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Ruins in Al-Shajara, April 10th 2003.
al-Shajara is located in Mandatory Palestine
Arabic الشجرة
Name meaning "the Tree"
Also spelled al-Shajera
Subdistrict Tiberias
Coordinates 32°45′15.50″N 35°23′56.33″E / 32.7543056°N 35.3989806°E / 32.7543056; 35.3989806Coordinates: 32°45′15.50″N 35°23′56.33″E / 32.7543056°N 35.3989806°E / 32.7543056; 35.3989806
Population 770[1] (1945)
Area 3,754[1] dunams

3.8 km²

Date of depopulation May 6, 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Ilaniya

al-Shajara (Arabic: الشجرة‎) was a Palestinian Arab village depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was located 14 kilometers west of Tiberias on the main highway to Nazareth near the villages of Lubya and Hittin.

The village was the fourth largest by area in Tiberias district. Its economy was based on agriculture. In 1944/45 it had 2,102 dunams (505 acres) planted with cereals and 544 dunams (136 acres) either irrigated or fig and olive orchards.

Al-Shajara was the home village of the cartoonist Naji al-Ali.


The Crusaders referred to al-Shajara by "Seiera".[3] The Arabic name of the village ash-Shajara translates as "the Tree".

In 1596, al-Shajara was part of the Ottoman Empire, nahiya (subdistrict) of Tiberias under the liwa' (district) of Safad with a population of 60 Muslim families and 12 Muslim bachelors. It paid taxes to the Ottoman government on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, olives, fruits and cotton. Taxes was also paid goats, beehives, orchards, and a press that was used either for processing olives or grapes.[4]

A party of French cavalry was apparently stationed in the village during Napoleon's campaign of 1799.[5] Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss traveler to Palestine who passed through the area around 1812, noted that the plain around the village was covered with wild artichoke,[6][7] while William McClure Thomson said that al-Shajara (Sejera) was one of several villages in the area which was surrounded by gigantic hedges of cactus.[8] He also noted the great oak woods in the vicinity.[9]

Mr Schumacher found old graves and other antiquities when he explored the area in the 1880s.[10] In the late nineteenth century, the village of al-Shajara was a stone-built village and had about 150 residents. The village was surrounded by arable land on which there were fig and olive trees, and there was a spring to the south.[11]

In 1907, the residents of the nearby Jewish settlement of Sejera occupied village farmlands after buying it from the Sursock family, this triggered attacks from al-Shajara residents.[12]

In 1931, the population was recorded as 559 Muslims and 28 Christians,[13] which had increased to 770 when the last estimate was made in 1945.[1][14] In 1944/45 the village had 2,102 dunams of land used for cereals, and 544 dunams irrigated or used for orchards.[14][15]

1948, and aftermath[edit]

During the 1948 War, the Arab Liberation Army defending al-Shajara battled Israeli forces in the village in early March.[16] It was captured by Israel on May 6, 1948 by the 12th Battalion, Golani Brigade — the entire population fled leaving twenty dead.[17]

The Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi described the place in 1992: "The ruins of houses and broken steel bars protrude from beds of wild vegetation. One side of an arched doorway still stands. The western part of the site and the nearby hill are covered with cactus. Cattle barns belonging to the nearby settlement of Ilaniyya stand on the southern and eastern sides of the site. On the northern edge is a wide, deep well with a spiral stairway inside (used for periodic cleaning and maintenance of the well). Fig, doum-palm, and chinaberry trees grow in the area.[14]

People from al-Shajara[edit]

  • Naji al-Ali, cartoonist, assassinated in London 1987.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p73. [1]
  2. ^ Morris, 2004, p xvii village #100. Also gives the cause of depopulation.
  3. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.540
  4. ^ Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter and Kamal Abdulfattah (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. 190.
  5. ^ Thomson, 1860, p.216
  6. ^ Burckhardt, 1822, p.333
  7. ^ Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 541
  8. ^ Thomson, 1860, p.117
  9. ^ Thomson, 1860, p.136
  10. ^ "Recent discoveries in the Galilee", PEFQS, 1887, p.75
  11. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p.361. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.541
  12. ^ Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-10515-0 pp.103-106.
  13. ^ Census of Palestine 1931, village list p85
  14. ^ a b c Khalidi, 1992, p.541
  15. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p123. [2]
  16. ^ Tal, David. (2004).War in Palestine, 1948 Routledge, ISBN 0-7146-5275-X pp.338-340.
  17. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.541. Quoting New York Times. Also, according to the Haganah 'inhabitants fled leaving their dead behind.'


External links[edit]