Dalton Was Jewish in the Past and is Now Jewish Again / Dr.Rivka Shpak Lissak

Dalton is located in the Upper Galilee not far from Safed. Nowadays it is a cooperative settlement that was established in 1950 by Jewish immigrants from Tripoli, Libya. The settlement was built on the ruins of the Arabic village El Dalata (the Arabic translation of the Hebrew Dalton), which itself had been built on the ruins of the Jewish village Dalton. The settlement is famous for its winery and its population numbers 750.

The Roman & Byzantine Periods (70CE – 640CE)

Dalton was a Jewish village during the Mishna and Talmud period, that is, throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods, and its remains, includs a synagogue, water holes, foundations of ancient buildings and burial caves, near the modern site.

The remains of the synagogue, north of Dalton, were found in the 1930’s by Joseph Brasslavsky. They include an inscription in Aramaic and two door posts: One decorated with a wreath surrounding a palm frond, and the other with a conch, topped by grapevine tendrils emerging from a gable.

The Talmudic scholars Rabbi Yossey of the Galilee and his son Elazar are buried near Dalton. In Rabbi Yossey’s tomb Brasslavsky discovered an 18-line Hebrew inscription inscribed on a column. The inscription is blurred and only partially readable, containing phrases such as “remembered for good” and “Blessing Amen”. Another word, “Kithadra”, meaning a seat of honour for the community’s dignitaries, has also been found in an inscription in Corazim. In line 4, Prof Joseph Naveh managed to read the words “takah rakhmanah”, meaning the synagogue’s holy ark. Rabbi Yossey of the Galilee was the third generation in a line of Talmudic teachers. He lived at the beginning of the 2nd century CE and was one of the leaders of the Yeshiva in Yavne.

The Arabic Period (640CE – 1099CE)

A letter sent from Dalton to Egypt has been found in the Cairo Genizah (Jewish archive ). Shlomo HaCohen (the Priest) inquires in it after his father’s health. Dalton is mentioned in a scroll written by Evyatar son of Eliyahu the Priest, who writes that his father had been buried in Dalton in 1064. Another Genizah document, dated 1063, tells about the Gaon (head of a Talmudic academy in Babylon) Eliyahu HaCohen of Tyre who passed away and was buried in Dalton. These documents confirm that Jewish Dalton existed during the Arabic period.

Dalton is mentioned in an 11th century Genizah document that lists Jewish towns and villages in the Galilee. This confirms the continuity of this Jewish settlement since the time of the Mishna and Talmud.

The Crusader Period (1099 – 1260)

Rabbi Yehiel who immigrated with his students to the Land of Israel around 1260 and established a Yeshiva in Acre, travelled among the Jewish settlements in the Galilee and mentions Dalton among them.

The Mamluke Period (1260 – 1516)

Dalton was among a cluster of Jewish villages that were known to exist during this period in the neighborhood of Saffed.

The Ottoman Period (1516 – 1917/8)

According to the web site “Palestine Remembers”, the earliest date from which information about Arabic Dalata is available is 1598, at which time there were 157 Arabic residents in the village. This means that at some point following the Ottoman conquest something happened that brought the Jewish presence in Dalton to its end. What happened to Dalton’s Jews is a mystery.

A plague erupted in the Galilee in 1812, causing people to leave the cities, move to the rural areas and settle in Arabic villages or deserted Jewish ones. According to Yitzhak Ben Zvi in his book “The Land of Israel and Its Settlement” (p. 401), Jews found refuge in Arabic Dalata. According to “Palestine Remembers” Dalata's population in the 19th century numbered 100.

When Moshe Montefiori and his wife visited the country in 1827, Sage Avraham Shoshan made an effort to renew the Jewish presence in Dalata (Dalton) in collaboration with Montefiori who was negotiating the lease of villages in the Galilee for Jewish settlers. Yitzhak Ben Zvi reported in “The Land of Israel and Its Settlement” that Montefiori established a ‘Jewish Society for Farming in the Land of Israel’ in order to encourage Jews to settle on the land. His goal was to lease 200 villages in the Upper Galilee and, to finance the project, establish a bank in Alexandria with a capital of one million pounds, but this project never materialized.

The British Mandate Period (1918 – 1948)

Dalata remained an Arabic village throughout the British Mandate period. According to “Palestine Remembers” there were 204 residents in Dalata in 1922, and their numbers grew to 256 in 1931, 360 in 1945, and 418 in 1948. The village's population growth can not be the result of natural birth rate. (25% from 1922 – 1931, 40% from 1931 – 1945, 16% from 1945 – 1948). The population growth was the result of illegal Arab/Muslim immigration.

The State of Israel

Arabic Dalata was taken by Israeli forces on 10.5.1948 (according to an Arabic source on 30.10.1948). There is no information on whether the village was deserted by its occupants or whether they were expelled. “Palestine Remembers” reports that 42 of its 43 houses were demolished and the residents expelled. Benny Morris, however, who has checked many primary sources for that time, writes “unknown” for this question. p. 587 in his book, Birth of the Palestinian refugee problem. It is known that when the Arabic village’s buildings were demolished, some remains of ancient Dalton were demolished as well. Whether the village’s population fled or was expelled remains unanswered.


nice article

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.