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Remembering al-Shaykh Muwannis

שֵיח' מֻוַנִּס
English | עברית | العربية
03/2008
al-Shaykh Muwannis Booklet // Zochrot
al-Shaykh Muwannis Booklet // Zochrot

Excerpt from the booklet:

Shaykh Muwannis evacuation

Retrieved from: www.palestineremembered.com, March 11, 2008

Hello,

I have been urged to relate my family story which is the story of Shaykh Muwannis village, as I believe this might be an eligible way to recall our Nakba.

IDENTIFICATION

I am Hanaa Yusuf Ibraheem Abu Eid, originally from the Shaykh Muwannis village in the north of Yafa city. My family branches - Abu Eid , Rayyan and Dahnus - are deeply rooted in that village. My father, Yusuf Ibrahim Abu Eid, died in al-Lydd on 6/6/97. His only brother, Ali Abu Eid, died in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion. His only sister, Amnah Abu Eid (married to Ahmad Mustafa al-Rayan), died in Amman in August 2000. Shaykh Mustafah Ahmad Rayan was my grandfather's brother-in-law. Both died in Shaykh Muwannis before 1948. My grandfather's cousin Mahmud Husayn Abu Eid died in Kuwait in 1971. His oldest son Zaki (Hafez) Mahmud Abu Eid (Minister of Energy in Kuwait) died and was buried in Kuwait in 1978. My grandmother is Rabiha al-Dahnus; she died in Yafa in 1960. Her father was landlord Mahmud Jaber al-Dahnus (died in Shaykh Muwannis in 1944). His cousin Saleh Tayeb al-Dahnus died in the diaspora.

My mother Najiyah (died in Lydd on 31/12/98), the only granddaughter of Mahmud al-Dahnus, had three brothers — Lutfi (died in Nablus in 1991), Ahmad (died in Yafa in 1982) and Adnan.

THE TRANSFER

In early 1948 the fourth branch of my family, the family of landlord and merchant Mustafa Mahmud al-Sayeh from al-Manshiyya in Yafa, was forced to move out to join our family in Shaykh Muwannis village. Since the declaration of the UN partition plan, fire broke out in Yafa and the al-Manshiyya quarter had become a front line (for it was very close to Tel Aviv).

After a few weeks in Shaykh Muwannis the united family faced a Jewish brigade resolution (20/3/48) to blockade the village, thus preventing food, fuel and energy supplies from entering. A village delegation was led by the prominent leader Ibrahim Abu Kheel, the owner of the "Green House" (today the Tel Aviv University staff club), and his relative Jamil al-Jasir from Jlil. Both negotiated with the Jewish brigade for a cease-fire and to end the blockade, but in vain. Then they turned to King Abdullah, presenting their worries and misery. The King's answer was nothing but to "remain and hold tight until we subdue Tel Aviv."

Inside the village there were two fire standpoints, in the north and in the east (near the mosque). The village, as realized, had a dominant position over the surrounding area, which included Jewish settlements. From the hill they had viewed fire and fighting in Salama village (10 km southeast). But Shaykh Muwannis had been physically isolated (from the east and south by Jewish settlements and by the al-'Awja and Jrisha rivers; from the west by the sea), and there were only some (private) guns and some untrained fighters in the village.

THE TURNING POINT

On 12/3/48 uncle Lutfi and Saleh al-Dahnus (a cousin of Mahmud Jaber al-Dahnus), his son Ali and Muhammad Abu Dayeh (died in al-Tira village in 1995) and Shaykh Mustafa al-Zayyat were kidnapped by the Jewish brigade on their way back from Jlil to Shaykh Muwannis, near the Kiryat Shaul cemetery.

The last event marked a turning point in Shaykh Muwannis village history. For this event prompted the beginning of Shaykh Muwannis families' pullout from the village.

The Jewish brigade's resolution of 20/3/48 to blockade the village prevented residents' movement, thus cutting it off from the outside and preventing the entry of supplies including food and fuel for water pump motors. Then the Brigade seized the marginal Baydas houses on the southern edge of the village. There were also rumors about massacres occurring elsewhere - all these pushed the Shaykh Muwannis people out. Since 21/3/03 - Israeli Defense Forces documents reported - there had been trains of people pulling out. Thus, on 30/3/03 - according to the same source - the village was evacuated and the Jewish forces seized the village. Thus, all efforts - mainly made by Abu Kheel Ibrahim and others - to convince people not to leave the village failed, for people had also run out of water and food. It is an amazing topic for all that wealthy families were the first to leave, while Kheel Ibrahim, Abu Sa'da Muhammad, Abu Eid Yusuf and the descendant of Mahmud Jaber al-Dahnus (and of the Mustafa al-Sayeh family, those transferred from Manshiyya weeks before) - all these families were the last to leave (about 40 of 3000 souls).

