PLace

Kawkab al-Hawa

Place
Kawkab al-Hawa — كَوْكَب الهَوا
District
Galilee
Average Elevation
300 m
Subdistrict
Baysan
Distance from Baysan
11 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1944/45 300 300
1931 220 220
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Public Total
1944/45 6125 3824 9949
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 60 3812 3872
Built-up 56 56
116 3812 3928 (39%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Cereal 5839 12 5851
Plantation and Irrigable 170 170
6009 12 6021 (61%)
Number of Houses (1931)
46

The village stood on a hill that sloped gradually towards the north, west, and south. On the eastern side of the village the terrain dropped sharply; although the village was 300 m above sea level, the land lying only 1 km to the east was 100 m below sea level. To the south and southeast of the village were two springs, Ayn al-Hiluw and 'Ayn al-Jirani; a badly eroded Arabic inscription was found on a basalt block near the former in the late nineteenth century. The village's main link to the commercial centers of the area was a road that led to Khirbat al-Taqa this connected it to the Baysan-Jericho highway. Other secondary roads connected it with the area's villages. Because it overlooked the Jordan River in the east and Lake Tiberias in the northeast, Kawkab al-Hawa enjoyed a strategic location that gave it historical importance.

Some scholars have identified Kawkab al-Hawa with a locality named Yarmuta that was named on an Egyptian stele the stele was found near the town of Baysan and dated to the late thirteenth century B.C. Nomadic Habiru tribes were located in this region at that time. (The name Yarmuta is not to be confused with that of the famous Canaanite royal city at Khirbat Yarmuk.) The Roman signal tower, Agrippina, may have stood on or near the site of Kawkab al-Hawa. In that area, also, the Crusaders constructed one of their most well-known and well-fortified castles, Belvoir, overlooking the Jordan Valley and Lake Tiberias. Kawkab al-Hawa was the site of a series of battles between the armies of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin) and those of the Crusaders. The Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 1228) referred to it as a castle on the hill near Tiberias. According to him, it fell in ruins after the reign of Salah al-Din. In 1596, Kawkab al-Hawa was a village in the nahiya of Shafa (liwa' of Lajjun), with a population of fifty. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, beans, and melons, as well as on vineyards.

Since the village was built within the outlines of the fortress of Belvoir, it was slow to expand. The villagers, who numbered about 110 in 1859, resided within the fortress walls and cultivated about 13 faddans outside of them. In time, however, houses were built in a circle around the fortress and extended to the north and west. The Muslim population of the village used their land, which lay outside the village walls, for agriculture. In 1944/45 a total of 5,839 dunums was allocated to cereals; 170 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

A military assault on Kawkab al-Hawa took place on 16 May 1948, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris, in the wake of the occupation of the neighboring town of Baysan. But other sources state that the village was not completely captured until a few days later. The History of the Haganah states that the village was occupied on 21 May, adding that the operation was undertaken by the Third Battalion of the Golani Brigade. The account states that the village was 'ideal' for the placement of artillery units to shell the valley below, particularly with the advent of Iraqi forces into the country on 15 May. When an Iraqi platoon prepared to ascend to Kawkab al-Hawa, it was an easy target for the Israelis who occupied the village. The Haganah says that their forces attacked the Iraqis from above, at a distance of 50 meters. By the time the Iraqi forces withdrew, they had lost thirty men, while the Golani Brigade only had three men wounded, according to that account.

Palestinian historian Arif al-Arif gives a slightly different account of what transpired at the village, indicating that Iraqi forces actually managed to enter and hold on to the village for a couple of days. He states that the village had been encircled by the Israelis just as Iraqi forces were entering the country on 15 May. The village's garrison put up some resistance but was defeated and routed. Just as Israeli forces were preparing to enter, the Iraqis arrived and wrested control of the village, staying from 15 to 17 May. An Associated Press dispatch from Baghdad on 18 May stated that Iraqi troops had occupied the village, which it described as 'a formidable concrete reinforced position.' However, al-Arif writes that on 18 May, the Israelis stepped up their attacks, in order to relieve the pressure on the nearby Jewish settlement of Gesher by sunset, the Iraqis had decided to withdraw, having lost twenty-three men. The following day, Israeli military headquarters issued a statement that did not acknowledge losing control of the village; it said only that their forces had repulsed an Arab attack on Kawkab al-Hawa. The communiqué, which was quoted by the New York Times, claimed that the Arab forces lost thirty dead in the battle for the village.

In September 1948, a kibbutz leader in this area asked Israeli authorities for support and permission to destroy the village, along with three others in the vicinity. Morris does not mention whether permission was granted.

There are no Israeli settlements on village lands.

The village has been eliminated, but the site of the Belvoir Castle has been excavated and turned into a tourist attraction. Fig and olive trees grow on the village site. The slopes overlooking the Baysan Valley and Wadi al-Bira are used by Israelis as grazing areas they also cultivate the other surrounding lands.