PLace

Julis

Place
Julis — جُولِس
District
Gaza
Subdistrict
Gaza
Average Elevation
50 m
Distance from Gaza
26.5 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1931 682 682
1944/45 1030 1030
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Public Total
1944/45 13225 359 13584
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 101 359 460
Built-up 30 30
131 359 490 (4%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Total
Cereal 10803 10803
Plantation and Irrigable 931 931
Citrus and Bananas 1360 1360
13094 13094 (96%)
Number of Houses (1931)
165

The village stood on a slight elevation on the southern coastal plain, along the bank of a wadi. It was built on an archaeological site whose ancient name is still unknown. In 1596, Julis was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza), with a population of 204. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce and property, such as goats, beehives, and vineyards. In the late nineteenth century, the village of Julis had adobe brick structures, a well to the south, and a pool with gardens to the northeast.

During World War II, the British built a highway that passed through Julis, parallel to (and feeding traffic to) the coastal highway; this gave the village special importance as a transportation center. This road also intersected at JuIis with the highway leading from al-Majdal to the Jerusalem–Jaffa highway. The British established a military camp at Julis in order to control this junction. The village was laid out in a square, sandwiched between the two highways and bounded at one end by the traffic circle where they intersected. Its adobe and cement houses were built close together. Julis had a mosque—its population was Muslim—and a shrine for Shaykh Khayr, a figure in local historical tradition who the residents believed was killed fighting the Crusaders. The village shops were scattered along the highways. A school, opened in 1937, had an enrollment of eighty-six students in the mid-1940s.

Underground water was abundant in Julis and was used for domestic needs. The inhabitants grew grain, vegetables, and fruit; their fruit orchards were concentrated on the east and north sides. Agriculture was both irrigated and rainfed. In 1944/45 a total of 1,360 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 10,803 dunums were allocated to cereals; 931 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. The antiquity of the village is demonstrated by the presence of an inscribed lintel, an ancient olive press, and cisterns lined with uncut stone. Three other archaeological sites, Rasm al-Farsh, Shaykh Khayr, and Khirbat al-Biyar, are nearby.

On the night of 27–28 May 1948, the Giv'ati Brigade's First Battalion occupied a military barracks in this village during Operation Barak , but failed to gain complete control of Julis. The History of the War of Independence states that Egyptian forces attempted to recapture it almost immediately: 'The defenders of the place [Giv'ati forces] blocked enemy units which tried ... to infiltrate the barracks from the direction of the village of Julis.' The Haganah account says that the village itself fell some two weeks later, on 10–11 June, as the Giv'ati Brigade's Third Battalion mounted a number of operations to occupy individual villages just before the first truce of the war took effect. However, in his memoirs, the late Egyptian president Gamal Abd al-Nasir recalled that these maneuvers occurred just after the truce took effect.

At the end of the truce in early July, Julis was one of the main positions that the Egyptians attempted (and failed) to recapture. The Egyptian army's Sixth Battalion, the unit of which Gamal Abdel Nasser was staff officer, was ordered to recapture the position. In later years, 'Abd al-Nasir was highly critical of the planning of this operation. As he wrote in his memoirs of the war, 'Once again we were facing a battle for which we had made no preparation. We had no information about the enemy at Julis.' In the few hours before his unit was to move towards Julis, Abd al-Nasir organized a quick reconnaissance of the position. During the course of the battle, his commanding officer (CO) ordered him to participate in the thick of the battle, leaving the unit without direction or coordination. Later, after getting hold of some aerial photographs, he managed to convince his CO and general headquarters that 'even if we had succeeded in entering Julis, we would have been at the mercy of the enemy, who would have turned Julis town into a cemetery for our forces.' Abd al-Nasir argued that the village was indefensible, being dominated by the barracks which overlooked it. The attack was belatedly called off after considerable loss of life. From the Israeli perspective, on 10 July, Giv'ati units repulsed an Egyptian attack in which 'none of the defenders were injured in the well-fortified position of Julis.' A close colleague of Abd al-Nasir's, Isma'il Muhy al-Din, was killed in the course of the battle.

The settlement of Hodiyya was established on village lands in 1949, southwest of the site.

Only a few houses remain. Most of them are made of cement, and have simple architectural features: flat roofs and rectangular doors and windows. One has two storeys and another has an 'illiyya (a single master bedroom or guest room on the top floor, usually available in the houses of wealthier villagers as a symbol of wealth and prestige. ) One house, in the southwestern section of the site, is occupied by Jewish residents. Some cactuses and sycamore and palm trees grow on the site, and a portion of it is planted with citrus trees. The military camp built by the British is now used by the Israeli army. The surrounding lands are cultivated by Israeli farmers.

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