

Palestine was part of Great Syria and like Syria it was governed by feudal families until middle of the nineteenth century. The AbuGhoshes were among the most known feudal families in Palestine. They used to govern the sites of 22 villages.[2] They had self determination powers in the region. All powers were in the hands of the Emir or Scheich (Lord) of AbuGhosh. The Scheich was also called Zaim or Mutasallem (leader, governor). He was dealing with all matters, political, military, economic, social and legal matters. A dispute between two parties was solved by the Scheich and a judgment was taken by him and executed with no right of appeal. Seeking revision was sometimes possible if allowed by the Scheich. Any person acting against the local laws or tradition was imprisoned. The AbuGhoshes used an old crusader church as a prison for their prisoners. The relation between the AbuGhoshes and the peasants of the villages was a patronus clients relation.

According to tradition, any pilgrim or visitor to the holy sites passing through AbuGhosh had to give their respect to the Scheich. Some of the visitors of the holy places wrote about Lady Stanhope (daughter of a British Lord, niece of the British Prime Minister William Pitt and a relative of Sir Sidney Smith who besiegt Napoleon in Akko and had correspondence with the Scheich Ibrahim AbuGhosh) that when she visited Jerusalem in 1811 she stopped in AbuGhosh to give her respect to the Scheich. Scheich Ibrahim AbuGhosh found her an interesting woman. He ordered a formal dinner and spent the night in her company. She came back the next year and the Scheich was delighted to see her again. The next morning, he insisted to escort her with his guards and servants to Jerusalem (see kinglake:Journey to the East; Mustafa Dabbagh, Biladuna Filistin).

The houses of the AbuGhoshes were described by pilgrims and visitors as beautifully built real stone houses and the residence of the Scheich was described as “a true palace…, a castle…., a protective fortress….”[1][3][4]

In the nineteenth century, between 1834 and 1860, AbuGhosh was attacked by military forces three times. The first attack was launched by the Egyptian military forces (led by Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali) in 1832-4 during the Egyptian occupation of Palestine (1831–1840). The castle of AbuGhosh was destroyed during this campaign. The second attack was in 1853 during the civil war (between feudal families) under Scheich Ahmad AbuGhosh who was 90 years old. He entrusted his nephew Mustafa with the military task force. The third attack on AbuGhosh was made by the Ottoman military forces, helped and executed by the British forces, during the military expedition against the feudal families in the 1860s, under Scheich Mustafa AbuGhosh. Almost all villages governed by the AbuGhoshes were bombarded during this battle. Lord Mustapha AbuGhosh continued to control the Jerusalem mountains against the will of the Ottomans until he died in 1863.

The Ottoman Empire introduced reforms abolishing the feudal system and creating a centralised government with its main location in the Turkish capital. Powers were transferred from feudal families to a Turkish governor, representing the Sultan, sitting in the city of Jerusalem. All villages and towns around Jerusalem were part of the Jerusalem District and each village was represented by a “Mukhtar”, that is, an elected person.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a nephew of the “Mukhtar” of AbuGhosh, named Said AbuGhosh, left AbuGhosh and moved to reside in his owned land, an estate made of 22,000 dunum between AbuGhosh and the city of Ramla. He built his residence, a mansion, in his estate near the village of al-Qubab using a German architect. He was known to have hundreds of peasants working in his estate. He offered his protection to all villagers in the region. He was known to have founded a “Sabeel”, that is, offering water and a resting place to those travellers passing through on their way to Jerusalem, for free. He married the daughter of a Turkish General in the Ottoman army who had his residence in the village of al-Qubab. Said AbuGhosh was loved and very much respected by the AbuGhoshes for the many contributions and support he provided.

After the declaration of the British mandate on Palestine in 1920, main concerns of Said AbuGhosh were the British occupation. He offered unlimited financial and military help to the Palestinian militants in order to fight the British. He was also known to have bought land in all parts of Palestine, in order to avoid land coming into the hands of the Jews, which made him one of the biggest landowners of Palestine in his time. The reason for avoiding Jews getting land was the rumours which were spreading around about the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (promise given by the British government to the Jews to create a homeland in Palestine). Lord AbuGhosh died in 1936 and was buried in his estate.

See also[edit]

  • Mustafa Dabbagh: Biladuna Filistin, Beirut 1965-1976


  1. ^ a b Schoelch, Alexander (1986). Palästina im Umbruch : 1856-1882 : Untersuchungen zur wirtschaftlichen und sozio-politischen Entwicklung. Berliner Islamstudien ; 4. Stuttgart: F. Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden. ISBN 3-515-04467-1. 
  2. ^ Finn, James (2004). Stirring Times, Or, Records from Jerusalem Consular Chronicles of 1853 To 1856. 1. Adamant Media Corporation. p. 580. ISBN 978-1402150890. 
  3. ^ Sepp, J. N. (1863). Jerusalem und das Heilige Land. I. Schaffhausen. 
  4. ^ Tischendorf, Lobegott Friedrich Constantin (1862). Gallery of Philologists. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.