Umm El Fahem Denies the Jews the Right to a National State / DR.Rivka Shpak Lissak and DR.Shaul Bartal
Umm El Fahem of our time is an Israeli Arab city located in the Valley of Arra, east of the Hadera-Afula road. It gained the status of a city in 1985, and its 43,000 Muslim residents are members of four clans: Agabriya, Jabrin, Mahajna, and Mahamid.
“Umm El Fahem” means “mother of coal”. This name indicates the occupation of the city’s residents at the time of its foundation.
Remains from the Iron Age (i.e., the Israelite period), the Hellenist, Roman, and Arab periods, have been found in archaeological sites around Umm El Fahem, but no information is available about its settlement in those periods.
PRIOR TO THE 13TH CENTURY, UM EL FAHEM WAS A CHRISTIAN SETTLEMENT
In 1695, a book titled “A Tour of Palestine” was published by Adrian Rilandi. Scholars assumed at first that Rilandi wrote an authentic description of what he saw on his tour, but modern scholars doubt he ever set foot in the Land of Israel. The sources he refers to in his book date from the 1st to the 12th centuries (David Sivan, “Rilandi’s Wondrous Journey”, Eretz Hazvi web site).
Rilandi wrote that Umm El Fahem was a Christian settlement with 70 residents and a church. This is a reasonable statement, as we know that at the time of the Mamluk conquest, the neighbouring village Kaikon was populated by Christians. The Mamluks invited Muslims to settle in Kaikon and converted its church into a mosque. The area of Qalanswa, Taibe,
TulKarm, Baqa al Garbiya, and Umm El Fahem was apparently settled by Christians since either the Byzantine or the Crusader period. The Christians either fled ahead of the approaching Mamluks, were expelled, or were killed by them. In place of the Christians, the Mamluks settled Muslim Turkmen nomads. These settlers were tenant farmers for Mamluk military commanders who divided the area among them (Joseph Drori, “The Land of Israel in the Mamluk State, 1260-1516”, in Amnon Cohen (Ed.), ‘Mamluk and Ottoman Rule, 1260-1804’, 1981, pp. 12-20; Joseph Drori, “The Land of Israel as a Secondary Region”, in Joel Rippel (Ed.), ‘History of the Land of Israel’, vol. II, 1989, p. 424).
THE MAMLUK PERIOD (1260 – 1516)
Umm El Fahem, a Muslim Turkmen settlement, was established in 1265 when the Mamluks invited Muslim settlers into the eastern part of the Sharon (ranging from Qalanswa, Taibe, TulKarm, Baqa al Garbiya and Baqa al Sharqiya, to Umm El Fahem). Umm El Fahem is mentioned by the Muslim historian Al Marquizi in 1265.
THE OTTOMAN PERIOD (1516 – 1918)
Fifty residents lived in the village in 1538. There is a tradition that in the 15th century people from the south of the Land of Israel, perhaps from Beit Guvrin, settled in Umm El Fahem.
The scholar Edward Robinson, who visited Umm El Fahem in 1844, states that the village was inhabited, but did not mention the residents’ ethnicity. Rabbi Yaakov Halevi Saphir visited the village in 1853 and reported several thousands of homes, a Christian minority, and a Muslim majority. In 1870, Umm El Fahem’s population numbered 1,800.
Umm El Fahem became famous in the 19th century for its citrons. Joel Moses Solomon, one of the founders of Petah Tikva, visited Umm El Fahem in 1878 to examine whether the citrons were up to the standard required for the Jewish festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Solomon and Rabbi Mounni fought to promote citrons from the Land of Israel in the global citron market, while in the Land of Israel, Ashkenazi and Sephardic merchants competed for a monopoly on the citron market. An advertisement, placed by a Jewish merchant for the sale of citrons from Umm El Fahem, appeared in a Jewish newspaper in 1895. Jews used to travel to the village on the eve of Sukkot to buy citrons.
The village’s economy included also the growing and breeding of cattle, sheep, camels, and racing horses.
Two mosques, Omar Ibn Al Khttab mosque and Caliph Omar mosque, were built in Umm El Fahem at the end of the Ottoman period.
THE BRITISH MANDATE PERIOD (1918 – 1947)
The British Mandate Government census of 1921 counted 2,191 residents in Umm El Fahem, and 2,443 in the 1931 census.
