|• Also spelled||Taqua (official)
|• Type||Municipality (from 1997)|
|• Head of Municipality||Khaled Ahmad Hamida|
|• Jurisdiction||590 dunams (0.6 km2 or 0.2 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||"The ruin of Tekua", or "the place for pitching tents"|
Tuquʿ (Arabic: تقوع, also spelled Teqoa) is a Palestinian town in the Bethlehem Governorate, located 12 km southeast of Bethlehem in the West Bank. It includes three other localities: Khirbet Ad Deir, Al Halkoom, and Khirbet Tuqu’. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Tuqu' had a population of 8,881 in 2007.
The town is a part of the 'Arab al-Ta'amira village cluster, along with Za'atara, Beit Ta'mir, Hindaza, Khirbet al-Deir and al-Asakra. Tuqu has a municipal jurisdiction of over 191,262 dunams, but its built-up area consists of 590 dunams, as 98.5% of the village's land is classified by Israel as Area C or Nature Reserves, and 1.5% as Area A. Situated in the immediate vicinity is the Israeli settlement of Tekoa.
According to biblical sources, Ephrathites from Bethlehem and the Calebites from Hebron founded Tuqu' (Tekoa). Jewish encyclopedia Isidore Singer notes that "the Greek text of a passage (Joshua 15:60) lost in the Hebrew places it, together with Bethlehem and other towns of the hill-country of Judah, south of Jerusalem". The land was described as a "desert" in (2 Chronicles 20:20) but (Amos 1:1) suggests the land is reasonable for shepherding. Strong's concordance has the town's literal meaning from Hebrew to English means, "a stockade." Gesenius's lexicon uses "the pitching" in reference to tents. 
Tuqu' was captured by the Muslim army during the Muslim conquest of Syria and by time, several of its inhabitants converted to Islam. There was a significant nomadic Bedouin presence in the village's vicinity.
Tuqu' was known as "Casal Techue" by the Crusaders who conquered Palestine in 1099. Its Christian residents welcomed the Crusaders. Medieval chronicler William of Tyre relates that the Christians of the village aided the Crusaders during the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099, by guiding them to local springs and food sources. Many of the villagers also joined the Crusader army.
In 1108, the Russian traveler Abbot Daniel noted that it was "a very big village" with a mixed Christian and Muslim population. The Bedouin in the village's vicinity are mentioned in a transaction in which Casal Techue was exchanged for the rights of a church in Bethany called the "Church of the Holy Sepulcher". A manor house was built by the Crusaders in the village, suggesting a Crusader settlement alongside the local population.
Zengid forces captured Casal Techue in 1138. The Knights Templar under Robert the Burgundian managed to recapture the town easily, but experienced their first military defeat when Zengid forces counterattacked, leaving the area between the town and Hebron "strewn with Templar bodies" according to William of Tyre. He blamed the Templars' defeat on their failure to pursue fleeing Muslim forces which allowed them to regroup just outside Casal Techue.
Tuqu', like all of Palestine, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517. According to an Ottoman census in 1526, 82 families lived in the village, 55 of which were Christians. In 1596 the village appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 62 Muslim households and five Christian households. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives, vines or fruit trees, and goats or beehives.
French explorer Victor Guérin visited the place in 1863, and he described finding the remains of a church almost completely destroyed, and an octagonal baptismal font, carved into a monolithic block of reddish limestone, measuring a meter and ten centimeters deep inside, and one meter thirty centimeters in diameter. On different sides of the octagon crosses were carved. At the bottom of the baptismal font the water flowed through an opening into a tank.
The Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine in 1883 wrote that Khurbet Tequa "seems to have been large and important in Christian times. It is still inhabited by a few persons living in the caves [...] There is also a very fine octagonal font about 4 feet high and 4 feet 3 inches diameter of inscribed circle; on every other side is a design. Two of these designs represent crosses, a third is a wreath, the fourth is formed by two squares interlaced diagonally to one another. The font is of good reddish stone."
Over the years, Israel has illegally confiscated 1436 dunums of Tuqu's land for the construction of three Israeli settlements: Tekoa, Gush Etzion, Mitzpe Shalem, and a resort, Mshoki Dargot. In addition, the settlers have constructed various outposts.