TRANSFER ARGUMENT

Haim Fireberg, a Tel Aviv University historian, claims that in Shaykh Muwannis he has found no evidence that Jews used force against Palestinians during the Nakba. Thus, he concludes, the Jewish brigade, the Haganah, did not intend to evacuate/expel Shaykh Muwannis residents and that the Jews had only military and strategic intentions - mainly because the village had a dominant standpoint over Sde Dov airport, which had strategic importance for the beginning state. That is why, he argues, the Haganah Jewish brigade blockaded the village. Among this he has also claimed that the abandonment of the village began 24 hours after the blockade, leaving much equipment behind them (http://www.7th-day.co.il/mehumot/hahalom.htm; for the English version view the following link: http://www.mideastweb.org/refugees3.htm).

SUMMARY

Of course the argument above is a void/false one. In many cities and villages - such as Dayr Yasin, al-Lydd, al-Ramla, Tantura (Haifa), Safsaf (Safad) and so on - where people avoided evacuation there was a brutal massacre. People were killed in cold blood just because they refused to leave. The blockade policy of the Jewish brigade was a sophisticated method for transferring Palestinians from their homeland. In the case of Shaykh Muwannis the last 40 people who avoided leaving - had begun to starve. They had no way... either to leave or to die, if not by Jews then certainly of starvation.

Shaykh Muwannis af ter occupation

After the village was evacuated Jewish military forces, the Jewish National Fund and Tel Aviv Municipality agents occupied the village (30/3/48)1. Between 11:00 and 23:00 five checkpoints were posted at the village entryways. The JNF and municipality agents marked the village houses. The "Green House" was seized and turned over to military staff; some written documents were found. An aged and "stupid" person (as named in the military report) who was hiding in a village house was transferred to the Yona Camp south of Jrisha spill. Around the village excavated positions with sand sacks and access channels were found. Some of them had tin covers. This means - as had been argued - that they were planned by different persons. The village belongings lay show - there had been a sudden departure1. In the Green House, for example, they had found some packed boxes of household goods and the rest, unpacked, lay on the ground. Because water and electricity were found, it was recommended that the village be populated.

After occupation beautiful/particular village houses were used for ammunition stores, dwelling, classes, logistics, garages and as a front guard standpoints. Many youngsters had their military training there. This may explain the fire marks on the walls of village houses. After British evacuation from Palestine on 15/5/48 the so-called Israel Defense Forces staff was located in the Green House. The Rayyan House in Mattallah became the Lehi (Jew Liberation organization) camp. Other looted houses became dwellings for 400 air force personnel. After January 1949 - when military forces evacuated the village - there was a new wave of residents - homeless soldiers and others.

Besides this, a wide neighborhood called Ramat Aviv has been built up nearby on the al-Shumarat lands. Meanwhile, other neighborhoods have been built on village lands: Bavli in Jammasin al-Gharbi, Ramat Aviv Gimel in Wadi al-Nada, Neve Avivim and Afeka in Wadi al-Najamat, Ramat Ha-Hayal in Ghabashiya, Hadar Yosef in Hadar Yusuf. Now part of the village lands belong to the Ramat Gan Municipality - Yarkon Park (Za'faranat) and Sheva Tahanot (Jrisha). Nothing of the village orchards has survived.

At the same time a big university (known as Tel Aviv University) grew on the Salaliq orchards/lands at the beginning of the 1970s and began to swallow up village houses. In 1980, it seems, Tel Aviv University made a master plan to broaden its campus towards the village houses. Today, therefore, more than 90% of the village houses have been destroyed (see university map: http://www2.tau.ac.il/map/unimaple1.asp)3. Even our dead in the village cemetery have not been immune to its destroying machine4. Except the river, the al-Al'amin Bridge, the remaining cemetery and some looted houses, the village is unrecognizable. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1 According to "Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Archive regarding Shaykh Muwannis, Report Document No. 2, p. 262.

2 It might be that a well-known representative of the JNF, Moshe Hochmann (who had played a role in releasing the kidnapped persons from the village), had recommended/informed the remaining families to urgently leave the village, otherwise "they may be killed by the Jewish brigade."

3 An exception has been made concerning the "Green House" of Ibrahim Abu Kheel (which has been widely and wrongly attributed to the Baydas family). It has been reconstructed to become a University Staff Club, thus stimulating a public critical interesting argument concerning the house's raison d'etre. It may symbolize the Palestinian right to return as has been argued (see my article: "The Green House Argument").

4 It seems that the village mosque and among it the Shaykh Muwannis tomb was destroyed a few years after occupation.

Shaykh Muwannis Territories af ter and before the Nakba

Besides this, a wide neighborhood called Ramat Aviv has been built up nearby on the al-Shumarat lands. Meanwhile, other neighborhoods have been built on village lands: Bavli in Jammasin al-Gharbi, Ramat Aviv Gimel in Wadi al-Nada, Neve Avivim and Afeka in Wadi al-Najamat, Ramat Ha-Hayal in Ghabashiya, Hadar Yosef in Hadar Yusuf. Now part of the village lands belong to the Ramat Gan Municipality — Yarkon Park (Za'faranat)and Sheva Tahanot (Jrisha). Nothing of the village orchards has survived.

