Al-Qastal, Jerusalem


al-Qastal hill
Arabic القسطل
Name meaning "castellum" or castale[1]
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°47′44″N 35°8′39″E / 31.79556°N 35.14417°E / 31.79556; 35.14417Coordinates: 31°47′44″N 35°8′39″E / 31.79556°N 35.14417°E / 31.79556; 35.14417
Palestine grid 163/133
Population 90[2] (1945)
Area 1,446 dunams
1.4 km²
Date of depopulation April 3, 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces

Al-Qastal ("Kastel", Arabic: القسطل) was a Palestinian village located eight kilometers west of Jerusalem named for a Crusader castle located on the hilltop. Used as a military base by the Army of the Holy War, the village was captured by the Palmach in the lead up to the Arab-Israeli War and depopulated of its residents.


Crusader period

A Crusader castle called Belveer or Beauverium was built there around 1168 CE. It is listed among the castles destroyed by Sultan al-Adil I in 1191–2 CE. No trace remains today of the castle.[4] Belveer is mentioned in a letter from Eraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, dated September 1187, in which he describes the slaughter of Christians "by the sword of Mafumetus the Unbeliever and his evil worshipper Saladin" and the Arab conquest of the town, which was renamed Qastal.[5]

Ottoman period

In 1863, Victor Guérin found modern buildings on ancient ruins. He noted that the village belonged to the Abu Ghosh clan.[6]

In 1883, al-Qastal was described as "a small stone village in a conspicuous position on a rocky hill-top" with springs to the east.[7]

British Mandate period

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Qastal had a population 43, all Muslims,[8] increasing in the 1931 census to 59; 55 Muslims and 4 Christians, in a total of 14 houses.[9] In 1944/45, the village, with a population of 90 Muslims,[2] had a total of 42 dunums of land allocated to cereals. 169 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, including 50 dunams of olive trees.[10][11]

1948, aftermath

Palestinian irregulars moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948

In 1948, al-Qastal was a key position on the Jaffa-Jerusalem road and was used by Arab forces to attack Jewish relief convoys so as to prevent them from reaching the besieged Jewish parts of Jerusalem.[12] For this purpose it was occupied by the Army of the Holy War led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, the commander of the Jerusalem Hills sector.[13]

The village was assaulted by the Palmach's Harel Brigade and two squads of the Haganah during Operation Nachshon, after a previous minor clash had already caused most civilian inhabitants to flee.[10][14] Palmach troops occupied the village on April 3, but its commander was refused permission to blow up the houses.[14]

Castel fortress, 2006

Forces under Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni attacked and besieged the Haganah-held village on 7 April 1948. During the following, foggy night Al-Husayni himself was killed by a Haganah sentinel in a bizarre incident. On April 8, armed Arabs from the entire area, motivated by the disappearance of their leader, attacked and recaptured al-Qasta.[14] However, Al-Husayni's death is said to have led to a loss of morale among his forces.[15] Most fighters left their positions to attend al-Husayni's funeral at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, April 9. Palmach troops retook the almost fully deserted village on the night of April 8-9th; they blew up most of the houses and made the hill a command post, which they managed to hold on to.[14][16]

Mevaseret Zion is located on the former lands of Al-Qastal.[10]

See also


  1. Palmer, 1881, p. 322
  2. 1 2 Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 25
  3. Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #356. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  4. Denys Pringle (1997). Qastal (R15). Secular buildings in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: an archaeological gazetteer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 118. Retrieved 28 December 2015. No trace of any Frankish structures, despite contrary claims.
  5. Letters from the East: Crusaders, Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th-13th Centuries, Keith Bate, Malcolm Barber, A.K. Bate
  6. Guérin, 1868, p. 264
  7. Conder and Kitchener, 1883, III:18. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.310
  8. Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  9. Mills, 1932, p. 32
  10. 1 2 3 Khalidi, 1992, p.311
  11. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, pp. 58, 103
  12. War for the Jerusalem Road, Time, Apr. 19, 1948.
  13. Morris, 2008, p. 123
  14. 1 2 3 4 Morris, 2004, pp. 234–235.
  15. Morris, 2008, p. 125
  16. Benveniśtî, 2002, p. 111


External links

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