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The mosque for Shaykh Ahmad al-Umari
al-Qabu is located in Mandatory Palestine
Arabic القبو
Name meaning "the vault, or cellar"[1]
Also spelled Qabu, Kabu
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°43′40″N 35°07′10″E / 31.72778°N 35.11944°E / 31.72778; 35.11944Coordinates: 31°43′40″N 35°07′10″E / 31.72778°N 35.11944°E / 31.72778; 35.11944
Palestine grid 161/126
Population 260[2][3] (1945)
Area 3,806[3] dunams
3.8 km²
Date of depopulation 22–23 October 1948[4]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Mevo Beitar

Al-Qabu (Arabic: القبو‎‎, "the vault, or cellar"),[1] was a Palestinian Arab village in the Jerusalem Subdistrict. The name is an Arabic variation of the site's original Roman name, and the ruins of a church there are thought to date to the era of Byzantine or Crusader rule over Palestine.

Al-Qabu was depopulated on 22–23 October 1948, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[5][6] Following Israel's establishment, homes in the village were blown up by Israeli troops in May 1949 and in 1950, the moshav of Mevo Beitar was founded on the village lands.


Situated on a hilltop that sloped downward steeply on three sides, to the south lay a secondary road that linked al-Qabu to the highway between Bayt Jibrin and Jerusalem which lay at a distance of about 1.5 kilometers (0.93 mi).[7]


During the period of Roman rule over Palestine, the place was known as Qobi or Qobia.[8] The village had a spring, and was located at the tenth milestone on the road constructed between Bayt Jibrin and Jerusalem under emperor Hadrian.[8][9] The Arabic name of the Palestinian village, al-Qabu, was a modification of the earlier Roman name.[7]

A ruined church by the village was visited by a team from the Survey of Western Palestine in 1873, and they determined that it appeared to date to the period of the Crusades,[10] while other researchers, such as Reverend Dom M. Gisler, OSB in 1939,[9] have determined that it dates to the Byzantine era.[11]

Ottoman era[edit]

The Qabu-area in the 1870s

In 1863 Victor Guérin described the village, "perched like an eagle's nest", and surrounded by gardens.[12]

An Ottoman village list from about 1870 found that kabu had a population of 28, in 18 houses, though the population count included men, only.[13][14]

In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described the village as being of moderate size, situated on a high hill, with houses built of stone. Other features mentioned were the presence of a ruined church on the hillside, southwest of the village, and two springs in the valley to the west.[15]

The village was laid out in a rectangular plan, extending in a north-south direction along the secondary road. The houses in the village were built primarily of stone. A few small shops in the village were located around its main square. Al-Qabu also had a shrine dedicated to one Shaykh Amad al-'Umari that stood southeast of the village site.[5]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Qabu had a population 139, all Muslims,[16] increasing in the 1931 census to 192, still all Muslim; in a total of 31 houses.[17]

Several springs around the village, including Ayn Tuz and Ayn al-Bayada, provided water for its residents.[18] The Ain esh Sherkiyeh, meaning "The eastern spring", also lay close by.[19]

In 1945, Al-Qabu had a population of 260, all Muslims,[2] with a total of 3,806 dunams of land.[3] In 1944-45 the villagers had allocated a total of 1,233 dunums of village land to the cultivation of cereals; 436 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Olive trees covered 30 dunams of land,[18][20] while 12 dunams were classified as built-up areas.[21]

1948 and the aftermath[edit]

The village apparently changed hands several times in the 1948-1949 period,[18] Morris writes that the village was first depopulated on 22–23 October 1948.[4] However, in March 1949 the IDF mounted a series of major attacks eastwards, in the area of al-Qabu. The aim was to gain more territory, drive concentrations of Arabs eastwards, and create facts on the ground before a scheduled UN survey of Israeli and Jordanian positions.[22] Notwithstanding these orders, the Israeli UN liaison officers were at pains to describe to the UN observers that the military clashes were the result of Arab incursions and attacks.[23] In reality, Israeli troops were given direct orders to take al-Qabu, Khirbet Sanasin, al Jab'a, and Khirbet al-Hamam, even if it meant battling Jordanian troops.[24]

Over the course of their operations, Israeli troops from the Fourth Brigade took several hilltops, and went on to clear the area of Arabs. The force, which was armed with machine-guns and mortars, were ordered to "hit every [adult male] Arab spotted in the area [but] not to harm women and children".[25]

After signing the 1949 Armistice Agreements with Jordan on 3 April, a question arose about the villagers of Al-Qabu and al-Walaja, whose inhabitants had gradually returned. These two villages were in Israeli territory under the Armistice Agreement, and Israel wanted them empty. On 1 May 1949, Israeli troops raided the villagers and blew up the houses. IDF reports that the villagers fled.[6]

In 1950, the moshav of Mevo Beitar was established on land that had belonged to al-Qabu.[18] According to Petersen, remains of the Palestinian village at the site include the church, a mosque, and a shrine for Shaykh Ahmad al-Umari. The mosque is a square structure, with a courtyard, and it appears to be built of stones removed from the old church.[26]


  1. ^ a b Palmer, 1881, p. 297
  2. ^ a b Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 25
  3. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 58
  4. ^ a b Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #348. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  5. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, pp. 307-308.
  6. ^ a b Morris, 2004, p. 520, note 111
  7. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p. 307
  8. ^ a b Tsafrir, Di Segni and Green, 1994, p. 209. Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 248
  9. ^ a b Pringle, 1998, p. 156
  10. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 100. Also cited in Pringle, 1998, p. 157
  11. ^ Pringle, 1998, p. 157
  12. ^ Guérin, 1869, pp. 384-385
  13. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 155
  14. ^ Hartmann, 1883, pp. 144-145
  15. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p.25. Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 307
  16. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  17. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 42
  18. ^ a b c d Khalidi, 1992, p. 308
  19. ^ Palmer, 1881, p.282
  20. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 103
  21. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 153
  22. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 519
  23. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 519-520, note105
  24. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 520, note 106
  25. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 520, note 109
  26. ^ PAM (=Palestine Antiquities Museum) File 154, Cited in Petersen, 2001, p. 248


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