Deir Istiya

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Deir Istiya
Other transcription(s)
 • Arabic دير إستيا
 • Also spelled Deir Istya (official)
Dayr Istiya (unofficial)
Skyline of Deir Istiya, 2015
Skyline of Deir Istiya, 2015
Deir Istiya is located in the Palestinian territories
Deir Istiya
Deir Istiya
Location of Deir Istiya within the Palestinian territories
Coordinates: 32°07′50″N 35°08′24″E / 32.13056°N 35.14000°E / 32.13056; 35.14000Coordinates: 32°07′50″N 35°08′24″E / 32.13056°N 35.14000°E / 32.13056; 35.14000
Palestine grid 163/170
Governorate Salfit
 • Type Village council
 • Head of Municipality Jamal Alfaris[1]
 • Jurisdiction 36,000 dunams (36.0 km2 or 13.9 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 • Jurisdiction 5,200
Name meaning "Monastery of Istiya"[2]

Deir Istiya (Arabic: دير إستيا‎‎) is a Palestinian town of 5,200 located in the Salfit Governorate in the northern West Bank, 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) southwest of Nablus and 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) east of Salfit. The built-up area of Deir Istiya is 74 dunams, and its old city has about thirty families.[3]


The town is named for the nearby tomb of Istiya which, according to ethnographer Tawfiq Canaan and historian Moshe Sharon, is the Arabic name for Isaiah.[4]

Potsherds from Iron Age II, Crusader/Ayyubid and the Mamluk era have been found by at Deir Istiya.[5]

In the 12th and 13th centuries, during the Crusader era, Deir Istiya was inhabited by Muslims, according to Ḍiyāʼ al-Dīn.[6] In 1394 Deir Istiya was required to supply lentils, olive oil and flour as a religious endowment (waqf) to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron on the orders of the Mamluk sultan Barquq.[7] Since the Mamluk era in Palestine, Deir Istiya has been a center of olive-based agriculture. Today, it possesses one of the largest areas of land planted with olive groves, at nearly 10,000 dunams.[3]

Ottoman era[edit]

An old residence in Deir Istiya

Potsherds from the early Ottoman period have been found.[5] The village was a part of Sanjak Nablus in the Ottoman period beginning in the early 16th century. In 1596, Dayr Istya appeared in Ottoman tax registers being in the Nahiya of Jabal Qubal of the Liwa of Nablus. It had a population of 133 households and 12 bachelors, all Muslim. Villagers paid taxes on wheat, barley, summer crops, olives, goats and/or beehives.[8] In the early 17th century, Deir Istiya and nearby Beit Wazan were the ancestral seats of the Qasim family who controlled Jamma'in and most of eastern Sanjak Nablus. The Qasim fortified and made Deir Istiya their primary southern base. The Rayyan clan from Majdal Yaba also exercised some influence over the village.[9] During the "civil war" period in Jabal Nablus (1853–57), the Qasim family, formerly led by Qasim al-Ahmad, vacated Deir Istiya and were said to have sought refuge with the Nimr family in Nablus.[10]

In the second half of the 19th century, the village was ruled by the Abu Hijleh clan, who continue to live there. The Abu Hijleh were dominant in the area, and had great wealth.[11] In 1870 French scholar Victor Guérin remarked that Deir Istiya had been much larger and that it was probably inhabited since "ancient times," noting that in the Mosque of Deir Istiya were marble columns (some with chiseled out crucifixes) dating back to the Christian era in Palestine.[12][13] In 1882 Deir Istiya was described as "a large village on high ground, surrounded with olive-groves, and supplied by cisterns."[14]

British Mandate era[edit]

The British wrested control of Palestine from the Ottomans in 1917, and in 1921, a resident was publicly beat to death in Deir Istiya for allegedly possessing weapons. The British appointed the role of leadership to one branch of Abu Hijleh clan, fomenting rivalry with the other branch. The British established a school in the village in 1923, and during the British Mandate period, Deir Istiya was one of the main villages in central-western Samaria.[15]


After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, it was annexed by Jordan, and from 1950 to 1960, the Palestine Communist Party became prominent in the village earning it the local name of "Little Berlin."


During the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and coalition of Arab states, the village was targeted by Israeli forces. Most of the inhabitants were rounded up, with the women in the mosque and the men in the school, and the mayor Jamal Abu Hijleh was ordered to implement Israeli orders in the village.[15]

Throughout its occupation by Israel, from 1967 to 1990, nearly half of the population emigrated to Kuwait or other Persian Gulf States. In the 1970s local resistance in the form of sumud increased in the village, including the raising of Palestinian flags, graffiti, and blocking roads. As a result, in 1974, about 50 men were arrested and served prison terms ranging from six months to three years.[15]

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has established a nature reserve in the Nahal Kana, occupying privately owned Palestinian farmland which had been worked before the Israeli authorities declared it a park. In 2012 the Israeli Civil Administration ordered local villagers to uproot more than 1,000 olive trees from the area. The residents of Deir Istiya, are contesting the injunction in court. The park, they say, incorporates part of their land, and a double standard is being applied, with Israeli settlements permitted in the area, and a road to one of them built through the park itself.[16]

Islamic structures[edit]