1. al-Jammasin al-Gharbi - today Bavli Quarter

2. al-Shumarat - today Ramat Aviv (belong to Baydas 'Abbas (and others)

3. al-Najamat - today Neve Avivim and the dunes until the sea (belong to the Dahnus family)

4. al-Boos Welteenat - today the Sporteque (belong to Dahnus Rabiha)

5. al-Za'faranat - today the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Center including Rokah Ave., Hayarkon Park,

Ganei Yehoshu'a (belong to the Dahnus family...)

6. al-Shamiye - today the southern part of Ganei Yehoshu>a (Hayarkon Park); belong to Abueid Yusuf

7. al-Ghabashiya - today part of Ramat Hahayal (belong to Dahnus Mahmud al-Jaber family)

8. al-Salaliq - today Tel Aviv University

9. al-Bayader [masha'- communal land] - today the "standards office" and Tel Aviv University's School of Engineering - belong to Abu Eid and others.

10. al-Waqff - today the cemetery, energy and security service departments, the roads not included in the square

11. Esheeleh - today Rokah interchange and the roads up to the square

12. al-Mu'tarid - today Kokhav Hatsafon (Ramat Aviv Hotel and Kibbutz Seminar) belong to Baydas Subhi

13. al-Mattallah - north of the village settlement, now part of Tel Aviv University

14. Hadar Yusuf - today Hadar Yosef (belong to Dahnus Rabiha)

15. Hadrah - today is Shikun Dan

16. Harduneh - today the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, the Israeli Educational Television Center for Educational Technology, the Open University... (belong to Sakijha, Rayyan, al-'Abd families)

17. Maqtal al-'Abd

18. Nakhleh - the dunes west of Sde Dov airport until Tel Baruch beach

19. Bwabte al-Hadda - today: Na'ot Afeka ??

20. Qaseeleh - southwest, near the Jrisha River estuary

21. Wadi al-Nada - northwest, today Afeka and Ramat Aviv Gimel.

SHAYKH MUWANNIS HISTORY

THE VILLAGE NAME

The origin of the village name is still unknown. The word 'Shaykh' in Arabic means aged, wise or holy man. It seems, therefore, that the village had been built near the tomb of a holy person named Muwannis.

BIRTH OF THE VILLAGE

According to one text (see Irit Amit from Bar Ilan University in her article "The Green House," Etmol, January 1998) the village was first mentioned in 1799 during the French invasion of Palestine. In a map made by French engineer Jacotin, the village was named "al-Thahr" (meaning "the back") since the village was located on a hill behind the Jrisha River. Later the name Shaykh Muwannis appeared.

In 1821 the village name was first mentioned by Bergren, a French journeyer, who had indicated the village's strategic importance.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE VILLAGE

The villagers - it seems - used to collect passage rates at the gate of the Jrisha River Bridge from passengers moving north to south. During the Egyptian era the village expanded. Ibrahim Pasha - the eldest son of Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha - brought Egyptian workers to Yafa city and its surroundings; they settled in Shaykh Muwannis village and cultivated its lands.

In 1917 British forces arrived at the borders of the village. Turks placed forces in the village so that they could defend the northern river from British attack from the south, but after a sudden nighttime crossing attack the British forces defeated the Turks.

The beginning of the British era marked a new stage in village history, bringing in a process of land registration, building permits, and road safety. Later, new ways of digging and water irrigation were implemented. The increase in Jewish immigration after the Balfour Declaration - in addition to the development of Yafa city - increased the development of the village.

The famous"Green House" of Ibrahim Abu Kheel (which was mistakenly marked as Shaykh Baydas' house as seen in Irit Amit, ibid, p.15; and Prof. Eli Jerby, "The Green House: The Beauty Spot of Tel Aviv University," pp. 2-4, in http://www.eng.tau.ac.il/~jerby/Green_House.pdf ) was expanded too and located out of the village.

ACQUIREMENT OF LANDS

According to Irit Amit (ibid, p. 16), since 1912 a society of Canadian Jews was founded mainly for the purpose of acquiring lands in Palestine. In May 1913, 6,000 dunams (of a total of 16,000 dunams - as estimated in the Palestine Encyclopedia, Part 2, p. 652) of Shaykh Muwannis's lands were suggested to representatives of that society and were acquired by two Jewish companies, Hachsharat Hayeshuv and Geula. However, the acquirement was not implemented.

After World War I there were another two land acquisition organizations (one was the the Zionist Organization of America and the other is the Jewish National Fund) to be contested, that is why land prices increased. In 1924 Zionist Organization of America acquired 8,000 dunams in Jlil, north of Shaykh Muwannis village. Since the twenties of last century indicated that there had been land negotiations between Shaykh Baydas and Mr. Hankin of Hachsharat Hayeshuv.

Over the years 1936-1939 Tayber, a Jewish family, acquired lands in sea dunes west of the village, using Baydas' brokering influence. 

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