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Beit Safafa

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Title: Beit Safafa  
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Beit Safafa

Entrance to Beit Safafa

Beit Safafa (Arabic: بيت صفافا‎, Hebrew: בית צפפה‎; lit. "House of the summer-houses or narrow benches"[1]) is an Arab town along the Green Line, with the vast majority of its territory in East Jerusalem and some northern parts in West Jerusalem.[2]

Since the 1949 agreements, the neighborhood has been divided by the Green Line. Until 1967, the East Jerusalem part remained under Jordanian rule while the northern parts became under Israeli rule.[3] Beit Safafa covers an area of 1,577 dunams.[4] After the Six-Day War, the two sides were reunited. In 2010, Beit Safafa had a population of 5,463.[5]

Map of the Beit Safafa region


During the Crusader era, the village was known as Bethafava or Bethsaphase.[6] Baldwin I granted the village as a fief to the Knights Hospitallers sometime before September 1110.[6][7] A tower in the village is dated to the Crusader period.[6]

Ottoman era

The village was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with all of Palestine, and in 1596 it appeared in the tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 41 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives, grapes or fruit trees, and goats or beehives.[8] French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village in 1863, and described it as a village with some thirty houses, some solidly built and very old.[9] In the 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's "Survey of Western Palestine", the village was described as "a small village in flat open ground, with a well to the north".[10]

British Mandate era

At the time of the 1922 census of Palestine, Beit Safafa had a population of 716, all Muslim,[11] which increased to 997 Muslims and 24 Christians by 1931[12] and 1410 Arabs in 1945.[13]

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

In the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the village was divided in two. The southern part was in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, while the northern part, originally in no man's land, was transferred to Israel with the signing of 1949 Armistice Agreements, and was later annexed to Jerusalem by Israel.[14][15][16]

During the period when the neighborhood was divided, a two-foot high barbed wire fence was erected down the middle of the main street with Arab Legionnaires and Israeli soldiers guarding on each side.[17]

After the war, a section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway remained under Jordanian control. Following the 1949 Armistice Agreements, it was agreed that Jordan would transfer control of this section of the track to Israel, in order to enable Israel Railways to restart rail service to Jerusalem.[18] As a result, the area south of the railway line was part of the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the railway line itself and the area to the north, was part of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. Service on the line resumed on August 7, 1949.[18][18]

After the Six-Day War

In 1967, after Israel's victory in the Six-Day War, the fence was taken down and the neighborhood was reunited.[15][19] Residents of the Israeli side had Israeli citizenship while those on the south side were given, like East Jerusalem residents, Jerusalem ID cards and residency, while retaining Jordanian citizenship.[14] Also following the 1967 war, Palestinian Christians with Israeli citizenship from Nazareth, Jaffa, and Jerusalem moved to Beit Safafa, expanding the small community, and several Jewish families moved in as well.[19]


View of Beit Safafa from park

Beit Safafa has three schools: Beit Safafa Elementary School, Beit Safafa High School and al-Salam School, a school for special needs children. Beit Safafa schools follow both the Israeli Bagrut curriculum and the Palestinian Tawjihi curriculum. In 1997, the Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education was founded in Beit Safafa. The school, supported by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Jerusalem Municipality, offers a bilingual curriculum in Hebrew and Arabic, with joint classes for Jews and Arabs. In 2012, 530 Arab and Jewish children were enrolled in the school.[20]

In 2012, Bakehila, an organization founded by Erel Margalit of Jerusalem Venture Partners to aid children from underprivileged neighborhoods, opened an educational enrichment center in Beit Safafa.[21]

Urban development plans

In 2012, an urban development plan approved by the Jerusalem Municipality announced a project to build four new roads in Beit Safafa.[22]