In the years 1936-1939, during the Arab revolt against the British, Umm El Fahem was the base of gangs of Arabs who fought against the British and the Jews in an attempt to remove the British Mandate government and destroy the plan of the Zionist movement to establish a home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Lebanese and Syrian volunteers joined these gangs. The British army attacked the village in 1939, killed many of the gangs’ members and their leaders, and ended their hold of the village.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL
Umm El Fahem was conquered during the War of Independence by the Iraqi army that invaded the country on May 15, 1948. The village was later taken over by the Jordanians, and, following the cease-fire agreement that ended the war, Umm El Fahem ended up within the borders of the new state of Israel. The population of Umm El Fahem at that time numbered 4,500, all of whom were given Israeli citizenship. In 1960 Umm El Fahem’s population numbered 7,000.
Today, Umm El Fahem is a bastion of the Islamic movement in the north of Israel, headed by Ra'ad Salah, of the Mahajna clan, who was the city’s mayor in 1980-2001.
Riots erupted in Umm El Fahem in October 2001. The Wadi Arra road was blocked and three demonstrators were killed. The Orr Committee investigated the event and condemned Ra'ad Salah, Umm El Fahem’s mayor at the time, for his part in inciting violence.
Umm El Fahem is known for its riots. Yet, it has its own television station and three weekly newspapers, and a modern art gallery belonging to the artist Said Abu Shakra.
WHEN DID ARABS FIRST SETTLE IN UMM EL FAHEM AND WHERE DID ITS PRESENT RESIDENTS COME FROM?
One theory is that Arabs first settled in Umm El Fahem in 1832-1840, at the time Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt). He took the land from the Ottomans and brought settlers from Egypt in order to strengthen his hold of the Land of Israel (Mappa Encyclopaedia, vol. 1, p. 39).
Dr. Shlomo Arye Ben Elkannah surveyed more than 800 Arabic villages in the Land of Israel west of the Jordan River in 1943-1947. He concluded that many of Umm El Fahem’s settlers were first generation migrants: in 1943 there were 1,400 residents of Egyptian origin, about 900 from the Arab Peninsula, and about 500 from the Trans-Jordan. Altogether there were 2,800 people living in Umm El Fahem in 1943.
Dr Shaul Bartal has translated information from Umm El Fahem’s website, regarding the family history of its residents (http://www.um-elfahem.net/content/2008/07/08/135; http://www.um-elfahem.net/content/2008/05/27/23 . Umm El Fahem’s residents belong to four clans: Aghbariya, Jabrin, Mahajna, and Mahamid.
THE MAHAMID CLAN
Mahamid is a descendent of Mahmoud Bin Abdoul Aziz Assamaqi. Jabrin, head of the Jabrin clan (the Jabrin neighbourhood is named after him) also descends from Assamaqi and is Mahamid’s brother.
Families of the Mahamid clan reside in Umm El Fahem (particularly in the Mahamid neighbourhood), although some have left for other places in Israel and abroad. The Mahamid clan includes 14 families, all of whom reside in the Mahamid neighbourhood.
The tribes of Mahamid originated in Saudi Arabia and have scattered through most of the Ara- populated countries in the Middle East. They include:
The Mahamid tribe that settled in Carac (Jordan) after leaving Saudi Arabia;
The Mahamid tribe in the Horan, Syria;
The Mahamid tribe in Amman, Jordan;
The Mahamid tribe in Al Balqa (name not certain), Jordan;
The Mahamid tribe in the Sahara;
The Mahamid tribe living in the area between Mecca and Medina (this is the original tribe from which the others descended);
The Mahamid tribe in the west of Lybia;
The Mahamid tribe in Tunisia, Chad, and Niger;
The Mahamid tribe in Umm El Fahem.
One tradition holds that the tribe descended from the tribe of Banu Selim, but another tradition holds that it descended from the tribe of Banu Hashim, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Mahamid tribes scattered in Lybia, the Sahara, and Africa in two waves during the 11th century, as part of Arabic conquests.
The Mahamid tribe in Jordan moved there before the Hijara, in the 6th century CE.
Members of the Mahamid tribe in Palestine used to reside in Beth Shean until 1948, and have relatives in Jedida and the new Dabouriye.
The information in the website does not clarify when this clan arrived in Umm El Fahem. It is estimated they arrived about 350 years ago, i.e., at the beginning of the 18th century.
Other families joined the Mahamid clan:
The Alhassane family came to Umm El Fahem from Yemen about 150 years ago and settled in the Mahamid neighbourhood. Some members of the family settled in the village Umm El Zeinat, and moved to Umm El Fahem after the village was destroyed in 1948.
Egyptian families that came with Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha in 1831, and settled in the Mahamid neighbourhood, include the families of Al Habob, Al Qabati, Al Zatam, Heikal, and Haj Ali Barakat.
