PLace

Suhmata

Place
Suhmata — سُحْماتا
District
Galilee
Subdistrict
Acre
Average Elevation
600 m
Distance from Acre
25 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1931 796
1944/45 1130 1130
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Public Total
1944/45 9572 7484 17056
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 4246 7484 11730
Built-up 135 135
4381 7484 11865 (70%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Total
Cereal 3290 3290
Plantation and Irrigable 1901 1901
5191 5191 (30%)
Number of Houses (1931)
175

The village was situated on the tops of two hills that overlooked lower terrain on all sides except the north. It was on a highway that connected it to Safad, the coastal settlement of Nahariyya, and a number of villages. Suhmata had a Christian population at least until the Persian invasion of Palestine (A.D. 614–627) , and presumably many of its people remained Christian for some time after that. The Crusaders built a castle on the site and referred to the site as Samueth. Zahir al-Umar, the de facto ruler of northern Palestine for a short period during the second half of the eighteenth century, repaired some of the damage that had been inflicted on it during the Crusades. In the late nineteenth century, Suhmata was a village built of stone and situated on a ridge and the slope of a hill. The village residents, numbering about 400, tended fig and olive trees.

The population of modern Suhmata consisted of 1,130 Muslims and 70 Christians. Its houses were made of stone. The village had an elementary school, founded by the Ottomans in 1886, and an agricultural school that was established during the Mandate. It also had a mosque and a church. The villagers drew their drinking water from five springs and from domestic wells that collected rainwater. Two rainfed pools, one with a volume of about 5,000 cubic m and another half as large, provided water for irrigation. The larger pool was located between the two hills on which the village houses were built.

Over 70 percent of the village land was rocky and uncultivated, covered with oak and wild pears. The agricultural land was planted in wheat, barley, maize, tobacco, and vegetables. Suhmata's tobacco had a reputation for quality. In 1944/45 a total of 3,290 dunums was allocated to cereals; 1,901 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

In 1932 a Byzantine church was excavated on a hill near the village. An inscription in its mosaic floor dates the building to A.D. 555. Khirbat al-Duwayr and Khirbat al-Balu' lay nearby.

As units of the Golani Brigade's First Battalion advanced on the southern front of Operation Hiram, they met units of the 'Oded Brigade moving eastwards at the Suhmata junction. At the same point, retreating units of the Arab Liberation Army narrowly escaped falling into Israeli hands on 30 October 1948, although their vehicles and equipment were captured by the Israelis, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. However, according to the official Israeli military account in the History of the War of Independence, the village of Suhmata showed some resistance, 'but it was occupied after being encircled by an infantry platoon.' No mention is made of the inhabitants. Some neighboring villages, however, were 'punished' for their resistance by the expulsion of their people across the border to Lebanon.

By 27 May 1949 the village, which had been renamed Tzuri'el, was being readied for the arrival of Jewish immigrants. The main part of the settlement was northeast of the village site. In 1949 the settlement of Chosen was established on village land by Jewish immigrants from Romania.

The site is covered with debris and broken walls from fallen stone houses, all of which are scattered among the olive trees that grow there. A castle and a wall that were probably built by the Crusaders still stand. The castle is on an elevated spot on the eastern side of the site, and the wall encloses the western quarter. The surrounding lands are partly forested and partly used as pasture.

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