Kafr Sabt

Kafr Sabt

Kafr Sabt, from the air, 1937
Kafr Sabt
Arabic كفر سبت
Name meaning "Village of Saturday"[1]
Also spelled Kafar Sabt
Subdistrict Tiberias
Coordinates 32°44′36.88″N 35°26′26.84″E / 32.7435778°N 35.4407889°E / 32.7435778; 35.4407889Coordinates: 32°44′36.88″N 35°26′26.84″E / 32.7435778°N 35.4407889°E / 32.7435778; 35.4407889
Palestine grid 191/238
Population 480[2] (1945)
Area 9,850[2] dunams
9.9 km²
Date of depopulation April 22, 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Influence of nearby town's fall
Current localities Sdeh Ilan,[4] Ilaniya Sharona

Kafr Sabt (Arabic: كفر سبت) was a Palestinian Arab village of nearly 500 situated on a sloping plain in the eastern Lower Galilee located 10.5 kilometers (6.5 mi) southwest of Tiberias.


While Palestine was part of the Roman Empire, Kafr Sabt was known as Kafar Shabtay.[5] Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi mentions the village in 985, while under Abbasid rule as being "between Tiberias and Ramla, situated near 'Akabah (the Pass above) Tiberias.[6] He says that it belonged to Caesarea and was large, populated, and had a mosque on its main street.[7]

The Crusaders called it "Cafarsset" when they conquered the Levant in the twelfth century.[5] Saladin led his Ayyubid army from the Jordan River to Kafr Sabt, approximately 8 miles (13 km) from his camp along the Sea of Galilee. Kafr Sabt, located on a high plateau bordering the Horns of Hattin, served as a strategic position for Saladin's army since there he could threaten Tiberias to the rear, Sepphoris in the front, the Crusader lines of communications between the two strongholds, and his army could easily retreat down the slopes if necessary.[8] He encamped in Kafr Sabt before he led his army to their decisive victory at the Battle of Hattin.[9][10] Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi passed through the village in the thirteenth century while Kafr Sabt was in Ayyubid hands.[5]

Ottoman era

Kafr Sabt was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and by 1596, it was under the administration of the nahiya ("subdistrict") of Tiberias, part of Sanjak Safad. A population of 160, it paid taxes on wheat, barley, cotton, beehives, and goats.[11][12]

A map from Napoleon's invasion of 1799 by Pierre Jacotin showed the place, named as K. el Sett.[13]

Victor Guérin visited in 1875, and noted: “Near a spring, inclosed in a small circular basin, the soil is covered with the confused debris of many overthrown houses; some still standing are inhabited. Here and there are scattered cisterns cut in the rock. On the highest point of the hill, formerly occupied by the ancient town, are observed the remains of a strong edifice built of cut stones, which seems to have been put up for military purposes ; it formed a quadrilateral forty paces long. Beside a mosque may be remarked two broken capitals in debased Corinthian, as well as several columns belonging probably to an ancient church, now completely destroyed.’[14] In 1881, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described it as a stone-built village with 300 inhabitants.[15]

British Mandate era

Under the British Mandate of Palestine from 1922 to 1948, Kafr Sabt housed members of the Bedouin tribe of 'Arab al-Mashariqa who lived in tents.[5]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, the population of Kufr Sabt was 247; all Muslims,[16] increasing in the 1931 census to 340; still all Muslims, in a total of 71 houses.[17]

Agriculture was the main economic sector with the primary crops being grain and fruit orchards.[5] In 1945, the population reached 480,[2] and all of the villagers were Arab Muslim.[18] The total land area owned by Arabs was 4,295 dunams.[2] Of this, 7 dunams were for plantations and irrigable land, 4,258 for cereals,[19] while 30 dunams were built-up land.[20]

1948, and aftermath

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Kafr Sabt's inhabitants fled on April 22, as a direct result of the capture of Tiberias, four days before, to the Haganah — the army of Israel. In 1949, two Jewish settlements, Ilaniya and Sharona feuded over possession of Kafr Sabt's lands, with the former arguing that they deserved compensation for early Arab attacks on their town, while the latter also had designs for it, and took it by force. The Agriculture Minister of Israel intervened ordering Sharona's farmers to retreat.[5] According to Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi,

Piles of stone and stone terraces provide the main indications that the village once occupied the site. Cactuses and a few scattered trees grow among the rubble on the village site. The lands around the site are planted in grain, fruit trees, and almond trees.[5]

See also


  1. Palmer, 1881, p. 127
  2. 1 2 3 4 Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 72
  3. Morris, 2004, p.xvii village #101. Also gives the cause of depopulation
  4. Morris, 2004, p.xxii settlement #179, 1949
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Khalidi, 1992, p.526.
  6. al-Muqaddasi quoted in le Strange, 1890, p.471.
  7. al-Muqaddasi quoted in Dabbagh, p.647. Cited in Khalidi, 1992, p.526.
  8. Lyons, 1984, p. 256
  9. Lyons, 1984, p. 257
  10. Lyons, 1984, p. 259.
  11. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p.188. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.526.
  12. Note that Rhode, 1979, p. 6 writes that the register that Hütteroth and Abdulfattah studied was not from 1595/6, but from 1548/9
  13. Karmon, 1960, p. 166.
  14. Guérin, 1880, pp. 266-7; as given in Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 394.
  15. Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 360. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 526
  16. Barron, 1923, Table IX, Sub-district of Tiberias, p. 39
  17. Mills, 1932, p. 84
  18. Village Statistics April 1945, The Palestine Government, p. 7
  19. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 122
  20. Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 172


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