Umm al-Fahm

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Umm al-Fahm
  • אֻם אל-פַחְם
  • أم الفحم
Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-Fahm is located in Israel
Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-Fahm
Coordinates: 32°31′10″N 35°09′13″E / 32.51944°N 35.15361°E / 32.51944; 35.15361Coordinates: 32°31′10″N 35°09′13″E / 32.51944°N 35.15361°E / 32.51944; 35.15361
Grid position 164/213 PAL
Country  Israel
District Haifa
 • Type City (from 1985)
 • Mayor Khaled Aghbariyya
 • Total 26,060 dunams (26.06 km2 or 10.06 sq mi)
Population (2015)[1]
 • Total 52,500
Name meaning Mother of Charcoal[2]

Umm al-Fahm (Arabic: أمّ الفحم‎‎, Umm al-Faḥm; Hebrew: אֻם אל-פַחְםUmm el-Fahem) is a city which is located 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest of Jenin in the Haifa District of Israel. In 2015 its population was 52,500,[1] nearly all of whom are Arab citizens of Israel.[3] The city is situated on the Umm al-Fahm mountain ridge, the highest point of which is Mount Iskander (522 metres (1,713 feet) above sea level), overlooking Wadi Ara. Umm al-Fahm is the social, cultural and economic center for residents of the Wadi Ara and Triangle regions.


Umm al-Fahm means "Mother of Charcoal" in Arabic.[2] The village was surrounded by natural forests which were used to produce charcoal.[citation needed]


Several archaeological sites around the city date to the Iron Age, as well as the Hellenistic, Roman, and Islamic periods.[citation needed]

Mamluk period[edit]

In 1265 C.E. (663 H.), after Baybars won the territory from the Crusaders, the revenues from Umm al-Fahm were given to the Mamluk na'ib al-saltana (viceroy) of Syria, Jamal al-Din al-Najibi.[4]

Ottoman period[edit]

In 1517 the village was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire with the rest of Palestine, and in 1596 it appeared in the tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Sara of the Liwa of Lajjun. It had a population of 24 households, all Muslim, and paid taxes on wheat, barley, summer crops, olive trees, occasional revenues, goats and/or beehives, and a press for olive oil or grape syrup.[5]

In 1838, Edward Robinson noted Umm al-Fahm on his travels,[6] while the French explorer Victor Guérin found in 1870 that it had eighteen hundred inhabitants and was surrounded by beautiful gardens.[7]

In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described Umm al-Fahm as having around 500 inhabitants, of which some 80 people were Christians. The place was well-built of stone, and the villagers were described as being very rich in cattle, goats and horses. It was the most important place in the area besides Jenin. The village was divided into four quarters, el Jebarin, el Mahamin, el Mejahineh, and el Akbariyeh, each quarter having its own sheikh. A maqam for a Sheikh Iskander was noted on a hill above.[8]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Umm al-Fahm had a population of 2,191; 2,183 Muslims and 8 Christians,[9] increasing in the 1931 census to 2443; 2427 Muslim and 16 Christians, in 488 inhabited houses.[10]

Umm al-Fahm was the birthplace of Palestinian Arab rebel leader Yusuf Hamdan. He died in Umm al-Fahm during a firefight with British troops.[11]

In 1945 the population was counted together with other Arab villages from the Wadi Ara region, the first two of which are today part of Umm al-Fahm, namely Aqqada, Ein Ibrahim, Khirbat el Buweishat, al-Murtafi'a, Lajjun, Mu'awiya, Musheirifa and Musmus. The total population was 5,490; 5,430 Muslims and 60 Christians,[12] with 77,242 dunams of land, according to the official land and population survey.[13] 4332 dunams were used for plantations and irrigable land, 44,586 dunams for cereals,[14] while 128 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[15]

State of Israel[edit]

Signing oath of allegiance to the Israeli government, 1949

In 1948, there were 4,500 inhabitants, mostly farmers, in the Umm al-Fahm area. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Lausanne Conference of 1949 awarded the entire Little Triangle to Israel, which wanted it for security purposes. On 20 May 1949, the city's leader signed an oath of allegiance to the State of Israel. Following its absorption into Israel, the town's population grew rapidly (see box). By 1960, Umm al-Fahm was given local council status by the Israeli government. Between 1965 and 1985, it was governed by elected councils. In 1985, Umm al-Fahm was granted official city status.[citation needed]

In October 2010, a group of 30 right-wing activists led by supporters of the banned Kach movement clashed with protesters in Umm al-Fahm.[16] Many policemen and protesters were injured in the fray.[17]

Historical population 1955–2011
Year Pop. ±%
1955 6,100 —    
1961 7,500 +23.0%
1972 13,400 +78.7%
1983 20,100 +50.0%
1995 29,600 +47.3%
2008 45,000 +52.0%
2010 47,400 +5.3%
2011 48,500 +2.3%
Source: [18]

Local government[edit]

The growing influence of fundamentalist Islam has been noted by several scholars.[vague][19][20][21][22]

