al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya

al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya — السَوافِير الشمالية
Average Elevation
50 m
Distance from Gaza
33 km
Year Arab Total
1944/45 680
1931 454
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Jewish Public Total
1944/45 5166 450 245 5861
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 22 244 266
Built-up 21 21
43 244 287 (5%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Cereal 4632 261 1 4894
Plantation and Irrigable 10 10
Citrus and Bananas 481 189 670
5123 450 1 5574 (95%)
Number of Houses (1931)

The village stood on the coastal plain, a short distance to the north of a highway between al-majdal, al-Ramla, and the Jerusalem–Jaffa highway. The second, adjectival, part of its name, al-Shamaliyya ('northern') distinguished it from two other neighboring villages with the same first name, al-Sawafir. Together they formed an approximately right-angled triangle, with a northwest-southeast hypotenuse. AI-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya may have been located on the site of the biblical Shafir (Micah 1:11), mentioned by Eusebius (A.D. 266–340), the Palestine-born Byzantine historian. Eusebius said that in his days it was a beautiful town between Ascalon and Bayt Jibrin . Most modern scholars, however, locate Shafir at Khirbat al-Qawm rather than at the site of al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya. The Crusader name of the village was Zeophir; they recorded that it was the property of the Bishop of Jerusalem in the early twelfth century. The village appears in the Ottoman records for the sixteenth century as 'Sawafir al-Halil.' It belonged to the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza) and had a population of 616. The village paid taxes on wheat, barley, olive trees, and fruit trees.

In the late nineteenth century, the village of al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya had several small gardens and wells. Many of its houses were built of adobe, although a few were made of stone. The residents were Muslim, and the village had its own mosque but shared a school with the other two villages. The number of students in the school was about 280 in the mid-1940s. Agriculture, which was mainly rainfed, constituted the backbone of the economy, and grain, citrus, grapes, and apricots were grown. In 1944/45 a total of 481 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,632 dunums were allocated to cereals; 10 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. AI-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya contained archaeological remains, such as pieces of marble and the shafts and capitals of ancient columns.

Like its sister villages (al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya and al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya), al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya was occupied in Operation Barak . Its villagers may have been pushed out by the attack on Bayt Daras on 10 May, which was preceded by a mortar attack. But it is more likely that they left during an attack on the village itself that led to its capture on 12 May (along with nearby Bashshit), according to an Associated Press dispatch which quoted a Haganah source. Israeli historian Benny Morris claims, probably incorrectly, that the villagers fled in May, at the time of the attack on al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya. The History of the War of Independence states that at the end of the first truce of the war (early July 1948), Egyptian and Sudanese forces planned to capture the three sister villages, but were prevented from doing so at an early stage.

There are no Israeli settlements on the lands of al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya. The determination of locations for several settlements in the area is complicated by the numerous changes in their names since they were founded. (See al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya and al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya for definite names and locations.)

A few vacant houses and segments of houses, standing amidst wild vegetation, mark the site. One of them has a covered porch supported on two columns. An old village road is also identifiable, and cactuses and fig trees grow on the site. The surrounding lands are cultivated.