The village stood on the northern edge of Wadi al-Mujaydil, facing the village of al-Mujaydil (2 km to the south). Two springs lay in the vicinity of Ma'lul, one to the northeast and another to the northwest. A secondary road linked it to the Nazareth–Haifa highway, which passed a short distance to the southeast. Ma'lul may have been established on the site of a village, Mahalol, which dated back to Roman times and was subsequently identified by the Crusaders as Maula. In 1596, Ma'lul was a village in the nahiya of Tiberias (liwa' of Safad) with a population of seventy-seven. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on other types of property such as goats and beehives.
In the late nineteenth century there was a magnificent Roman mausoleum, then called Qasr al-Dayr, just outside of the village. Ma'lul itself was a village built of adobe bricks and situated on a hill; its estimated population of 280 cultivated 42 faddans (1
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the people of Ma'lul did not own their agricultural land but were tenants of the Sursuq family of Beirut, absentee landlords who had acquired the village lands earlier. In 1921 the Sursuqs sold all but 2,000 dunums of Ma'lul's land to a Zionist company, the Palestine Land Development Company. The remaining 2,000 dunums were insufficient to support the village's population, so at the request of the Mandate government, the company agreed to lease an additional 3,000 dunums back to the villagers until 1927. The villagers had the option to buy these 3,000 dunums before the lease expired.
In 1927 a lawyer representing the villagers claimed that they wanted to purchase the land, but the company said that they had failed to exercise their option to buy and that it had been transferred to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (which was prohibited by its constitution from selling any land that it acquired). The government, apparently did not recognize that the land was in JNF hands and insisted that the company extend the lease until 1931. The company agreed to do so informally (as if it still owned the land) but did not draw up a formal agreement to this effect. For the villagers it was probably not at all clear who actually owned the land and how long the leasing agreement would stay in effect.
In 1931 the JNF demanded rent and brought the villagers to court. The villagers countersued, claiming that they still had an option to buy the land. They also claimed grazing rights on another parcel of land to the west of the village that had been purchased by the JNF. The case dragged on, and in 1937 the government proposed a compromise. The JNF would give the government a parcel of land large enough to meet the villagers' needs, and in return the government would turn over to the JNF an equivalent parcel of state domain land south of the town of Baysan. Then the government would lease the land near Ma'lul to the villagers.
The 1937 partition plan and the 1939 White Paper blocked this exchange of land, however, because both imposed restrictions on land transfers near Baysan. Eventually the JNF obtained legal title to the land and refused to accept the government's terms for exchanging it for land elsewhere. Although the JNF did not attempt to cultivate the land (which was still being used by the villagers), it continued to demand rent and in 1945 asked that the villagers be evicted. Wishing to avoid bloodshed, the government reopened negotiations in 1946. These new negotiations were successful; the JNF agreed to relinquish 3,700 dunums of land near Ma'lul in exchange for 5,433 dunums of land near the town of Baysan.
Unfortunately for the people of Ma'lul, this agreement proved difficult to implement, because the land near Baysan that had been offered to the JNF was already hotly contested by Zionists and Palestinians. About 3,000 dunums of this land had already been absorbed by Zionist trespassers, who had simply squatted on the land and built settlements there. In response to Zionist trespass, the people of Umm 'Ajra (see Umm 'Ajra, Baysan sub-disctrict) put 600 dunums under cultivation and lay claim to them, even though they had no deeds to this property. When Zionist settlers attempted to take possession of the land near Baysan, then, they were met with strong resistance. As of May 1947 no solution to this new problem had been reached.
It is not clear from the sources how the people of Ma'lul were affected. Apparently the JNF did permit the villagers to move onto the land in question, and the government took possession of it. However, since the JNF could not itself take immediate possession of the land it had been promised, it may have continued to claim rights to the land of Ma'lul.
Ma'lul's houses were densely clustered together and were built of stone and mud, stone and cement, or concrete. The population consisted of 490 Muslims and 200 Christians. The village had one mosque and two churches, one Greek Orthodox and the other Greek Catholic. The residents drew water for domestic use from springs and wells. They worked mainly in agriculture, and cultivated primarily grain and olives, from which oil was extracted in a manual olive press. In 1944/45 a total of 784 dunums was allotted to cereals; 650 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. The villagers also engaged in animal husbandry. The mausoleum that had been near the village during the nineteenth century was clear evidence of earlier Roman habitation. There were also traces of building foundations and tombs on the village site.
Ma'lul was one of the villages in Lower Galilee that was occupied during the second stage of Operation Dekel (see 'Amqa, Acre sub-disctrict), according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. He states that it was occupied one day before the capture of Nazareth on 15 July 1948, but a United Press report at the time indicated that Ma'lul was occupied one day earlier. Morris also states that the village was completely emptied of its residents and its houses levelled.
Morris states that an Israeli settlement, Timurim, was established at Ma'lul in June 1948, or during the month before its occupation. This earlier date for its foundation may indicate that the settlement was erected on lands belonging to the village but not on the site of the village itself. An Israeli gazetteer states that the settlement of Timmorim (171234) was originally established near the village site but was later transferred to another location (127124), north of Qiryat Gat.
An agricultural training farm, Timrat (171234), was in operation near the village site during the 1950s, having taken the place of the settlement of Timmorim , but it was later abandoned. The Jewish Agency made plans to reestablish the settlement of Timrat (172234) in the late 1970s [Map of Settlement in Eretz Israel, Survey of Israel, 1982; scale 1:250,000], and in 1983 completed work on it. By 1988 there were 862 settlers living there. It is 1.5 km west of the village site, and part of it is on village land. A military base has also been established on village land. Kefar ha-Choresh (176234), founded in 1933, is to the east, and Migdal ha-'Emeq (172231), founded in 1952, is to the southwest, on lands that belonged to the village of al-Mujaydil.
The village site is now covered with a pine forest planted by the Jewish National Fund and dedicated to the memory of prominent Jews and some non-Jewish Americans and Europeans. A military base is also on the site. The mosque and two churches still stand, and are used intermittently as cow sheds by the residents of Kibbutz Kefar ha-Choresh. Overlooking Wadi al-Halabi, between the village site and the site of al-Mujaydil, is an Israeli plastics factory. Cactus, olive trees, and fig trees grow on the site, which is strewn with piles of stones. A few tombs in the Muslim cemetery across from the mosque can be seen. The main village site also contains the remains of houses.