THE JABRIN CLAN
All branches of the Jabrin family descend from Jabrin Bin Abdoul Aziz Assamaqi and originated in Saudi Arabia. The Jabrin clan is made up of twelve families, living in the Jabrin neighbourhood.
The Jabrin clan has been joined by other families:
Egyptian families that came following Ibrahim Pasha’s conquest in 1832-1840:
The Abu Hassin family;
The Abu Salem family;
The Al Balabasa family from the Balabas village in Egypt, with relatives in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria;
The Abu Jaadem family (considered part of the Suwalha family);
The Marrad family from Zakzaq in Egypt.
Families from Judea and Samaria:
The Suwalha family – from the district of Hebron, settled in Umm El Fahem 350 years ago (this means that the Mahamid clan that is related to Mahmoud, the brother of Jabrin, settled in Umm El Fahem around the same time) How is this connection made?
The Al Kaoud family – belongs to the Jabrin neighbourhood since 1948 only; they descend from the Jaradat family of the Al Silla village. Members of the family settled in Umm El Fahem before 1948;
The Miazana family – the family’s forefather, Mahmoud, came from the village of Jit, near Nablus, probably in 1854 (he appears by this name in the Ottoman census of that year).
Families from the Arab Peninsula:
The Al Hasiniya family – originally from the Hejaz, this family left the village of Tal Assafi in the district of Hebron about 250 or 300 years ago.
THE AGBARIYA CLAN
The name Agbariya (pronounced Arbariya) may mean a flawless house (from aghbar – flawless), dust (from ghabar – dust), or hill. The name comes from the description of the village or town the family’s forefather left more than 300 years ago. The village Aghbar is in Yemen, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. The family first settled in the district of Hebron, then moved to Umm El Fahem. They have relatives in Nablus.
The clan includes 20 families, some original and others who attached themselves to the clan:
The Abu Hafitha family came from Jordan to Umm El Fahem about 150 years ago;
The Al Barghal family originated from the Hejaz, and settled first in Lajun. In 1948 they moved to Umm El Fahem, while a member of the family moved to Syria and started his own clan there;
The Abu Farwah family came from Lybia, settled first in Sebastia (in Samaria) and moved to Umm El Fahem at an unknown date;
The Al Habitat family came from a village near Damascus, Syria, about 200 years ago;
The Al Haseri family came from Algiers in 1831.
In a post titled “A Short History of the Black Point” (www.eretzaheret.co.il) Ayman Agbariya wrote that his family came from Egypt and belongs to the Abu Said clan.
THE MAHAJNA CLAN
This clan is made up of about 20 families. It originated in the Mahajan village in the Horan, Syria. The clan moved to Umm El Fahem about 300 years ago, at the end of the 17th century. Clan members are divided over whether they were Muslim from the start, or Druze who converted to Islam after settling in Umm El Fahem. Ra'ad Salah, head of the Islamic Movement, belongs to this clan.
Families that joined this clan include:
The Badeer family -- moved to Umm El Fahem from Carac, Jordan, 150 years ago;
The Abu Nasser family -- originally from the Hejaz, first settled in Al Saffi near Hebron, and moved to Umm El Fahem after the village was destroyed in 1948;
The Shuwikhat family came from Iraq. The family’s forefather lived in Safed until 1948, then brought his family over [from Iraq?} and settled in Umm El Fahem. The family has branches in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan;
The Sheikh Zayed family came from the village Yabed near Jenin and settled in Umm El Fahem about 200 years ago. A branch of the family lives in Nablus. The family came originally from Saudi Arabia at an unknown date;
The Al Ghasala family came from Yemen 200 years ago and settled first in the village Baka el Khatib near Nablus. The family moved to Umm El Fahem following the marriage of one of its members.
The Nahiya family immigrated from the village Al Salhiya in Egypt to Khan Yunes at an unknown date. From there it moved to the village Arabe near Jenin. From there it moved recently to Umm El Fahem;
The Al Zitawi family moved to Umm El Fahem from the village Zaita in the West Bank 100 years ago;
The Al Ham family came from the village Beit Atab in Judea about 200 years ago;
The Al Jaba’a family moved to Umm El Fahem from the village Jaba near Nablus following a recent marriage;
The Abu Shakra family moved 150 years ago from the village Zebida near Jenin to Kafr Qara, then to Umm El Fahem. The family has branches in Jordan and Khan Yunes;
The Haj Yunes family moved to Umm El Fahem from Cana. Their origin and their arrival date are unknown;
The Mahama family moved to Umm El Fahem from Masmiya, near Gedera, in 1948;
The Abu Ra’ad family came from the village Kabab near Ramle in 1948. The family has branches in Qalanswa and Illut, Nablus, Jordan, and Kuwait.
