The Village Sha'ab was Jewish Sha'av until the 11th Century / DR.R.S.Lissak

The village Sha’ab is situated in the Lower Galilee, near the Segev region, and is now an Arabic settlement whose 6,000 residents are mostly Muslim. There are two churches and a mosque in Sha’ab. The village is located where a Jewish town, called Sha-av, existed until the 11th century.

The site has been continuously occupied since an undated stage during the Bronze Age (3000BCE – 1200 BCE). Since Sha-av is not mentioned in Egyptian sources nor in the Old Testament, it is plausible that it was established towards the late Bronze Age (1550BCE – 1200BCE), although its population changed

The meaning of the Hebrew name is to draw water, but the meaning in Arabic is a pass between mountains.

The Second Temple Period ( 538 BCE – 70CE)

According to Josephus Flavius, the village Sha-av took part in the Great Revolt (66 – 70 CE) against the Romans. Josephus Flavius wrote in his book "The Jewish Wars", that Elazar Ben Shemi, one of the villagers, distinguished himself by his heroic acts. According to Josephus Flavius Elazar participated in the defense of the city of Yodphat,. He threw a rock from the wall onto a Roman war machine and then jumped into the midst of the Roman camp and brought the war machine into the city.

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

Sha-av survived the Great Revolt. In Michael Avi-Yona’s book “Historic Geography of Eretz Israel,” it is mentioned in the list of post-Revolt Jewish towns and villages. The Jewish Sha-av existed throughout the Mishna and Talmud period. The villagers derived their income from their olive groves. Two Talmudic sages were residents of Sha'-av, Rabbi Menni D’She-av and Rabbi Zakkay D’She-av.

The Arabic, Crusader, and Mameluk Periods (640CE – 1516CE)

There is evidence of Jewish occupancy until the 11th century. A document dated from the 11th century mentions the name of a Jew who died in Sha-av, indicating that during the Arabic period and on the eve of the Crusader conquest Jews were still living in the village. During the Crusader period there were still at least 36 Jewish towns and villages in the Galilee. Since the Crusader period there is no mention of Jews in Sha-av and their fate is unknown. They were either massacred by the Crusaders or ran away.
It seems that Christians settled in the village following the Crusader conquest, as there is a notice that Christians fled from the village following the Mameluk conquest in the 13th century.
Ahmed Lialimi, who fought with Saladdin in the Battle of Hattin (1187 ) is buried in Sha’ab. We do not know when Muslims began settling in the village, but there is reason to believe that they settled there after the Hattin battle. There are 2 more villages who were settled by Saladdin's soldiers and 2 of his officers are buried there.

The Ottoman Period (1516 – 1917)

The village was ruled by the Bedouin Dahar Al Omar for a certain period (Dahar Al Omar conquered the Galilee from the Ottomans and ruled there from the 1730's to 1775, when the Ottomans reconqeured the Galilee) and during that time a mosque was built there.
Judith Montefiore, who visited the country in 1839 with her husband Sir Moses Montefiore, mentions the village in her writings. She wrote in her book that it was possible to buy land in Sha’ab for Jewish settlement.

The British Mandate Period (1917 – 1948)

Christians and Muslims lived in the village during the British Mandate time. It is not known when Christians returned to live in Sha’ab after their leaving in the 13th century. Two churches remain in the village.


Sha’ab’s inhabitants (both Christian and Muslim) fled during the War of Independence in 1948, and only one old Christian woman stayed behind. The village was deserted until 1951. The village’s current population settled there in 1951. Some were refugees from neighbouring villages, mostly from Damoun, and some Bedouins from the Hoolla Valley who were moved there after the war. The two crumbling churches survived, and one has been repaired although there are no Christians in the village. The mosque is still standing.

Village residents take part in social activities with the Jewish population in the Segev region. Some of the village children attend the Segev bi-lingual school. Joint summer camps are held for Jewish and Arab children from Segev, Shorashim, and Sha’ab.

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