Ruins in Al-Shajara, April 10th 2003.
|Name meaning||"the Tree"|
|Date of depopulation||May 6, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
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.
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.
A party of French cavalry was apparently stationed in the village during Napoleon's campaign of 1799. 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, 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. He also noted the great oak woods in the vicinity.
Victor Guérin visited in 1875, and "discovered the ruins of a rectangular edifice built of cut stones, and oriented from west to east. Its height is 31 feet, and its breadth 18 feet 8 inches. Six monolithic columns decorated the interior, which they divided into two naves. Capitals are lying about on the ground, apparently of Byzantine style. This church was used for a mosque, for the traces of a mihrab are to be seen at the south end. On a fine slab, lying on the ground, are read the Greek letters ΔOKI, each about four and a half inches high, and on a second slab the letter Δ placed above a I."
Mr Schumacher found old graves and other antiquities when he explored the area in the 1880s. 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.
In 1907, the residents of the nearby Jewish settlement of Sejera moved onto land within the village boundaries after buying it from the Sursock family. This triggered attacks from al-Shajara residents.
British Mandate era
In the 1931 census, the population was recorded as 559 Muslims and 28 Christians, which had increased to 770 when the last estimate was made in 1945. In 1944/45 the village had 2,102 dunams of land used for cereals, and 544 dunams irrigated or used for orchards.
1948, and aftermath
During the 1948 War, the Arab Liberation Army defending al-Shajara battled Israeli forces in the village in early March. It was captured by Israel on May 6, 1948 by the 12th Battalion, Golani Brigade — the entire population fled leaving twenty dead.
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.
People from al-Shajara
- Naji al-Ali, cartoonist, assassinated in London 1987.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 134
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 73
- Morris, 2004, p xvii village #100. Also gives the cause of depopulation.
- Khalidi, 1992, p.540
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 190.
- Thomson, 1860, p.216
- Burckhardt, 1822, p. 333
- Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 541
- Thomson, 1860, p.117
- Thomson, 1860, p.136
- Guérin, 1880, p. 183 -184, as given in Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 414
- Schumacher, 1889, pp. 75-79
- Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p.361. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.541
- Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-10515-0 pp.103-106.
- Mills, 1932, p. 85
- Khalidi, 1992, p.541
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 123
- Tal, David. (2004).War in Palestine, 1948 Routledge, ISBN 0-7146-5275-X pp.338-340.
- Khalidi, 1992, p.541. Quoting New York Times. Also, according to the Haganah 'inhabitants fled leaving their dead behind.'
- Alexandre, Yardenna (2011-12-19). "Ilaniyya Final Report" (123). Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel.
- Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine.
- Burckhardt, Johann Ludwig (1822). Travels in Syria and the Holy Land. J. Murray.
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1881). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology 1. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Dauphin, Claudine (1998). La Palestine byzantine, Peuplement et Populations. BAR International Series 726 (in French). III : Catalogue. Oxford: Archeopress. (p. 725]
- Guérin, Victor (1880). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine (in French). 3: Galilee, pt. 1. Paris: L'Imprimerie Nationale.
- Hadawi, Sami (1970). Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine. Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center. (p. 173)
- Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (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. ISBN 3-920405-41-2.
- Khalidi, Walid (1992). All that Remains. Washington DC: Institute for Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
- Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine.
- Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-00967-6.
- Palmer, E. H. (1881). The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected During the Survey by Lieutenants Conder and Kitchener, R. E. Transliterated and Explained by E.H. Palmer. Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Schumacher, G. (1889). "Recent discoveries in the Galilee". Quarterly statement - Palestine Exploration Fund 21: 68–78.
- Thomson, William McClure (1860): The Land and the Book: Or, Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery, of the Holy Land Vol II
- Welcome to al-Shajara
- SWP map VI, IAA
- SWP map 6, Wikimedia commons
- Shajara from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center
- Al-Sajarah, from Dr. Moslih Kanaaneh
- Tour to A-Shajra, November 25, 2006 Zochrot
- Booklet about Shajara, downloadable, from Zochrot