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Kafr Yasif

Coordinates: 32°57′17″N 35°9′55″E / 32.95472°N 35.16528°E / 32.95472; 35.16528
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Kafr Yasif
  • כַּפְר יָסִיף, כפר יאסיף
  • كفر ياسيف
Local council (from 1925)
Hebrew transcription(s)
 • ISO 259Kpar Yasip
 • Also spelledKafar Yasif (official)
Kfar Yasif (unofficial)
A street scene in Kafr Yasif, 2006
A street scene in Kafr Yasif, 2006
Kafr Yasif is located in Northwest Israel
Kafr Yasif
Kafr Yasif
Kafr Yasif is located in Israel
Kafr Yasif
Kafr Yasif
Coordinates: 32°57′17″N 35°9′55″E / 32.95472°N 35.16528°E / 32.95472; 35.16528
Grid position165/262 PAL
 • Head of MunicipalityShadi Shweiry
 • Total3,194 dunams (3.194 km2 or 1.233 sq mi)
 • Total10,394
 • Density3,300/km2 (8,400/sq mi)
Name meaning"Village of Yasif"[2]

Kafr Yasif (Arabic: كفر ياسيف, Kufr Yaseef; Hebrew: כַּפְר יָסִיף) is an Arab town in the Northern District of Israel. It is located 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) northeast of the city of Acre and adjacent to Abu Sinan and Yarka. The population of Kafr Yasif is half Christian (52.1%) with the rest Muslim (44.9%), and a small Druze community.[3]


Antiquity and into Early Muslim period[edit]

Many ancient remains have been excavated at Kafr Yasif, including mosaic floors, Corinthian columns, and cisterns cut in rock.[4]

Remains dating to the Persian,[5] Hellenistic (4th-3rd centuries BCE)[5][6] and Roman[5][7] periods have been found here. According to a tradition from Kafr Yasif, cited by F.M. Abel, the village was named Kefar Akko, lit. 'Akko village', until Josephus fortified it and named it after himself.[8]

Remains dating to the Byzantine[5][9][10] and Early Islamic (Umayyad[9]/Abbasid[7]) periods have been found here.[5] Furnaces used in the manufacture of glass; starting in the Byzantine (or possibly Roman) period and continuing into the Umayyad/Abbasid (fifth–seventh centuries CE) era have been found here.[11]

Crusader and Mamluk periods[edit]

Remains dating to the Crusader[5][11][12] and Mamluk[5][7][11] periods have been found in Kafr Yasif.

During the Crusader period, it was known as Cafresi, Cafriasif,[13] or Cafriasim.[14] In 1193, Queen Isabella I and her spouse Henry II of Champagne granted the casale of Kafr Yasif to prior Heinrich of the Teutonic Knights.[15] In the 13th century it was inhabited by Christians and paid tithes to the Bishop of Acre.[16] In 1257 Kafr Yasif appears in a document relating to a disagreement between the Bishop of Acre and the Teutonic Knights about its income.[17] At one point it was a casale of the Knights Hospitallers.[14] It was part of the domain of the Crusaders during the hudna (truce) between the Crusaders based in Acre and the Mamluk sultan Qalawun in 1283.[18]

Ottoman period[edit]

Ancient Jewish tombstone from Kfar Yasif

During Ottoman rule, Kafr Yasif primarily grew olives and cotton.[19] Ottoman tax records from 1596 showed that Kafr Yasif, part of the Safed Sanjak, had a population of 58 Muslim households, seven Muslim bachelors and 19 Jewish households. The villagers paid a fixed tax-rate of 25% on various agricultural products, including wheat, barley, fruit trees, cotton, goats and beehives, winter pastures, jizya (poll tax), in addition to "occasional revenues"; a total of 12,877 akçe. All of the revenue went to a waqf.[20][21] In 1618 the Druze strongman and governor of Safed Fakhr al-Din Ma'n destroyed the home of the Shia Muslim notable Ahmad Quraytim in Kafr Yasif because Quraytim had fled to Fakhr al-Din's rival, the governor of Lajjun Sanjak, Ahmad Turabay.[22]