In early 2013, the Jerusalem Municipality began construction of an eight-lane highway that would bisect Beit Safafa. Israeli author David Grossman wrote that the plan was adopted without public scrutiny and would harm the character of the neighborhood.[23] The residents claimed that the plan was illegal and construction commenced without warning. After petitioning the local courts and the Israeli Supreme Court, the residents succeeded in halting the project.[24]

Naomi Tzur, deputy mayor of Jerusalem and holder of the urban planning portfolio, said that the residents were "taking advantage of the political situation to turn a local concern into an international story. When the residents of Beit Hakerem conducted their fight over their part of Begin Highway, the international media wasn’t interested. This is simply a residents’ fight against its municipality for better compensations and better infrastructure, and it’s a perfectly justifiable fight and part of democracy." [25]

In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1-mile stretch of highway crossing Beit Safafa would cause unacceptable damage to the residents' quality of life. Beit Safafa’s lawyers say the construction of an acoustically insulated tunnel that puts the road underground and protects the area’s geographic integrity might be an acceptable solution.[24]


Several winepresses have been found at Beit Safafa, which have been dated back to the Iron Age.[26] In a salvage dig in Beit Safafa, archaeologists discovered fifty Second Temple era graves, of which 41 were excavated.[27]

Notable residents


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 287
  2. ^ Tearing a neighbourhood in two. Ir Amim, February 2013
  3. ^ Upending the Traditional Arab Countryside Home
  4. ^ Amir Cheshin, Bill Hutman, and Avi Melamed (1999). Separate and Unequal: the Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem. Harvard University Press. p. 136. 
  5. ^ Beit Safafa Housing Project 2010
  6. ^ a b c Pringle, 1997, pp. 28-29
  7. ^ Röhricht, 1893, RRH, pp. 12-13, no. 57
  8. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 116
  9. ^ Guérin, 1869, p. 401
  10. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 20
  11. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  12. ^ Mills, 1932. p. 39
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p56. [1]
  14. ^ a b Menachem Klein,A Possible Peace Between Israel and Palestine:, Columbia University Press, 2007 p.70:'sovereignty over the part of the village of Beit Safafa that lay in the West Bank.'
  15. ^ a b Eyāl Benveniśtî, Chaim Gans, Sārī Ḥanafī (2007). Israel and the Palestinian refugees, Volume 189 of Beiträge zum ausländischen öffentlichen Recht und Völkerrecht (illustrated ed.). Springer.  
  16. ^ Yasir Suleiman. A war of words: language and conflict in the Middle East. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. 
  17. ^ Foreign News: Wedding at Beit Safafa
  18. ^ a b c Wallach, Yair, "Nostalgia and Promise in Jerusalem's Derelict Ottoman Railway Station", The Jerusalem Quarterly, Summer 2009 (38), retrieved 2009-11-06 
  19. ^ a b "Fence is gone, there is still partition".  
  20. ^ Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel
  21. ^ Beit Safafa education center dedicated
  22. ^ Road projects in E. J'lem get 0.5b
  23. ^ David Grossman, 'The highway, the village and the road not taken,' at Haaretz 26 June 2013.
  24. ^ a b Will this Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem be divided?
  25. ^ Beit Safafa residents demonstrate against highway
  26. ^ Greenberg and Cinnamon, Tel Aviv, vol 33, 2006, "Stamped and incised Jars"; citing Feig, N. 2003. "Excavations at Beit Safafa: Iron Age II and Byzantine Agricultural Installations South of Jerusalem. Atiqot 44: 191-238.
  27. ^ "Qumran type" graves in Jerusalem: Evidence of an Essene Community?
  28. ^ A jump start for Palestinian architecture – Haaretz – Israel News


External links

  • Welcome To Bayt Safafa
  • SWP map 17, IAA
  • , Wikimedia commons
  • Beit Safafa and Sharafat (Fact Sheet), ARIJ
  • Beit Safafa & Sharafat Town Profile, ARIJ
  • Beit Safafa & Sharafat Areal photo, ARIJ
  • The Mashrabiya House, Beit Safafa, ARIJ

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