PLace

al-Safiriyya

Place
al-Safiriyya — السافِرِيَّة
District
Lydda
Average Elevation
25 m
Subdistrict
Jaffa
Distance from Jaffa
11 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1944/45 3070
1931 2040
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Jewish Public Total
1944/45 10545 1722 575 12842
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 171 575 746
Built-up 95
266 575 841 (7%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Total
Cereal 3032 286 3318
Plantation and Irrigable 3708 24 3732
Citrus and Bananas 3539 1412 4951
10279 1722 12001 (93%)
Number of Houses (1931)
489

The village was situated on flat terrain on the central coastal plain. It was linked by a secondary road to a highway leading to Jaffa and al-Ramla, among other urban centers. AI-Safiriyya was known during the Byzantine era as Sapharea and lay within the boundaries of Diospolis (Lydda) district. In the early Islamic period Hani' al-Kindi, a Muslim scholar and ascetic [who had been offered the governorship of Palestine by the Umayyad caliph 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz (A.D. 681–720) but had declined it], was buried in al-Safiriyya. The Crusaders called the village Saphyria. In 1596, al-Safiriyya was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa' of Gaza) with a population of 292. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, fruit, and sesame, as well as on other types of property, such as goats, beehives, and vineyards.

In the late nineteenth century, al-Safiriyya was a village built of adobe brick. The lands to the south of the village were planted with olive trees. During the Mandate the inhabitants of the village, all of whom were Muslims, built their adobe-brick houses very close to each other. AI-Safiriyya had two elementary schools, one for boys (opened in 1920) and another for girls (founded in 1945 with 45 students). By the mid-1940s there were 348 students enrolled in the boys' school, which had about 11 dunums of land for agricultural training.

The village was the largest tomato producer in the Jaffa District; oranges were also grown on a large section of land. In 1944/45 a total of 3,539 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 3,032 dunums were allocated to cereals; 3,708 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Archaeological evidence that the site had been occupied previously was visible in al-Safiriyya. In addition, Khirbat Subtara (138155), an artificial mound with reservoirs on its east and west sides, was nearby.

A wire service report stated that Israeli forces took al-Safiriyya on 20 May 1948. The United Press dispatch said that the occupation of the village coincided with attacks by the Irgun Zvai Leumi against the city of al-Ramla to the south. However, the Palestinian historian 'Arif al-'Arif relates that it was occupied almost a month earlier, at the same time as nearby Yazur and Bayt Dajan, which were attacked during Operation Chametz (see Bayt Dajan, Jaffa District) in preparation for the encirclement of Jaffa and its eventual occupation. If it was captured at that time, the attacking units were probably from the Alexandroni Brigade.

In either case, the village was certainly under Israeli control by September 1948, for on 13 September, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion asked the Israeli cabinet's permission to destroy al-Safiriyya (together with thirteen nearby villages). Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that Ben-Gurion was careful to make the request in the name of the commanding officer of the central front and not in his own name. The request was granted.

Four settlements are now on village lands: Tzafriyya (136156) and Kefar Chabad (136154), both built in 1949, Achi'ezer (138154), founded in 1950, and Tochelet (135155), founded in 1951. The settlement of Shafrir, established in 1949, has been absorbed by these and by the suburbs of Ri'shon le-Tziyyon (131152).

The two schools—long concrete structures with rectangular doorways and windows—still stand and have been refurbished. A number of houses, some made of adobe brick and others of concrete, also remain and are either deserted or inhabited by Jewish families. They are architecturally simple and have rectangular doors and windows; most of their roofs are flat. Cactuses and a variety of trees line an old village road, and the site is generally dotted by sycamore and cypress trees. Parts of the surrounding land are covered by construction but some parts are cultivated by Israelis.