Since the 1990s, the municipality has been run by the Northern Islamic Movement. Ex-mayor Sheikh Raed Salah was arrested in 2003 on charges of raising millions of dollars for Hamas. He was freed after two years in prison.[23] Sheikh Hashem Abd al-Rahman was elected mayor in 2007.[24] He was replaced in November 2008 by Khaled Aghbariyya.[25]

In a survey of Umm al-Fahm residents conducted by and published in the Israeli-Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab in July 2000, 83% of respondents opposed the idea of transferring their city to Palestinian jurisdiction.[26]

Because of the proximity to the border of the West Bank, the city is named very often as a possible candidate for a land-swap in a peace treaty with the Palestinians to compensate land used by Jewish settlements. The latest proposal by Avigdor Lieberman for a population exchange was rejected by Israeli Arab politicians as ethnic cleansing.[27]


Since the establishment of Israel, Umm al-Fahm has gone from being a village to an urban center that serves as a hub for the surrounding villages. Most breadwinners make their living in the building sector. The remainder work mostly in clerical or self-employed jobs, though a few small factories have been built over the years.[citation needed] According to CBS, there were 5,843 salaried workers and 1,089 self-employed in 2000. The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker was NIS 2,855, a real change of 3.4% over the course of 2000. Salaried males had a mean monthly wage of NIS 3,192 (a real change of 4.6%) versus NIS 1,466 for females (a real change of −12.6%). The mean income for the self-employed was 4,885. 488 residents received unemployment benefits and 4,949 received an income guarantee. In 2007, the city had an unofficial 31 percent poverty rate.[23]


According to CBS, there are a total of 17 schools and 9,106 students in the city: 15 elementary and 4 junior high-schools for more than 5,400 elementary school students, and 7 high schools for more than 3,800 high school students. In 2001, 50.4% of 12th grade students received a Bagrut matriculation certificate.

Arts and culture[edit]

Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery

The Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery was established in 1996 as a venue for contemporary art exhibitions and a home for original Arab and Palestinian art. The gallery operates under the auspices of the El-Sabar Association.[28] Yoko Ono held an exhibition there in 1999,[29] and some of her art is still on show. The gallery offers classes to both Arab and Jewish children and exhibits the work of both Arab and Jewish artists. In 2007, the municipality granted the gallery a large plot of land on which the Umm al-Fahm Museum of Contemporary Art will be built.[23] The architects are Amnon Bar Or, Lior Tsionov and Lior Vitkon.[30]

Green Carpet is an association established by the residents to promote local tourism and environmental projects in and around Umm al-Fahm.[3]


The city has several football clubs. Maccabi Umm al-Fahm currently play in Liga Leumit, the second tier of Israeli football. Hapoel Umm al-Fahm played in Liga Artzit (the third tier), prior to their folding in 2009. As of 2013, Achva Umm al-Fahm play in Liga Bet (the fourth tier)[31] and Bnei Umm al-Fahm play in Liga Gimel (the fifth tier).[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "List of localities, in Alphabetical order" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 16 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Palmer, 1881, p.154
  3. ^ a b Zafrir, Rinat (2007-12-03). "Green Cities / Wasting away". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  4. ^ Ibn al-Furat, ed. Lyons and Lyons, I, 101, II, 80; Cited in Petersen, 2001, pp. 308–309
  5. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 160
  6. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol. 3, pp. 161, 169, 195
  7. ^ Guérin, 1875, p. 239
  8. ^ Conder & Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p.46
  9. ^ Barron, 1923, Table IX, Sub-district of Jenin, p. 30
  10. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 71
  11. ^ *Patai, Raphael (1970), Israel between East and West: a study in human relations, Greenwood Pub. Corp, p. 232 
  12. ^ Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 17
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 55
  14. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 100
  15. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 150
  16. ^ "Riot police called in as Arabs and extremists face off in Israel". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  17. ^ , Esther. "إثر مسيرة استفزازية نفذها العشرات من أنصار اليمين". Al-Arabiya. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  18. ^ "Statistical Abstract of Israel 2012 – No. 63 Subject 2 – Table No. 15". Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  19. ^ Bassam Eid. "The Role of Islam in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" (PDF). Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. 
  20. ^ David Rudge. "Strong Islamic Sentiment Drives Arab Elections" (PDF). Jerusalem Post. 
  21. ^ Gordis, Daniel. "Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End". John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  22. ^ Israeli, Raphael. "Fundamentalist Islam and Israel: essays in interpretation". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1993. p 95.
  23. ^ a b c Prince-Gibson, Eetta (2007-11-08). "Land (Swap) for Peace?". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  24. ^ Ashkenazi, Eli (2004-03-30). "Umm al-Fahm Mayor Welcomes Possible Return of Lands". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  25. ^ "The Results: Umm al-Fahm". Mynet. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  26. ^ MEMRI – Israeli Arabs Prefer Israel to Palestinian Authority Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Israeli Arabs reject proposed land swap, Al-Jazeera on 13. January 2014
  28. ^ "Umm el-Fahim Art Gallery". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  29. ^ Patience, Martin (2006-03-10). "Israeli Arab Gallery Breaks Taboos". BBC. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  30. ^ "Architect’s Statement, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery website". Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  31. ^ a b "The Israel Football Association". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 


Further reading[edit]

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