In May 2001, after the killing of two Israeli boys outside the nearby Israeli settlement of Tekoa, Tuqu' was temporarily sealed off by the Israeli Army. Consequently, residents could not reach their jobs in Bethlehem and Israel, and shepherds could not reach grazing lands outside the village.
Archaeology and landmarks
The Byzantines erected a church around 300 CE in the honor of the Hebrew prophet Amos which is visible today through its remains. The ruins consist of a double cave over what was a baptismal font, mosaic floors, and a Monophysite monastery is located near the tomb. At least since the 4th century CE his tomb has been reputed to be in the village of Tekoa. Byzantine ceramics have been found. In the archaeological site Khirbet Tuqu', located about two kilometers east of Tuqu'. Nearby are the remains of a Byzantine church and monastery.
Various ruins were seen at the site in the mid-19th century. These included the walls of houses, cisterns, broken columns and heaps of building stones, some of which had “bevelled edges” which supposedly indicated Hebrew origin.
Outside Tuqu', adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Tekoa is Wadi Khreiton ("Chariton Valley"). The valley is notable for containing three prominent caves inhabited since the Paleolithic era: Umm Qatfa, Umm Qala'a and Erq al-Ahmar. The latter was inhabited since 8,000 BCE and traces of fire have been found in Umm Qala'a, dating back 500,000 years.
According to a 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Tuqu' had a population of 4,890 inhabitants. There were only 24 Palestinian refugees, making up 0.5% of the population. There were 2,534 males and 2,356 females. Tuqu's population grew to 8,881 in the 2007 PCBS census. There were 1,368 households, with the average household size consisting of between six and seven members. The gender ratio was 49% women and 51% men.
Tuqu' currently has a Muslim majority and there are ten mosques in the town. They are the following: Abu Bakr as-Siddik Mosque, Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque, al-Sahaba Mosque, al-Tawba Mosque, Abd al-Rahman Ibn 'Oof Mosque, Zaid Ibn Haritha Mosque, al-Abbas Mosque and Salah ad-Deen Mosque, al-Ansar Mosque and Ali Ibn Abi Talib Mosque. Most of the inhabitants belong to the 'Arab al-Ta'amira tribe. Principal clans include Badan, Jibreen, Sha'er, 'Emur, Nawawra, 'Urooj, Abu Mifrih, az-Zawahra, Sbeih, at-Tnooh, Sleiman and Sabbah.
Agriculture, particularly livestock, dominates Tuqu's economy. Dairy is produced and sold in local markets and in Bethlehem. Industry is virtually nonexistent, although there is a stone quarry and brick factory in the town. Unemployment is high at about 50% and mostly caused by Israeli restrictions on movement and access to the labor market in Israel proper as a result of the Second Intifada between 2000-04.
As of 2008 around 45% of Tuqu's workforce was employed in the Israeli labor market while another 30% worked in agriculture. The remainder of economic activity was split between employment in the Palestinian government or trade and services. Efforts have been made to attract tourists. A municipal center was built near the ruins of a Byzantine church in Tuqu'. Tuqu' is well known for its vegetables.
Tuqu' has been located in Area B since 1995, thus giving the Palestinian National Authority control over its administration and civil affairs. Originally, twelve tribal elders managed the town, but unable to plan and carry out internal improvements, they ceded their power to a council of younger men. The 13-member municipal council was established in 1997 to administer Tuqu' as well as the villages of Khirbet al-Deir, al-Halqum and Khirbet Tuqu' which were put under Tuqu's jurisdiction. Its first mayor, Suleiman Abu Mufarreh, initiated the construction of the municipal hall and recovered Tuqu's stolen baptismal font, relocating it to the front of the municipal hall.
Tuqu' is governed by a municipal council consisting of eleven members, including the mayor. In the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections, the Hamas-backed Reform list won the majority of the seats (eight), while the independent local United Tuqu' list won three. Reform member Khaled Ahmad Hamida won the post of mayor, succeeding Raed Hamida.
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