Sunday, 23 May 2010
I came across a short reportage / documentary on one of the first sales of a large plot of land in Palestine to "Jewish investors" and settlers as early as the turn of the twentieth century - i.e. more than 50 years before the establishment of the State of Israel.
The sale occurred at the turn of the twentieth century, the seller was an aristocratic Lebanese family, and the buyer demanded the expulsion of the original inhabitants. Here's the story.
Marj Ibn Amer, or Zar'een Valley, is a large plot of land which lies between the Galilee Heights of northern Palestine and the Nablus Hills in what is now The West Bank. The triangular valley extends between Haifa, Jenin and Tiberias and is some 40km in length and 19km in width.
In Hebrew, the valley is known by its Biblical name, "Amiq Yizra'el" or "Jezreel Valley" (excuse my spelling).
The valley today constitutes an important part of the Northern Governorate in Israel and is occupied by 39 residential settlements - the biggest and most important of is the city of Afula which is known as the "Capital of the Valley" and dates back to the arrival of early Jewish settlers in 1925. Marj Ibn Amer, or Jezreen, is home to 15 Jewish Kibbutzim, 21 Jewish villages and 2 surviving Arab-Bedouin villages (Manshiya Al-Zabda and Suweid Hamira).
The geography of the Galilee and Marj Ibn Amer
The majority of the valley's inhabitants since the turn of the twentieth century have been Jewish since the selling of the valley by the Sursock family, a Greek Orthodox, Beirut-based aristocratic family. A branch of the Sursocks who emigrated to Europe in the mid and late nineteenth century are reported to have sold the valley to European Zionist organisations after having officially bought and registered the purchase of the valley from Ottoman authorities in 1870.
Jezreel Valley / Marj Ibn Amer on a misty morning
The Zionist buyers requested the Sursocks expel the peasantry that occupied the valley upon their purchase of the land paving the way for the establishment of Jewish settlements for the residential purposes of arriving Jewish immigrants from Europe. The Sursocks obliged and expelled the original inhabitants of the valley who were by and large Turkomen-Arab tribes.
Amongst the famous Turkomen-Arab tribes who resided in the valley the following tribes were the largest and to them numerous national figures belonged: 'Ashirat Abu Shousha, 'Ashirat Abou Azreiq, Ashirat Al-Mashareqa, the Ghababsheh family, the Jawabreh family, the Shahadeen and the Bekhit families.
Marj Ibn Amer as seen from the Galilee Hills
For more on the history and genealogy of the tribes of Marj Ibn Amer, you may find a more detailed article on the website of the Iraqi Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. For more background information, Wikipedia has at least two entries on the valley, one in Arabic and another in English.