In the 1740s, ten Jewish households under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Soloman Abadi settled in Kafr Yasif and were joined by a number of other Jews, leaving Safad in the early 1760s as a result of the 1759 earthquakes. According to Jewish travelers, the Jews in Kafr Yasif lived well under the auspices of Zahir al-Umar, the Arab strongman of the Galilee (1730–1775), whose tolerance had allowed for the initial establishment of the village's Jewish community.[23] A map by Pierre Jacotin from Napoleon's invasion of 1799 showed the place, named as Koufour Youcef.[24]

In 1838, Kafr Yasif had a Greek Orthodox Christian majority with Muslim and Druze minorities.[25] In 1880 the village had a population of about 600, of which 500 were Greek Orthodox Christians and 100 were Muslims. A church stood in the village, dated by Guèrin to c. 1740 and its iconostasis contained a number of icons provided by Russia. A stone-cut well, stone reservoirs and troughs, and a stone tower decorated by a carved cross, remaining from a larger fortification, were also to be seen.[26][27][28][29] According to the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine, Kafr Yasif was a stone-built village surrounded by olive groves and arable land, and provided with water from cisterns. The population consisted of 300 Christians, who worshiped at the Greek Orthodox chapel, and 50 Druzes.[28] A population list from about 1887 showed that Kafr Yasif had about 910 inhabitants; three quarters Greek Catholic Christians, one quarter Muslim.[30]

British Mandate[edit]

School in Kafr Yasif, 1950

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Kafr Yasif is listed with a population of 870 residents; 665 Christians, 172 Muslims and 33 Druze.[31] On 1 December 1925, Kafr Yasif became one of the few Arab villages in the Galilee to receive local-council status during the British mandate period. Yani Kustandi Yani served as mayor from 1933 to 1948.[32] The 1931 census of Palestine recorded Kafr Yasif's population as 1,057.[33]

On 14–17 February 1939, during the Arab revolt in Palestine, a group of Palestinian Arab rebels planted a mine on the road near Kafr Yasif which blew up a British vehicle, killing nine soldiers (according to the Arabs) or one soldier and wounding two others (according to the British). The British Army proceeded setting ablaze homes in Kafr Yasif as punishment, burning between 68 and 72 homes before being informed by local residents that Kuwaykat's inhabitants were responsible for the attack. The British troops fatally shot nine Arabs from the direction of Kuwaykat as they approached the village.[34] In compensation, the town was rebuilt by the British with a school and a city hall which are still in use today.[3][35] According to a British chaplain, "The people at Kafr Yasif were very eager to point out that the troops who destroyed their houses were not English but Irish."[35]

In the 1945 statistics, an official land and population survey, Kafr Yasif had a population of 1,400:[36] 350 were Muslim, 1,105 Christians, and 40 were listed as "other" (Druze).[37][38] The village owned 6,763 dunams of land,[36] of which 3,234 were plantations and irrigable land, on 3,310 they grew cereals,[39] while 75 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[40]

Israeli period[edit]

An alleyway in Kafr Yasif, 1952, four years after its capture by Israeli forces

On 8–14 July 1948, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Carmeli Brigade and the 7th Armored Brigade occupied Kafr Yasif as part of the first stage of Operation Dekel.[41] The mayor, Yani Yani, leveraged his contacts with the Druze Ma'di family of neighboring Yirka, which maintained friendly ties with the Israelis, to sign a surrender agreement mediated by the Israeli officer Haim Orbach on 10 July preventing the expulsion of the village's residents.[42] Unlike in many other captured Arab towns, the majority of the population remained, and about 700 inhabitants of nearby villages, especially al-Birwa, al-Manshiyya, and Kuwaykat, took refuge there. On 28 February 1949, most of them were put into trucks and driven to the front lines, where they were forced to cross the frontier border into Lebanon.[43][44] On 1 March, another 250 refugees were deported.[45] Knesset member Tawfik Toubi strongly protested these expulsions.[46]

