Alma, Safad

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Etymology: from personal name[1]
Alma is located in Mandatory Palestine
Coordinates: 33°3′20″N 35°29′28″E / 33.05556°N 35.49111°E / 33.05556; 35.49111Coordinates: 33°3′20″N 35°29′28″E / 33.05556°N 35.49111°E / 33.05556; 35.49111
Palestine grid196/273
Geopolitical entityMandatory Palestine
Date of depopulationOctober 30, 1948[4]
 • Total19,498 dunams (19.498 km2 or 7.528 sq mi)
 • Total950[2][3]
Cause(s) of depopulationMilitary assault by Yishuv forces
Current LocalitiesAlma[5]

Alma (Arabic: علما‎) was a Palestinian Arab village in the Safad Subdistrict, Mandatory Palestine. It was depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War on October 30, 1948 during Operation Hiram. It was located 10 km north of Safad.

In 1945 it had a population of 950. Alma had several nearby khirbas and architectural fragments with inscriptions from an ancient synagogue.


Alma was situated in the heart of upper Galilee in the middle of a fertile plain, about 4 km south of the Lebanese border.[6] Ceramics from the Byzantine era have been found here.[7]

The Crusaders called the village "Alme." Several ancient ruins remain and three inscribed architectural fragments in Hebrew and Aramaic from an ancient synagogue were found on the surface of the village site between 1914 and 1957.[6]

While travelling though the region in the 12th century CE, Benjamin of Tudela noted that Alma contained fifty Jewish inhabitants and a "large cemetery of the Israelites."[8]

Remains of a ruined watch-tower was found on the crest of the ridge, and a quarter of a mile south of those there were three perfect dolmens, not very large.[9]

Ottoman era[edit]

At the beginning of the period of Ottoman rule over Palestine, an Italian traveller to Alma in 1523 noted that there were 15 Jewish families there and one synagogue.[10] In the Ottoman tax registers of 1596, the village is listed as forming part of the nahiya ("subdistrict") of Jira in the liwa' ("district") of Safad.[11] It had a relatively large population of 1,440,[12] consisting of 288 Muslim households and 140 Muslim bachelors, together with seven Jewish households and one Jewish bachelor. The village paid taxes on goats, beehives, a water-powered mill, and a press that was used for processing olives or grapes.[11][13] Total tax revenue amounted to a substantial 51,100 akce.[12] Alma's prosperity was attributed to its close proximity to Safad.[14]

The village was totally destroyed in the earthquake of January 1837.[15] Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, who travelled to the region in 1838, give the full name of the village as 'Alma el-Khait (Arabic: علماالخيط‎).[16]

James Finn, the British consul to Jerusalem who travelled around Palestine between 1853 and 1856, describes the village of Alma as being situated in an area in which volcanic basalt was abundant. Around the village, women and children were gathering olives from the trees by beating them with poles and then collecting the fallen fruit. He notes that the small district in which the village is located is known by the locals as "the Khait" (Arabic for "string") and that they "boast of its extraordinary fertility in corn-produce."[17]

Victor Guérin visited in 1875, and noted that 200 Muslim inhabitants lived there.[18] In The Survey of Western Palestine (1881), Alma is described as a village built of stone with about 250 "Algerine Mohammedan" residents, situated in the middle of a fertile plain with a few gardens.[19]

A population list from about 1887 showed Alma to have about 1,105 Muslim inhabitants.[20]

British Mandate period[edit]

The population of Alma in the 1922 census consisted of 309 Muslims,[21] increasing to 712 Muslims in 148 occupied houses by 1931.[22]

In the 1945 statistics, the population had reached 950,[2][23] still all Muslim.[24]

The villagers were heavily involved in agriculture, including raising livestock and growing crops, particularly grain and fruit and their orchards were concentrated on the northern and northwestern outskirts of the village.[6] During the 1942/43 season olive trees were recorded as being grown on 750 dunums of village land, making it the largest area devoted to olive growing in the whole district of Safad.[6] The trees in 550 dunums were bearing fruit. In 1944–45 some 983 dunums was irrigated or used for orchards and a total of 7,475 dunums was allocated to cereal farming.[6][25]

The village comprised a total area of 19,498 dunums of which 17,240 dunums was run by Arabs and the rest public. The population of the village was entirely Arab in ethnicity and Muslim in religion.[25] They had their own mosque as well as an elementary school, which pupils from al-Rihaniyya also attended.

A large number of inhabitants were employed in cereal farming, which occupied about 38% of the land area.[25] Some land was also allocated for irrigation and plantation, and the growing of olives.

1948 war and aftermath[edit]

The village was attacked by the Israeli forces in Operation Hiram on 30 October 1948. Israeli historian Benny Morris has documented that Alma was the one village in the area where the villagers were uprooted and/or expelled by the Israeli forces, in spite of the fact that they had not offered any resistance.[27]

In 1949, the Israeli moshav of Alma was built about 0.5 km east of where the built-up portion of the former village was located.

Today Alma is a fenced-in site and the rubble remains of the houses which are covered in thorny grasses. Israeli farmers still cultivate fruit and olives there.[6]


  1. ^ Palmer, pp. 66, 17, 61
  2. ^ a b c d Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 69 Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 9
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvi, village #33. Also gives cause of depopulation
  5. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxii, settlement #162.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Khalidi, 1992, pp. 432–433.
  7. ^ Dauphin, 1998, p. 647
  8. ^ Benjamin of Tudela in Thomas Wright. Early Travels in Palestine. Courier Corporation; 2003. ISBN 978-0-486-42871-0. p. 89.
  9. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 220
  10. ^ Schwarz, 1850, p. 385.
  11. ^ a b Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 177
  12. ^ a b Petersen, 2005, p. 133.
  13. ^ Note that Rhode, 1979, p. 6 writes that the register that Hütteroth and Abdulfattah studied was not from 1595/6, but from 1548/9
  14. ^ Petersen, 2005, p. 42.
  15. ^ Nicholas N. Ambraseys (1997). "The earthquake of 1 January 1837 in Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel". Annali di Geofisica. XL (4): 923–935. doi:10.4401/ag-3887.
  16. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, Second Appendix, p. 134.
  17. ^ Finn, 1877, p. 108
  18. ^ Guérin, 1880, pp. 445-6
  19. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p.196. Also quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 432.
  20. ^ Schumacher, 1888, p. 189
  21. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, p. 41
  22. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 105
  23. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 432
  24. ^ United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Village Statistics, April 1945, p. 4 Archived June 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ a b c d Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 118 Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 168 Archived 2014-11-01 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 475


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