The Mahajna clan is thus made up of a mix of families. The core family originated in Syria, and was joined by families from Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Iraq, and villages in Judea, Samaria, the Galilee, and the Judean Plains.
This bastion of the Islamic movement, which claims that the Land of Israel has been Arabic land from time immemorial without a Jewish past, and that the Jews are European colonialists, turns out to be populated by migrants from the Arabic world who arrived in the Land of Israel between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 19th: Some came from Egypt 187 years ago, in the middle of the 19th century, others from the Arab Peninsula and the Saudi-Yemen border 350 years ago, at the end of the 17th century, some from Judea and Samaria 100-200 years ago, some from Lybia, Algiers, and Syria, some from villages in Israel in 1948, with Ra'ad Salah’s clan moving in from Syria at the end of the 17th century.
So according to this Arab-Israeli source, the Arabic settlement in Umm El Fahem only began at the end of the 17th century, joined by Egyptian migration in the mid-19th century.
The Palestinians claim that this land is Arabic land from time immemorial and the Jews have no claim to it. How many years do settlers in a new land require to become its natives or legal owners of the land? In the case of the Jewish people – never; they are forever foreigners:
Iraq – the first Jews were settled in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) at the end of the 7th century BCE by the Assyrian conquerors who exiled them from the Kingdom of Israel. A second wave of Jewish exiles arrived in the 6th century after the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judea. A large and prosperous Jewish community lived in Iraq for 2700 years, yet since the Arabs conquered Iraq in the 7th century CE, Jews were seen as the foreigners and Arabs as lords of the land.
Spain – Jews first settled in Spain in the 6th century BCE, and lived there until they were exiled at the end of the 15th century CE -- nearly 2000 years. The Arabs conquered Spain at the beginning of the 8th century CE and were finally removed from it at the end of the 15th century. The Jews were always considered foreigners in both Muslim and Christian Spain, yet the Arabs, who lived there for only 600 years claim to this day that Spain belongs to them (Bin Laden has vowed to bring Spain back to Islam).
Europe – the first Jews settled in Europe during the 1st century BCE. Jews lived in Europe for about 2000 years, yet were always considered foreign, until Hitler’s Final Solution eliminated them from most of the countries of this continent.
It does not matter how many hundreds or thousands of years Jews had resided outside the Land of Israel – they were always foreign and had no right to the land. Yet the people of Umm El Fahem, who have been living here for 150 – 350 years, claim the country is theirs.
The Jewish People lived in the Land of Israel since the 12th century [Israel Knohl cites the 13th century based of Merneptah’s Stella] and comprised the majority of the population until the 2nd century CE, that is, for 1400 years. From the 2nd to the 6th centuries CE, the Jewish population decreased, as a result of the Roman/Byzantine policy of eliminating the Jewish majority, from 750,000-800,000 to 150,000-200,000 (a larger number than the number of Arabs living in the Land of Israel according to the Ottoman census of 1525/26, which counted a population of only 120,000). Yet, according to the people of Umm El Fahem, the Jews have no rights to this land. The Arabs, on the other hand, need only 350 years in order to own it.
Ra'ad Salah, who is of Syrian descent, goes even further and claims that Jews never lived here and that the Jews of today do not descend from the Jews of the past. This claim has been completley refuted by historical and genetic research.
Hanin Zouabi, the Member of Knesset from the Balad party, whose clan was invited by the Ottomans to move to the Land of Israel from Irbid in the Trans-Jordan in 1873, demands exclusive ownership of this land on the basis of only 137 years of residence. Her Balad party demands the replacement of the Jewish State with a “State of all its residents”. The Jews, according to Balad, have no right to a state of their own, and the “state of all its residents” (a politically correct term for creating a Palestinian majority through the Right of Return) is to be established alongside another Palestinian state in the West Bank. The Palestinians, who declared their nationality less than 100 years ago, deserve to have a state of their own, but the 3000 year old Jewish People does not. Why? Because the Palestinians deny the very existence of the Jewish People. Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat has stated that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality, while Mahmoud Abbas has declared that he will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
All this brings to mind the words of the Jewish national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik:
If Justice exists, let it be seen immediately
Yet if it shall be seen after I am annihilated from beneath the sky
May its seat be forever overthrown.
DR.S.Bartal teaches Middle Eastern studies at Bar Ilan University