Panorama from west, 2008
|Name meaning||the house of Mahsîr|
|Date of depopulation||May 10–11, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Current localities||Beyt Me'ir, Mesillat Tziyyon|
Bayt Mahsir (Arabic: بيت محسير) was a Palestinian Arab village in the Jerusalem Subdistrict. It was depopulated during the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine on May 10, 1948 by the Harel Brigade of Operation Makkabi. It was located 9 km west of Jerusalem.
A large medieval oil press, about 10 x 35 meters, was recorded NW of the village in 1947 by representatives from the Palestine Antiquities Department. The representative thought it was from the Ayyubid or Crusader era, later examination of surviving pictures by D. Pringle determined them to be from the Crusader era. It has since been destroyed.
In 1838 Beit Mahsir was noted as a Muslim village, located in the District of Beni Malik, west of Jerusalem.
In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described Beit Mahsir as “a village of moderate size, standing on a hill at the end of the higher spurs overlooking the lower hills on the west. It has olives to the north and a spring to the north-east."
In 1892, P. Baldensperger recounted a story about the 'Ajami of Beit Mahsir, "whose lands were mixed with the village lands, [he] killed several animals which were on his lands. The people thought it was enemies who did it, and one evening they hid themselves, and saw the rider, [..] He asked them what they wanted, and they told him: If thou art the 'Ajami, show us thy lands. The next morning he had shown them by a boundary line all around his lands, and since then, nobody interferes with his grounds. A camel which was feeding on an olive tree was found hanged between its branches; and at another time a jackal was found standing dead with a candle in its mouth at the door of the Makam. Thus the 'Ajami punishes man and beast for going on, or taking anything from his grounds."
In 1896 the population of Bet Mahsir was estimated to be about 258 persons.
British Mandate era
In 1944/5, the village had a population of 2,400 Muslims, and the total land area was 16,268 dunams. Of this, 1,348 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, 6,225 dunams were for cereals, while 77 dunams were built-up (urban) Arab land.
According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, the village remaining structures on the village land are: "Several village houses have been spared, and are for the most part interspersed among the houses of the settlement of Beit Meir. Two large, rectangular-shaped, almost identical houses built of limestone rise above the Israeli settlement's cabin-like residences. The remains of a flour mill, a metal machine with flywheels fitted over a stone structure, can still be seen. There is a wild forest of old trees on the eastern edge of the village site, on top of the mountain. The tomb of al-'Ajami, together with other graves, are among the trees."
The Maqam al-'Ajami, or tomb of al-'Ajami, was examined by Petersen in 1994. It is located south east of the village site, on a hill in the present Hamasrek Nature Reserve. The name is identified by Tawfiq Canaan as coming from Ahmad al-'Ajami, called the Persian, though Canaan doubted that he was of Persian origin. The representative from the Palestine Antiquities Department dated it to the seventeenth century in 1947, a date which Petersen find "not inconsistent" with the architecture of the building.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 286
- Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 24
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 56
- Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #336. Also gives cause of depopulation.
- Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #28.
- Khalidi, 1992, p. 277.
- Pringle, 1997, p. 28
- Petersen, 2002, p. 124
- Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, Appendix 2, p. 123
- Socin, 1879, p. 146
- Hartmann, 1883, p. 140
- Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 16
- Baldensperger, 1893, p. 219
- Baldensperger, 1913, pp. 76-96
- Schick, 1896, p. 125
- Barron, 1923, p. 15
- Mills, 1932, p. 38
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 101
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 151
- Khalidi, 1992, p. 276
- Canaan, 1927, p. 251, cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 125
- meaning "The Persian Sheikh", according to Palmer, 1881, p. 327
- Petersen, 2002, p. 125
- Baldensperger, Philip J. (1893). "Peasant folklore of Palestine". Quarterly statement - Palestine Exploration Fund. 25: 203–219.
- Baldensperger, P. J. (1913). The Immovable East: Studies of the People and Customs of Palestine. Boston.
- Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine.
- Clermont-Ganneau, Charles Simon (1896). [ARP] Archaeological Researches in Palestine 1873-1874, translated from the French by J. McFarlane. 2. London: Palestine Exploration Fund. (p. 63)
- Canaan, Tawfiq (1927). Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine. London: Luzac & Co.
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1883). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology. 3. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Department of Statistics (1945). Village Statistics, April, 1945. Government of Palestine.
- Hadawi, Sami (1970). Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine. Palestine Liberation Organization Research Centre.
- Hartmann, M. (1883). "Die Ortschaftenliste des Liwa Jerusalem in dem türkischen Staatskalender für Syrien auf das Jahr 1288 der Flucht (1871)". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins. 6: 102–149.
- Khalidi, Walid (1992). All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington D.C.: 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. (pp. 233, 235, 237, 345, 371, 376, 380, 407)
- 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.
- Petersen, Andrew (2002). A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine (British Academy Monographs in Archaeology). 1. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-727011-0.
- Pringle, Denys (1997). Secular buildings in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: an archaeological Gazetter. Cambridge University Press.
- al-Qawuqji, Fauzi (1972): Memoirs of al-Qawuqji, Fauzi in Journal of Palestine Studies
- "Memoirs, 1948, Part I" in 1, no. 4 (Sum. 72): 27-58., dpf-file, downloadable
- "Memoirs, 1948, Part II" in 2, no. 1 (Aut. 72): 3-33., dpf-file, downloadable
- Robinson, Edward; Smith, Eli (1841). Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the year 1838. 3. Boston: Crocker & Brewster.
- Schick, C. (1896). "Zur Einwohnerzahl des Bezirks Jerusalem". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins. 19: 120–127.
- Socin, A. (1879). "Alphabetisches Verzeichniss von Ortschaften des Paschalik Jerusalem". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins. 2: 135–163.