Kafr Yasif is one of the few Arab towns in the Galilee that retained most of the land it held before 1948.[47] Of 673 hectares owned in 1945, 458 hectares remained in 1962, with 76 hectares expropriated in 1952–1953.[48] On 5 June 1951, the Israeli government reactivated the local council in the only example of an Arab local council that continuously existed after 1948.[32] In the first elections, held in 1954, the former mayor Yani Yani was re-elected mayor as head of a Communist Party and Nationalist Group (Kafr Yassif List) coalition, defeating the Mapai candidate.[49] Yani remained in office until his death in 1962.[32] He became leader of the Arab Popular Front, which evolved into the Al Ard movement. The APF campaigned for the protection of waqf properties in Israel.[50] In 1972–1973, Violet Khoury was elected mayor of Kafr Yasif, making her the first Arab woman to head a local council in Israel.[51] The population remained under martial law until 1966.

The first meeting of the Congress of Druze Intellectuals took place in Kafr Yasif on 26 August 1966. The initiative behind the formation of the congress came from the youth of Druze villages in the Galilee, led by Salman Faraj. When the Druze leadership in the Department of Minority Affairs gained knowledge of the congress's planned meeting and failed to persuade Faraj to postpone it, the spiritual head of the Druze community, Sheikh Amin Tarif locked the gates of the al-Khadr shrine, where the meeting was to be held. The congress was instead held in a nearby house in the town and one of the clauses of the summit expressed Druze solidarity with the other Arab communities of Israel.[52]

Kafr Yasif became the site of the first major violent incident between Christians and Druze in Israel on 11 April 1981. The clash began during a football match between fans of the town's local team and that of the nearby Druze village of Julis; a young man from Julis was fatally stabbed by a Christian from Kafr Yasif. Although reconciliation talks were immediately arranged[by whom?] to prevent further violence, the local council of Kafr Yasif refused to give up the name of the alleged killer. Hundreds of Druze youths from Julis subsequently entered Kafr Yasif, prompting the mayor to call for emergency back-up from the regional police, a request which was denied. On 13 April, about 60 armed police officers positioned themselves in the field between the two villages, and while a sulha (traditional Arab peace agreement) was being negotiated,[53][54] a group of heavily-armed Julis residents stormed the town, burning down 85 houses, 17 stores, a few workshops and 31 cars. A church was also damaged.[53] By the end of the attack three residents of Kafr Yasif had been shot dead and more were wounded. The police did not intervene, with some officers claiming they were not sufficiently armed. None of the attackers, which according to witnesses included some off-duty Druze soldiers from the Israeli Army, were arrested.[55] Most of the compensation for the damage came from the Muslim waqf of Israel and a smaller portion from the World Council of Churches.[56]


A local Greek Orthodox priest (center) in Kafr Yasif, 1950

Kafr Yasif's population was 1,730 in 1950, of which 300 were internally displaced Palestinians and were 60 Druze.[57] In 1951, 27% of Kafr Yasif's 1,930 inhabitants were internally displaced.[58] In the 1961 census there were 2,975 inhabitants (1,747 Christians, 1,138 Muslims and 90 Druzes).[26] In 1995 the population was recorded as 6,700.[57]

In the 2009 census Kafr Yasif had a population of 8,700,[59] with Christians accounting for 56% of the inhabitants, Muslims 40% and Druze 4%.[60]

The largest family in Kafr Yasif is the Safiah.[61]


It is popular belief that the tomb of the monotheistic saint, al-Khadr is located in Kafr Yasif. The site is especially venerated by the Druze, some of whom make annual pilgrimages to the tomb on January 25. The structure is composed of a large convention hall adjacent to the tomb, along with rooms and courtyards that serve both pilgrims and other visitors.[62] Al-Khadr is the Arabic name for Saint George in Christianity. There are four churches and two mosques in the town. The main bishop of the town's Orthodox Christian community is Atallah Makhouli.

Culture and education[edit]

Druze Maqam Al-Khidr in Kafr Yasif.

