The village stood on a small hill that was slightly higher than the surrounding (sandy) seashore. A spur linked it to the coastal highway, giving it access to Haifa and other urban centers. It also had a train station that serviced the coastal railway line. The village was built near the ruins of the important Canaanite town of Dor. This place name first appeared in a thirteenth century B.C. inscription that mentions the Egyptian Pharoah Ramses II; it was also in a later text by an Egyptian temple official, Wen-Amon, that was dated about 1100 B.C. Wen-Amon reports that the town was occupied by Tjeker, a Philistine group that is thought to have migrated to this location in the twelfth century B.C. The town may have been conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12:23). Like Strato's tower (see Qisarya, Haifa District), Dora was a colony of Sidon in the fourth century B.C. Towards the end of the second century B.C. it was occupied by Greeks, who sometimes called it Dora; they fought against the Hasmonean rulers of the region. After the fourth century A.D. Dora was apparently abandoned. Much later, the Crusaders built a castle in Dora/al-Tantura that they called Merle. At the end of the eighteenth century, when Napoleon tried to seize control of Palestine, his retreating army passed through the village and burned it, in August 1799. The British traveler J. Buckingham, writing in 1821, described it as a small village with a small port and a khan. He said that the relatively meager ruins of al-Tantura, although not entirely desolate, did not give an idea of its former strength. Mary Rogers, the sister of the British vice-consul in Haifa, reported that in 1855 there were thirty to forty houses in the village, built of stone, mud, or clay. Cattle and goats were the chief wealth of al-Tantura.
In the late nineteenth century, al-Tantura was said to be a village on the coast, extending from north to south. Its harbor, which was built along the margins of a square peninsula, was located immediately to the north. The village contained a square, stone building used as a guest house for travelers (probably the khan referred to by Buckingham). It had an estimated 1,200 residents who cultivated 25 faddans (1 faddan = 100-250 dunums; see Glossary). The village also conducted a small trade with Jaffa.
AI-Tantura's stone houses were built on the sandy beach. It had a boys' elementary school (built around 1889) and another school for girls (founded in 1937/38). The village economy was based on fishing and agriculture. During the Mandate the village's fish catch increased steadily, from six tons in 1928 to 1,622 tons in 1944. The major agricultural products were grain, vegetables, and fruit. In 1944/45 a total of 26 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 6,593 dunums were allocated to cereals; 287 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards, of which 270 dunums were for olives.
Underwater surveys offshore from al-Tantura have produced ships' anchors dating from most periods in the site's history. A Byzantine basilica was excavated on the northern slopes of Tall al-Burj (143224) in 1979-80. The Hebrew University has been excavating this mound annually since 1980. To the south at Khirbat al-Mazra'a (143222) are the remains of the Crusader castle of Casal de Châtillon (including the ruins of a square vaulted tower). Extensive ruins have also been reported at Khirbat Dirayhima (143224), northeast of the village.
By the beginning of May 1948, al-Tantura was one of the last remaining Arab communities on the stretch of the coastal plain from the Zikhron Ya'aqov area (south of Haifa) to Tel Aviv. On 9 May, a meeting was called of local Haganah intelligence officers and Arab affairs experts to decide on the fate of al-Tantura and a handful of other villages. Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the decision taken was to 'expel or subdue' them. The History of the War of Independence confirms that the decision was implemented in al-Tantura two weeks later, on the night of 22-23 May. The Haganah's Thirty-Third Battalion (the Third Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade) attacked the village, which fell after a brief battle. (The village had earlier refused the Haganah's surrender terms, according to Morris, and chose to put up a fight.) He writes: '[I]t is clear that the Alexandroni commanders wanted the village emptied of its inhabitants and that at least some of them were expelled.' An Israeli military communiqué, issued on 23 May and quoted by the New York Times, stated: 'Hundreds of Arabs and a large quantity of booty fell into our hands.' The Times reporter quoted the unlikely Haganah claim that the village was a smuggling point for Egyptian recruits coming into Palestine by sea.
However, the villagers' troubles did not end with the expulsion. Some of them went to the Triangle, while as many as 1,200 were expelled to nearby al-Furaydis, which had been captured earlier. At the end of May, Israeli cabinet minister Bechor Shitrit asked Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion whether the al-Tantura refugees should be expelled from al-Furaydis as well. By summer, Morris states that most had been expelled from Israeli-held territory; some 200 remained in al-Furaydis, mostly women and children who had male relatives in Israeli detention. They slept out in the open and were short of clothes, according to Morris, who notes that some Israeli officials were worried about what would happen to them come winter. Nothing further is mentioned about their fate.
In June of 1948, Zionist immigrants from the United States and Poland established the kibbutz of Nachsholim (142224), northeast of the site, on village lands. The settlement of Dor (143223), east of the site, was established by Zionist immigrants from Greece in 1949.
Only a shrine, a fortress, an ancient well, and a few of the houses remain. One of the houses (the house belonging to al-Yahya) was built in 1882, according to an inscription (see photos). Many date palm trees and some cactus plants are spread about the site. The site has been turned into an Israeli recreational area with swimming facilities.
Al-Tantura from the sea.
The house of the al-Yahya family on the village site.
The remains of a fortress, now used as a museum.
A theme park on the site of al-Tantura.