The Mosque of Deir Istiya located in the middle of the village. It consists of three aisles, each having three bays and nearby are the remains of an ancient wall. To the west of the village is the Mosque of Nabi Allah Amisiya, which consists of two aisles and two bays. The mosque is adjacent to Maqam Istiya. It is a square chamber with a dome constructed of small stones.[17] About 50 meters north of Deir Istiya is a shrine for Nabi Khatir who according to inscriptions, died in 1148 CE.[18]


According to Victor Guerin in June 1870, Deir Istiya had roughly 400 inhabitants.[12][19] In the a 1922 census of Palestine it had a population of 674 inhabitants, all Muslim,[20] rising to 886 in the 1931 census, still all Muslim, in a total of 206 houses.[21] The village Statistics, 1945, recorded a population of 1,190, still all Muslim.[22][23] In 1961, while a part of Jordan,[24] there were 1,641 residents, decreasing drastically after its occupation by Israel with nearly half of the residents gradually emigrating mostly to Kuwait.[15] In 1982, there were 1,500 people living in Deir Istiya, rising to 2,100 in 1987.[24]

In a 1997 census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Deir Istiya had a population of 2,802, of which only 2.1% were Palestinian refugees.[25] Over half of the population is under the age of 20 (51.8%). People between the ages of 20 and 44 make up 33.3% of the population, 14.8% between 45 and 64, and 6% over the age of 65.[26] According to the PCBS 2007 Census, the town's population had increased to 3,106.[27]


Old town of Deir Istiya

Compared to other villages in the Salfit District, Deir Istiya has a high percentage of professional workers (doctors, office workers, lawyers). About 20% of the people work in government related jobs, with the Palestinian National Authority, mostly police or teachers. Between 1967 and 1993, most of the working inhabitants were employed mainly in farming or labor in Israel, which the village was highly dependent upon. However, after Israel closed the border in 2000 due to the Second Intifada, most of these laborers turned to farming their own fields.[1]

Deir Istiya has the largest land area in the Salfit Governorate, and the second largest in the West Bank after Tubas. Since the Intifada, agriculture — the backbone of the village's economy — has drastically been reduced. Prior to the violence, there were sixteen goat farms and nine dairy farms, decreasing to five goat farms and one dairy farm presently. Olive oil is the main commodity and there are vast amounts of olive trees. Most of the oil is either exported to the Gulf States or sold to Palestinian merchants.[1] There have been moves, with foreign aid, to improve the quality of locally produced olive oil with the intention of marketing it as a high quality product in Europe under the Zaytoun Fairtrade label. This industry is, however, under pressure as a result of Israeli land confiscations and the destruction of olive groves. In particular, in April 2012, notice was served on Palestinian landowners for the destruction of some 1,400 olive trees.[28]

Prior to the Intifada, 40 families raised livestock, but this dramatically decreased to just five families after the Intifada. Residents claim that the decrease was due to Israel's confiscation of 20,000 dunams of village lands, and fear of attack by Israeli settlers. In 2008, over 70% of the village was unemployed. There are three oil presses and two marble processing plants in Deir Istiya. Marble is supplied by Hebron, Jenin or imported from Italy. About 15 women are employed in a sewing factory where pieces are received and assembled.[1]


A village council of eleven members administrates Deir Istiya. The members are nominated by the prominent families of the village, and are approved by the Palestinian National Authority.[1] In the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections, Fatah won three seats, Hamas won three, the Communist Palestinian People's Party (PPP) won three, including the mayoral seat, and a local group won two seats.[29] PPP member Jamal Alfaris won the post of mayor.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Deir Istiya Village Profile International Women's Peace Service. July 2008.
  2. ^ Palmer 1881, p. 228
  3. ^ a b c Focus of Cultural Heritage Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People. pp. 11-14.
  4. ^ Sharon, 2004, p. 64
  5. ^ a b Finkelstein et al., 1997, p. 487
  6. ^ Ellenblum, 2003, p. 244
  7. ^ Sharon, 2004, pp. 62-63
  8. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 136
  9. ^ Schölch, 1993, p. 184.
  10. ^ Schölch, 1993, p. 215
  11. ^ Doumani, 1995, p. 174.
  12. ^ a b Sharon, 2004, p. 62
  13. ^ Guerin, 1875, p. 160, partly translated in Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 315
  14. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 284
  15. ^ a b c d Deir Istya Village Profile International Women's Peace Service.
  16. ^ Zafrir Rinat, Israel's Civil Administration orders Palestinians to uproot 1,000 young olive trees in nature reserve,, at Haaretz, 1 May 2012.
  17. ^ Sharon, 2004, p. 65
  18. ^ Sharon, 2004, p. 68
  19. ^ Guerin, 1875, p. 160
  20. ^ Barron, 1923, Table IX, Sub-district of Nablus, p. 25
  21. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 61
  22. ^ Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 18
  23. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 59
  24. ^ a b Welcome to Dayt Istiya
  25. ^ Palestinian Population by Locality and Refugee Status Archived May 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  26. ^ Palestinian Population by Locality, Sex and Age Groups in Years Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  27. ^ Census Final Results – Summary (Population, Buildings, Housing, Establishments) Salfit Governorate
  28. ^ "Israeli Occupation Forces demand evacuation of 1400 Olive Trees in Wadi Qana, Salfit". International Women's Peace Service. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  29. ^ Local Elections (Round Three)- Successful lists by local authority and No. of votes obtained Central Elections Commission - Palestine, p.6.


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