According to the historian Atallah Mansour, Kafr Yasif is the "most academic Arab town in Israel",[63] while journalist Sylvia Smith calls it "the preeminent [Arab] cultural town".[61] With the near total depopulation of the Palestinian Arabs in the major cities of Haifa and Jaffa as a result of the 1948 war, Kafr Yasif became one of a few villages in the newly-established state of Israel to emerge as a central space for Arab culture and politics.[64] Its schools, proximity and location between major cities and other Arab villages, the relatively equal distribution of land ownership among its households and the diversity brought about by the influx of internally displaced Palestinians all contributed to its local importance.[64] In 1948 it was the only Arab locality in the Galilee to contain a high school outside of the cities of Nazareth, Shefa-Amr and Haifa.[64] Following the war, the high school enrolled students from over fifty Arab villages.[64] Several students, including Mahmoud Darwish, became well-known poets, and the village hosted weekly poetry recitals.[64]

The Rabeah Murkus Dance Studio, Israel's first Arab dance studio, is located in Kafr Yasif. Rabeah Murkus, daughter of former Kafr Yasif mayor Nimr Murkus, also opened a dance study track for Arab high school students authorized by the Israeli Ministry of Education. The track serves 10th–12th graders in several Arab communities in northern Israel.[65] A student of the dance studio, Ayman Safiah, born and raised in Kafr Yasif, became the first Palestinian male ballet dancer and,[61] according to Israeli journalist Esti Ahronovitz, was "considered the first Arab classical-modern dancer".[66] Several thousand mourners attended his funeral in Kafr Yasif on 28 May 2020.[67]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Regional Statistics". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  2. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 44
  3. ^ a b Kafr Yasif (Israel) Municipality Flags and Descriptions.
  4. ^ Dauphin, 1988, pp. 638–39
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Zedan, 2017, Kafr Yasif
  6. ^ Streger, 2020, Kafr Yasif (B)
  7. ^ a b c Abu Raya, 2010, Kafr Yasif (B)
  8. ^ Avi-Yonah 1953, p. 97, note 11.
  9. ^ a b ‘Uqsa, 2021, Kafr Yasif
  10. ^ Streger, 2020, Kafr Yasif (A)
  11. ^ a b c Abu Raya, 2010, Kafr Yasif (A)
  12. ^ Pringle, 1997, p. 119: No Crusader remains had (by 1997) been identified in the village.
  13. ^ Pringle, 1997, p. 119
  14. ^ a b Conder, 1890, p. 31
  15. ^ Strehlke, 1869, p. 25, No. 29; Cited in Röhricht, 1893, RRH, p. 190, No. 710; Cited in Pringle, 2009, p. 132
  16. ^ Ellenblum, 2003, p. 149
  17. ^ Strehlke, 1869, pp. 91–94, No. 112; Cited in Röhricht, 1893, RRH, p. 331, No. 1260; Cited in Ellenblum, 2003, p. 146
  18. ^ Barag, Dan (1979). "A new source concerning the ultimate borders of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem". Israel Exploration Journal. 29: 197–217.
  19. ^ Lewis, 1952, p. 17
  20. ^ Hutteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 191.
  21. ^ Note that Rhode, 1979, p. 6 Archived 2020-03-01 at the Wayback Machine writes that the register that Hütteroth and Abdulfattah studied was not from 1595/6, but from 1548/9.
  22. ^ Abu-Husayn, 1985, p. 107.
  23. ^ Barnay, 1992, p. 156.
  24. ^ Karmon, 1960, p. 162 Archived 2019-12-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, 2nd appendix, p. 132
  26. ^ a b Betts, 1990, pp. 123–24
