Al-Qastal, Jerusalem

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Kastel Hill.jpg
al-Qastal hill
al-Qastal is located in Mandatory Palestine
Arabic القسطل
Name meaning "castellum" or castale[1]
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°47′44″N 35°8′39″E / 31.79556°N 35.14417°E / 31.79556; 35.14417Coordinates: 31°47′44″N 35°8′39″E / 31.79556°N 35.14417°E / 31.79556; 35.14417
Palestine grid 163/133
Area 1,446 dunams
1.4 km²
Date of depopulation April 3, 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces

Al-Qastal (Arabic: القسطل‎) was a Palestinian village located eight kilometers west of Jerusalem named for a Crusader castle located on the hilltop. Used as a military base by the Army of the Holy War, the village was captured by the Palmach in the lead up to the Arab-Israeli War and depopulated of its residents.


A Crusader castle called Belveer or Beauverium was built there around 1168 CE. It is listed amongst the castles destroyed by Sultan al-Adil I in 1191–2 CE.[3] In 1883, al-Qastal was described as "a small stone village in a conspicuous position on a rocky hill-top" with springs to the east.[4]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Qastal had a population 43, all Muslims,[5] increasing in the 1931 census to 59; 55 Muslims and 4 Christians, in a total of 14 houses.[6] In 1944/45, the village, with a population of 90 Muslims, had a total of 42 dunums of land allocated to cereals. 169 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, including 50 dunams of olive trees.[7][8]

1948, aftermath[edit]

In 1948, al-Qastal was a key position on the Jaffa-Jerusalem road and was used by Arab forces to attack Jewish relief convoys so as to prevent them from reaching the besieged Jewish parts of Jerusalem.[9] For this purpose it was occupied by the Army of the Holy War led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, the commander of the Jerusalem Hills sector.[10]

Palestinian irregulars moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948

The village was assaulted by the Palmach's Harel Brigade and two squads of the Haganah during Operation Nachshon, after a previous minor clash had already caused most civilian inhabitants to flee.[7][11] Palmach troops occupied the village on April 3, but its commander was refused permission to blow up the houses.[11]

Castel fortress, 2006

Forces under Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni attacked and besieged the Haganah-held village on 7 April, 1948. During the following, foggy night Al-Husayni himself was killed by a Haganah sentinel in a bizarre incident. On April 8, armed Arabs from the entire area, motivated by the disappearance of their leader, attacked and recaptured al-Qasta.[11] However, Al-Husayni's death is said to have led to a loss of morale among his forces.[12] Most fighters left their positions to attend al-Husayni's funeral at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, April 9. Palmach troops retook the almost fully deserted village on the night of April 8-9th; they blew up most of the houses and made the hill a command post, which they managed to hold on to.[11][13]

Mevaseret Zion is located on the former lands of Al-Qastal.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 322
  2. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #356. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  3. ^ Pringle, 1997, p.118
  4. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, III:18. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.310
  5. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  6. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 32
  7. ^ a b c Khalidi, 1992, p.311
  8. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, pp. 58, 103
  9. ^ War for the Jerusalem Road, Time, Apr. 19, 1948.
  10. ^ Morris, 2008, p. 123
  11. ^ a b c d Morris, 2004, pp. 234–235.
  12. ^ Morris, 2008, p. 125
  13. ^ Benveniśtî, 2002, p. 111


External links[edit]