Suba, Jerusalem

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Remains of the Suba village square and surrounding buildings, formerly the Belmont Castle courtyard
Suba is located in Mandatory Palestine
Arabic صوبا
Name meaning The heap[1]
Also spelled Soba, Sobetha, Zova
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°47′5″N 35°7′26″E / 31.78472°N 35.12389°E / 31.78472; 35.12389Coordinates: 31°47′5″N 35°7′26″E / 31.78472°N 35.12389°E / 31.78472; 35.12389
Palestine grid 162/132
Population 620,[2] (1945)
Area 4,102 dunams
Date of depopulation 13 July 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Tzova,[4] Yedida school

Suba (Arabic: صوبا‎‎) was a Palestinian Arab village west of Jerusalem that was depopulated and destroyed in 1948. The site of the village lies on the summit of a conical hill called Tel Tzova (Hebrew: תל צובה‎‎), or Jabal Suba, rising 769 metres above sea level, and it was built on the ruins of a Crusader castle.


Archaeological findings[edit]

Belmont castle was excavated by archaeologists in 1986-9.[5] Middle Bronze Age cairn-tombs have been excavated in the neighborhood of the ruined Arab village, though the site itself has not yielded artifacts from before the late Iron Age. The place can perhaps be identified with Σωρης mentioned in the Greek version of Josh. 15:59.[5][6] There has also been a tentative identification with the Tzova in 1 Samuel 14:47 and 2 Samuel 23:36.[6] In the later Roman period, the site was mentioned in rabbinical sources as Seboim. Until the mid-19th century, Christian pilgrims mistakenly identified the site with Modi'in, the origin of the Maccabees.[5]

Excavations on a plastered cave on the grounds of Kibbutz Tzova identified as the Cave of John the Baptist began in March 2000.[7]

Belmont Castle[edit]

It has been suggested that Suba was Subahiet, one of 21 villages given by King Godfrey as a fief to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.[8][9] In 1114, the gift was re-confirmed by Baldwin I of Jerusalem.[10]

A "Brother William of Belmont" was mentioned in Crusader sources in the years 1157[11] and 1162,[12] he might have been castellan at Belmont.[13]

Sometime before 1169, the Crusaders built a castle there called Belmont, run by the Hospitallers.[6] In 1170 an unnamed castellan was mentioned.[13][14] Today, parts of the northern and western Crusader wall remain, as well as ruins of a tower and other structures. These include large underground cisterns, some pre-dating the Crusader period.[6][15][16]

Belmont Castle was taken by Saladin in 1187.[13][17] According to the chronicles it was destroyed by him in 1191[18] but no trace of the destruction was located during the archaeological investigation.[5]

Settlement at the site continued, and it was mentioned as "Suba", a village of Jerusalem, about 1225 by Yakut.[6][19]

Ottoman era[edit]

Suba, like the rest of Palestine, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and in the tax registers of 1596, there were 60 Muslim and 7 Christian families living there. The village economy relied on wheat, barley, olives and grapes.[6][20]

In the mid-nineteenth century, the village was controlled by the Abu Ghosh family. The Crusader walls and the fortifications they built in the village were destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha in 1834.[21][22][23]

The French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village on 30 April 1863.[24] An Ottoman village list of about 1870 showed that Suba had 33 houses and a population of 112, though the population count included only men.[25]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Suba had a population 307, all Muslims,[26] increasing in the 1931 census (when it was counted with Dayr 'Amr) to 434 Muslims, in 110 houses.[27]

In 1945 the population of Suba was 620, all Muslims,[2] who owned 4,082 dunams of land according to an official land and population survey.[2][28][29] 1,435 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 712 for cereals,[2][30] while 16 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[2][31]

1948, and after[edit]

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the village saw fierce fighting, due to its key location near the Jerusalem highway. In late 1947 and early 1948, irregular forces of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood stationed in Suba took part in the fighting against Jewish forces, including attacks on Jewish traffic on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road. The village was attacked several times by the Haganah, and finally conquered by the Palmach during the night of July 12–13 as part of Operation Danny. Most of the inhabitants had fled during the fighting, and those who remained were expelled.[32] In October 1948, the "Ameilim" group of Palmach veterans established a kibbutz called Misgav Palmach on village lands 1 km to the south. Later it was renamed Tzova.[21]

Today Tel Tzova is a national park[citation needed] surrounded by the lands of the kibbutz. The ruins of the village are visible along with remains of Belmont Castle.

The history of the village of Suba is the subject of two books, one by Ibrahim ‘Awadallah published in Amman, Jordan in 1996, and another by Muhammad Sa’id Muslih Rumman in the West Bank, published in 2000.[33]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 329
  2. ^ a b c d e Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 25
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #353. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #32.
  5. ^ a b c d R.P. Harper and D. Pringle (2000), Belmont Castle, The excavation of a Crusader Stronghold in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-727009-3
  6. ^ a b c d e f R.P. Harper and D. Pringle, Belmont Castle: A historical notice and preliminary report of excavations in 1986, Levant, Vol XX, 1988, pp 101-118. Same authors, Belmont Castle 1987 : Second preliminary report of excavations, Levant, Vol XXI, 1989, pp 47-62.
  7. ^ TFBA - Directory of Projects: Suba Excavations
  8. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 11
  9. ^ Conder, 1890, p. 32
  10. ^ de Roziére, 1849, p. 263, cited in Röhricht, 1893, RRH, pp. 16 - 17, No 74
  11. ^ Röhricht, 1893, RHH, p. 85, No. 329
  12. ^ Röhricht, 1904, RHH Ad, p. 22, No. 379b
  13. ^ a b c Pringle, 1998, p. 332
  14. ^ Röhricht, 1893, RHH, p. 126-7, No. 480
  15. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, pp. 157 -158
  16. ^ Pringle, 1997, p. 96
  17. ^ Abü Shâmâ (RHC Or, iv), p. 303
  18. ^ Ambroise, 1897, p. 407, lines 6835 -69
  19. ^ le Strange, 1890, p. 538
  20. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 115
  21. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, pp. 317-319.
  22. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p.18.
  23. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 2, pp. 328-330
  24. ^ Guérin, 1868, pp. 265 -278
  25. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 161
  26. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 15
  27. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 43
  28. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 58
  29. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 316
  30. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 104
  31. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 154
  32. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 436
  33. ^ Rochelle Davis: Peasant Narratives Memorial Book Sources for Jerusalem Village History, January 2004, Issue 20 Jerusalem Quarterly


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