|• ISO 259||ʕisp̄íyaˀ|
View of the village
|Grid position||156/236 PAL|
|• Type||Local council|
|• Total||15,561 dunams (15.561 km2 or 6.008 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||The devious (road)|
Isfiya (Arabic: عسفيا, Hebrew: עִסְפִיָא), also known as Ussefiya or Usifiyeh, is an Arab Druze village and local council in northern Israel. Located on Mount Carmel, it is part of Haifa District. In 2015 its population was 10,543. In 2003, the local council was merged with nearby Daliyat al-Karmel to form Carmel City. However, the new city was dissolved in 2008 and the two villages resumed their independent status.
Isfiya was built on the ruins of a Byzantine settlement. Crusader remnants have been found in the village. In 1930, remains of a 5th-century Jewish town, Husifah, were unearthed in Isfiya. Among the finds are a synagogue with a mosaic floor bearing Jewish symbols and the inscription "Peace upon Israel." A cache of 4,500 gold coins were found dating from the Roman period. A building, dating from the second–fourth centuries CE have been excavated, together with ceramics and coins dating from the period.
The Druze came to the village in the early eighteenth century. The inhabitants made their living from olive oil, honey and grapes.
Isfiya was one of only two villages remaining on Mount Carmel after the expulsion of Ibrahim Pasha in 1841. Seventeen other villages disappeared. The village's survival was attributed partly to "the exceptional valour" of the inhabitants, partly to buying protection from a local chief, Aqil Agha.
In 1859, the English consul Rogers estimated the population to be 400, who cultivated 20 feddans of land.
In the 1863, H.B. Tristram visited the village, which he described as Druze and Christian, with a Christian Sheikh. Tristam noted that the women's clothing in this village were much like those of El Bussah, being either "plain, patched or embroidered in the most fantastic and grotesque shapes".
In 1870, the French explorer Victor Guérin found that the village had six hundred inhabitants, almost all Druze, with the exception of sixty, who belonged to the "Schismatic Greeks". Gardens were grown all around the village. Some houses seemed very old and dated, Guérin surmised from the Middle Ages or even earlier, from the time of the Crusades.
In 1881 the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as standing "on the highest part of the Carmel watershed, and the highest house was therefore the trigonometrical station on the ridge. It is a moderate-sized village of stone houses, with a well on the south-west. The inhabitants are all Druses. [..] Corn-land and olives surround the land."
A population list from about 1887 showed that Isfiya had about 555 inhabitants; 480 Druze and 75 Catholic Christians.
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, 'Asfia had 590 Druse, 126 Christians and 17 Muslims, a total population of 733. At the time of the 1931 census, Isfiya had 251 occupied houses and a population of 742 Druzes, 187 Christians, and 176 Muslims; a total of 1105. These counts included the smaller localities Damun Farm, Shallala Farm and El Jalama.
In 1945 the population of Isfiya consisted of 1,790; 180 Muslims, 300 Christians and 1,310 classified as "others", that is, Druze, while the land area was 46,905 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 1,103 dunams were designated for plantations and irrigable land, 17,357 for cereals, while 74 dunams were built-up areas.
During the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine, the villagers initially supported a local rebel group led by Yusuf Abu Durra. However, after local leaders were abducted and murdered, the notables turned to the British, who destroyed the gang. A Druze self-defense force was established that received arms from the British and sometimes coordinated its activities with local Jewish forces.
Isfiya consists of 10543 citizens, 85% of which are Druze, 10% are Christian and about 5% are Muslim, and a few Jewish families . The Christian population is mostly Roman Catholic, with a few Maronite households.
The tomb of Abu Abdallah is located in Isfiya. Abu Abdullah was one of three religious leaders chosen by Caliph Al-Hakem in 996 CE to proclaim the Druze faith. He is said to have been the first Druze religious judge (qadi). The Druze make an annual visit to this shrine on November 15.
Mevo Carmel high-tech park
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- Alternative: Tristram, H.B. (1882). Land of Israel, A Journal of travel in Palestine, undertaken with special reference to its physical character, 4th ed. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. (Isfiya: p. 107- 111)
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