  27. ^ Guérin, 1880, pp. 4-5; "A midi trente minutes, je parviens à Kefr Yasif, et pendant que l'on dresse ma tente sous un bouquet de vieux oliviers, je vais examiner ce village. Il est assis sur une colline dont les pentes inférieures vers l'ouest sont soutenues par un puissant mur d'appui, aux blocs réguliers, la plupart de grand appareil et antiques. Kefr Yasif renferme 600 habitants, parmi lesquels 100 tout au plus sont Musulmans; les autres appartiennent à la religion grecque schismatique. Ces derniers ont une église qui date de cent quarante ans et dans l'intérieur de laquelle quelques tableaux passables, qui ornent l'iconostase, sont, m'a-t-on dit, un don de la Russie. La construction la plus ancienne du village est une sorte de petite tour carrée, bâtie avec des pierres très régulières, et renfermant une chambre voâtée qu'éclaire un œil-de-bœuf au-dessus duquel une croix a été sculptée au dehors. Elle faisait partie autrefois d'un bâtiment plus considérable, qui a été démoli et remplacé par des maisons toutes modernes. Au bas de la colline du village, vers l'ouest, est un beau puits, profond de 25 brasses et d'apparence antique. Il est construit en pierres de taille. Le réservoir et les auges qui l'environnent sont aussi bâtis avec des pierres de même appareil. A cinq minutes au sud de Kefr Yasif, on me signale l'emplacement d'une ancienne église, dont il ne subsiste plus que le souvenir. De là on a extrait plusiem·s colonnes et de nombreuses pierres de taille. "
  28. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, pp. 146–47
  29. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 169
  30. ^ Schumacher, 1888, p. 172
  31. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Acre, p. 36
  32. ^ a b c Sa'di, Ahmad. "Control and resistance at local-level institutions: A study of Kafr Yassif's local council under the military government", Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 23, 2001, pp. 31–47.
  33. ^ Mills (1932), p. 103
  34. ^ Swedenberg (2003), pp. 107–09.
  35. ^ a b Hughes, Matthew (2009). "The banality of brutality: British armed forces and the repression of the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936–39" (PDF). English Historical Review. CXXIV (507): 314–354. doi:10.1093/ehr/cep002. Archived from the original on 2016-02-21.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  36. ^ a b Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 40
  37. ^ Palestine Government Village Statistics, April 1945 Archived June 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine p. 2.
  38. ^ Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 4
  39. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 80
  40. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 130
  41. ^ Morris (2004), p. 416.
  42. ^ Manna 2022, p. 45.
  43. ^ Freeman, Charles (25 March 1949). Evacuation of Refugees from Kafr Yasif.
  44. ^ Jiryis (1968), p. 57.
  45. ^ Morris (2004), p. 515.
  46. ^ Masalha and Said (2005), p. 27.
  47. ^ Fallah, Ghazi. Arabs versus Jews in Galilee: Competition for regional resources.
  48. ^ Jiryis, S. "The land question in Israel", MERIP Reports, No. 47 (May, 1976) pp. 5–20, 24–26.
  49. ^ Pappe, Ilan (2011). The Forgotten Palestinians. A History of the Palestinians in Israel. Yale. ISBN 978-0-300-13441-4. p. 96.
  50. ^ Pappe (2011), pp. 84–85.
  51. ^ Herzog (1999), p. 175.
  52. ^ Firro (1999), pp. 185–86.
  53. ^ a b McGahern (2011), p. 162.
  54. ^ Mansour (2004), p. 275.
  55. ^ McGahern (2011), p. 163.
  56. ^ McGahern (2011), p. 164.
  57. ^ a b Firro, 1999, p. 141.
  58. ^ Charles Kamen, The Arabs in Israel, 1948–1951, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4 (1987), pp. 453–95.
  59. ^ Population of Localities Numbering Above 2,000 Residents and Other Rural Population Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. p. 2.
  60. ^ McGahern, 2011, p. 46
  61. ^ a b c Smith, Sylvia (11 August 2012). "First Palestinian male ballet dancer battles prejudices". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  62. ^ Dana, 2003, pp. 30–31
  63. ^ Mansour, 2004, p. 256.
  64. ^ a b c d e Shihade 2014, p. 456.
  65. ^ Smorzik, Elad (2011-02-01). "Movement for Equality". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  66. ^ Ahronovitz, Esti (21 February 2008). "Born to Dance". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  67. ^ "Thousands honor drowned dancer Ayman Safiah at his funeral". Jerusalem Post. 28 May 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2020.


External links[edit]