Bayt Daras

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Bayt Daras
Bayt Daras.jpg
Old structure from Bayt Daras, presently in Azrikam
Bayt Daras is located in Mandatory Palestine
Bayt Daras
Bayt Daras
Arabic بيت دراس
Name meaning "The house of treading corn"[1]
Also spelled Beit Daras, Baydarās-Badarās, Dāris[2] Bethduras[3]
Subdistrict Gaza
Coordinates 31°43′24″N 34°40′58″E / 31.72333°N 34.68278°E / 31.72333; 34.68278Coordinates: 31°43′24″N 34°40′58″E / 31.72333°N 34.68278°E / 31.72333; 34.68278
Palestine grid 120/125
Population 2,750[4][5] (1945)
Area 16,357[5] dunams
16.3 km²
Date of depopulation May 11, 1948[6]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Giv'ati[7][8] Emunim[8] Azrikam[8]

Bayt Daras (Arabic: بيت دراس‎‎) was a Palestinian Arab town located 32 kilometers (20 mi) northeast of Gaza and approximately 50 meters (160 ft) above sea level, which was depopulated in 1948.[8]


Bayt Daras was an archaeological site that contained stone foundations and vaulted rooms. The Crusaders built a castle on the hill that overlooked the village.[8][9][10] During the Mamluk rule in Palestine, (1205-1517), Bayt Daras formed part of a mail route from Cairo to Damascus. In this period, in 1325, a khan, or caravanserai, was built in the village.[2][8]

Ottoman era[edit]

In 1517, Bayt Daras was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire with the rest of Palestine, and in 1596 the village appeared in the Ottoman tax registers as being in the nahiya (subdistrict) of Gaza under the Liwa of Gaza, with a population of 319. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on goats, beehives and vineyards.[11]

French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village in 1863, and found it to have 700 inhabitants.[12] In the 1882 Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP), the village of Bayt Daras was described as being surrounded by gardens and olive groves, and it was bordered to the north by a pond.[13]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bait Daras had a population of 1,670 inhabitants, all Muslims,[14] increasing in the 1931 census of Palestine, to 1,804, still all Muslim, in 401 inhabited houses.[15]

In 1945 Beit Daras had a population of 2,750, all Muslims,[4] with 16,357 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey.[5] Of this, 832 dunams were allocated to citrus and banana plants, 472 plantations and irrigable land, 14,436 used for cereals,[16] while 88 dunams were built-up land.[17]

1948 War and aftermath[edit]

Bayt Daras was subject to military assault four times,[18] and was defended by the Sudanese Army and a number of local militiamen and, according to Ramzy Baroud, subjected to heavy shelling on March 27–28, 1948, in which nine villagers died and much of the crops were destroyed.[19][20] The objective of the Palmach's operational plan, 'Operation Lightning' (Mivtza Barak) was to compel the Arab inhabitants of the area to 'move' and by striking one or more population centres to cause an exodus, which was foreseen given the wave of panic that was sweeping Arab communities after the Deir Yassin massacre.[19] Bayt Daras was targeted to be surrounded, to have the villagers surrender and hand over their arms, and if this order was resisted, it was to be mortared, stormed and 'dealt with in the manner of scorched earth'. It was finally captured by military assault on May 11, 1948 by the Givati Brigade during Operation Barak, just prior to the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.[21] The village suffered some 50 casualties, and many houses were then blown up, and wells and granaries sabotaged.[22] Bayt Daras had a population of 3,190 living in 709 houses in 1948. In Baroud's account, a massacre took place as people fled the village.[19]

Israeli army camp at Bayt Daras, 1948

According to the memoirs of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the empty village was reoccupied by Sudanese forces in June, but they left after a signaling error caused them to be shelled by their own side.[23]

Structures in the village were made of stone foundations with vaulted rooms. There were also two elementary schools and two mosques, all of which were demolished after its capture.

Following the war the area was incorporated into the State of Israel. In 1950 the moshav of Giv'ati was built on the site of the village, with two other moshavim, Azrikam, Emunim, established on land that had belonged to Bayt Daras.[8] Later in the 1950s a farm called Zemorot was built on Khirbat Awda, which had also belonged to Bayt Daras.[24]


A woman's thob (loose fitting robe with sleeves) dated to about 1930 from the village of Beit Daras is part of the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) collection at Santa Fe. The dress fabric is called abu hizz ahmar (black cotton ground with purple, orange and green stipes of cotton and silk), from Majdal. The only embroidery on the front is below the neck opening. The back panel has three horizontal bands of embroidery, and a local version of the khem-el-basha ("the pashas tent") motif along the hem.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 266
  2. ^ a b Sharon, 1999, p. 229
  3. ^ Ellenblum, 2003, p. XX
  4. ^ a b Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 31
  5. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 45
  6. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xix, village #282, Also gives cause of depopulation.
  7. ^ Morris, 2004, p.xxi, settlement #65, 1949-1950
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Khalidi, 1992, p. 87
  9. ^ 545, 546 in 1177 CE, in Röhricht, 1893, p. 145
  10. ^ Ellenblum, 2003, p. 202
  11. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 146. Quoted and estimated in Khalidi, 1992, p. 87
  12. ^ Guérin, 1869, p. 81
  13. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, II:409. Also quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.87
  14. ^ Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8
  15. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 2
  16. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 86
  17. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 136
  18. ^ Saleh Abdul Jawad, 'Zionist Massacres: the creation of the Palestine Refugee Problem,' in Eyal Benvenisti, Chaim Gans, Sari Hanafi (eds.) Israel and the Palestinian Refugees, Springer 2007 pp.59-127 p.81 n.60.
  19. ^ a b c Ramzy Baroud, 'Beit Daras and a buried history of massacres,', in Asia Times, 16 April 2013.
  20. ^ My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story, Pluto Press, 2010
  21. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 256-257
  22. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 256
  23. ^ Gamal Abdul Nasser and Walid Khalidi (1973). "Nasser's Memoirs of the First Palestine War". Journal of Palestine Studies. 2 (2): 3–32. doi:10.1525/jps.1973.2.2.00p0045r. 
  24. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 88
  25. ^ Stillman, 1979, p. 76


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