Remaining structures of az-Zeeb (today a recreational area), including its mosque, 2009
|Also spelled||l-Zib, al-Zaib, Achzib|
|Date of depopulation||May 14, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Current localities||Gesher HaZiv, Sa'ar,|
Az-Zeeb (Arabic: الزيب, also spelled al-Zib) was a Palestinian Arab village located 13.5 kilometres (8.4 mi) north of Acre on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Mentioned in the Bible by its ancient name "Achzib", evidence of human settlement at the site dates back to the 18th century BCE. By the 10th century BCE, it was a prosperous and fortified Phoenician town. Conquered by the Assyrian empire in the 8th century BCE, it was subsequently ruled by the Persians. During the rule of the Roman Empire, it was known as "Ecdippa". Arab geographers were referring to it as "az-Zeeb" by the early Middle Ages.
In 1146, the Crusaders established a settlement there protected by a castle and named "Casale Huberti" or "Casal Humberti", after Hubert of Pacy which held the casale and is documented in 1108. There are descriptions of the castle and village by Arab chroniclers in the 12th and 13th centuries, just prior to and during the rule of the Mamluks in the region. The Arab name of the village was az-Zeeb. Incorporated into the Ottoman empire in the early 16th century, by its end it formed part of the subdistrict of Akka. Its inhabitants cultivated various crops and raised livestock on which they paid taxes to the Ottoman authorities.
At the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, most of the families in az-Zeeb made their living from fishing and agriculture, particularly fruit cultivation. Just before the official end to Mandate rule on May 14, 1948, az-Zeeb was attacked by captured by the Haganah's Carmeli Brigade. The town was depopulated and razed to the ground. The Israeli localities of Sa'ar and Gesher HaZiv were established on the village lands in 1948 and 1949. A domed mosque from the village has since been restored and serves as a tourist site, and the house of the last mukhtar (village headman) is now a museum.
The Arabic name of the village, az-Zeeb is a shortened form of the site's original ancient Canaanite/Phoenician name, Achzib. Achzib is mentioned in the Book of Joshua (19:29) and Book of Judges (1:31) as a town assigned to the tribe of Asher, but they did not manage to conquer it from the Phoenicians, and archaeological evidence indicates that it was Phoenician.
Human settlement at the site dates to as early as the 18th century BCE, and by the 10th century BCE it was a walled town. A tell in az-Zeeb excavated between 1941–44 and 1959-1964 found evidence of settlement from the Middle Bronze Age II, through the Roman period and the Early Middle Ages.
Positioned on a passage between the plain of Acre and the city of Tyre, Achzib was an important road station. Between the 10th and 6th centuries BCE, it was a prosperous town, with public buildings and tombs with Phoenician inscriptions, attesting to the identity of its inhabitants at the time. Conquered by the Assyrians in 701 BCE and listed in Sennacherib's annals as Ak-zi-bi, the continuation of Phoenician settlement through this period and during the decline endured during the Persian period, is evidenced in 5th and 4th century BCE Phoenician inscriptions that were found at the site. Also mentioned in the writings of Pseudo-Scylax, the site likely regained some importance in Hellenistic times. During the Roman period, the imperial authorities called it Ecdippa. At the end of the Roman era, a pottery workshop was located here. By the Early Middle Ages, Arab geographers were referring to the area as "az-Zeeb".
With the arrival of the Crusaders and after the fall of Acre in 1104, "Casal Imbertia" or "Lambertie" was established there. During the Crusader era, it expanded and became the main centre of a large estate with the same name, Casal Imbert. Lefiegre, Le Quiebre and La Gabassie were all part of this estate.
It is first mentioned in Crusader sources in 1123, as a village belonging to Hubert of Pacy. Under Baldwin III, European farmers settled there sometime before 1153. In 1198, King Aimery gave a large part of the income from Az-Zeeb to the Teutonic Order. Arab geographer Ibn Jubayr toured Palestine in 1182 and mentioned az-Zeeb as a large fortress with a village and adjoining lands between Acre and Tyre.
In 1226, Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi described az-Zeeb as a large village on the coast whose name was also pronounced "az-Zaib". In 1232 it was the site of the Battle of Casal Imbert between German and French Crusaders as part of the War of the Lombards. In 1253 King Henry gave the whole estate of Casal Imbert to John of Ibelin. Shortly after, in 1256, John of Ibelin leased Az-Zeeb and all its depending villages to the Teutonic Order for 10 years. In 1261, the whole estate was sold to the Teutonic Order, in return for an annual sum for as long as Acre was in Christian hands. In 1283 the village was mentioned as part of the domain of the Crusaders, according to the hudna (truce) between the Crusaders in Acre and the Mamluk sultan Qalawun.
In the early 16th century, az-Zeeb was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, and by 1596, it was a village in the nahiya (subdistrict) of Akka, part of Sanjak Safad with a population of 875. It paid taxes on several agricultural items including, wheat, barley, "summer crops", fruits, cotton, beehives, goats, and water buffalo. The 18th century Islamic judge and scholar Abu al-Ali az-Zibi was born in the village.
A map by Pierre Jacotin from Napoleon's invasion of 1799 showed the village, named as Zib. British traveler James Silk Buckingham describes az-Zeeb in 1816 as a small town built on a hill near the sea with few palm trees rising above its houses. During the period of Egyptian rule in Palestine, the sheikh (chief) of az-Zeeb, Said al-Sabi, joined the 1834 peasants' rebellion against governor Ibrahim Pasha. He was arrested and exiled to Egypt by the authorities in the summer of that year because of his participation.
In 1875, when Victor Guérin visited, Az-Zeeb had 500 Muslim inhabitants. Guérin noted that the hill on which it was built had formerly been surrounded by a wall, traces of which were still to be seen on the east side. By the late 19th century, most of the village houses were built of stone, a mosque and a clinic had been established, and the residents cultivated olives, figs, mulberries, and pomegranates. The population consisted of about 400 Muslims. In 1882, the Ottomans established an elementary school in az-Zeeb.
A population list from about 1887 showed that Kh. ez Zib had about 730 inhabitants, all Muslim.
British Mandate era
Az-Zeeb became a part of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922. In the 1922 census of Palestine Al Zib had a population of 804; 803 Muslims and 1 Christian, where the one Christian was a Roman Catholic. The population had increased in the 1931 census to 1059, all Muslims, in a total of 251 houses.
The main economic sectors in the village were fishing and agriculture, particularly fruit cultivation, including bananas, citrus, olives, and figs. There were four olive presses: two mechanized and two animal-drawn. Between 1927 and 1945, the village's annual fish catch was 16 metric tons. In 1945, the population of Az Zeeb was 1,910, all Muslims, with a total land area of 12,607 dunams. Of this, 2,973 dunams were used for citrus and bananas, 1,989 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, 4,425 were for cereals, while 62 dunams were built-up (urban) areas.
Just prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, on May 14, 1948, az-Zeeb was captured by the Haganah's Carmeli Brigade, being one of the main places targeted in Operation Ben-Ami. According to Haganah accounts, the residents immediately "fled upon the appearance of Jewish forces, and the Haganah command decided to hold on to [it]." However, Israeli historian Benny Morris states that the Haganah had a "long account" with az-Zeeb because it was a center of Arab resistance and that most of the inhabitants fled after the village was hit with a mortar barrage by the Haganah. Morris also writes that two IDF companies reported in mid-May 1948 that they were "attacking al Zib with the aim of blowing up the village".
Eyewitness accounts from among the villagers indicate that they mistook the incoming Israeli forces for Arab reinforcements because they had donned red and white keffiyehs, and that these forces quickly overwhelmed the local militia of 35-40 men. Many of the inhabitants fled to Lebanon or nearby villages, but many also remained in az-Zeeb until they were relocated by the Israeli authorities to the Arab coastal town of Mazra'a. Carmeli Brigade Commander Moshe Carmel ordered az-Zeeb to be razed to the ground to "punish" the villagers and ensure they could not return. Villagers later complained that the Haganah had (as in al-Sumayriyya and al-Bassa) "molested or violated" a number of women.
According to Walid Khalidi in 1992;
All that remains of the village is the mosque, which has been restored for tourism, and the house of the mukhtar Mahmoud Husayn Ataya, which is now a museum. The house is relatively large and made of masonry. The stone mosque has a dome and a large decorative arch on the front facade.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 60
- Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 5
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 41
- Morris, 2004, p. xvii, village #79. Also gives the cause for depopulation
- Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #54. January 1949
- Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #18. August 1948
- Crusader: Casel Imbert, casale Huberti de Paci, Casale Lamberti, Castellum Ziph, Qasale Imbert/Siph; Hebr. Akhziv; in Pringle, 1997, p. 110
- Pringle, 1998, pp. 384-385
- Murray, 2000, p. 210.
- Lipinski, 2004, pp. 302-3
- Khalidi, 1992, p.35.
- Avshalom-Gorni, 2006, Akhziv
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- Khalidi, 1992, p.36.
- Schumacher, 1888, p. 172
- Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Acre, p. 36
- Barron, 1923, Table XVI, p. 49
- Mills, 1932, p. 104 Zib, Ez
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 82
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