Historical review

​Ji​sh - During the Mandate Period (1918- 1948)

Prof. Mustafa Abbasi mustafa@telhai.ac.il​

​The village of Jish is one of the most ancient villages in the northern part of the Galilee, and was famed during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. Yohanan of Gush​ H​alav (John of Giscala, was one of the leaders of the revolt, which was suppressed by the military campaign of the Roman commander, Titus, in 68 CE, and the settlement was then destroyed.  

Jish was mentioned during the Middle Ages, mainly in the descriptions of travelers and geographers. For example, it was described in the book of the geographer, al-Maqdisi, as a village situated on the crossroad linking the northern part of the country with Southern Lebanon.  Another mention of the village can be found in the book by Imad al-Din al-Isfahani, historian who was close to Sultan Salah al-Din (Saladin) and described his occupation campaigns. According to al-Isfahani, the Sultan reached Safad in 1188 CE and continued northwards from there to Southern Lebanon. On the way, he passed the village of Jish nestling on the hill top. 

The village is noted in many works of travelers and missionaries such as: Evliya Çelebi in the mid-17th century Victor Guerin at the end of the 19th century, and others. 

During the years of the British Mandate, Jish was a relatively large village in comparison with other ones in the Safad district. According to the census of 1922, there were 731 people living in it. In the census of 1931, the number rose to 755, of which 397 were Muslims and 358 were Christian. Towards the end of the Mandate period, the village had 1090 inhabitants comprising 584 Muslims and 506 Christians. This means that the population of the village was a mixed one before the establishment of the State of Israel, and was divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians, although throughout this entire period there was a small numeral majority for the Muslims.

The land area of the village was 12,602 dunams, most of them suitable for agricultural cultivation. The village had an abundance of springs and water sources within its range that provided drinking water for most of the year. The economy of the village was based on various branches of agriculture, and the villagers planted fruit trees (olives, figs), vineyards, grain plots and vegetables. During Mandate times, tobacco was widely grown that was mainly intended for export, and there was an increase in the production of sheep and cow milk in the settlement. The village of Jish was known for its local cheese industry and milk products that were famed for their excellence.

Despite the wealth of the village, many of its sons left it to foreign countries– Argentina Canada and USA – from the end of the Ottoman period and onwards. At the beginning of the Mandate period, there was a flow of migrants to Haifa. This migration at that period of time was also typical for other villages and for many of the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine. Haifa was prosperous and flourishing, thanks to the construction of a deep-water port for the British Navy, and this provided jobs for thousands of migrants from every corner of the Galilee, the Golan and the Hauran areas. Over the years, a community was created in Haifa of about 200 migrants from Jish who set up social and cultural clubs for themselves. 

As for the political aspect, the village usually identified with the moderate line, It should be noted that until the division of the area between France and Britain after the First World War, the marking of the international borders, and the implementation of the British Mandate, the village and the rest of the Galilee region had belonged to the Ottoman province of Beirut. Most of the Maronite community which comprised the majority of the Christian population in the village, were subject to the religious leadership in Lebanon and were loyal to it. For these reasons and others, the village was relatively quiet throughout the Mandate period. Most of the villagers, who were engaged in their gaining their livelihood, plainly distanced themselves from controversies and from national or local politics, and good relations were maintained between Muslims and Christians. 

During Mandate period the village was led by two mukhtars – one Christian and the other Muslim. Traditionally, the Maronite Christian community was nearly always led by the Jubran family, from which Christian mukhtars had been appointed since Ottoman times. For example, from the beginning of the 20th century until 1947, the mukhtar Sama’n Jubran was the head of the Maronite community alongside priests of the Dakhuol family. The Catholic Christian community, which was and still is a small one, was led by the Mansour family. The Muslim community was usually led by the Khalaila family, which was the largest in number and owned extensive tracts of land. However, at the end of the war in the Galilee, in 1948, all its members became refugees in Lebanon and Syria, and no memory of them remains in the village. 

As in the developments that occurred in most parts of the country, in the third decade of the Mandate period the village enjoyed an impressive and unprecedented building boom. The built-up area expanded to about 200 dunams, and new houses were built along the main road that connected Jish with the northern road. These houses were constructed of stone in the modern style and had spacious rooms, very unlike the traditional houses with courtyards that had characterized the ancient core constructions of the city. In 1926, a government school was established in the village that replaced the study classes conducted by religious teachers of both communities. In 1942, a large building was constructed above the local spring, and a pumping station was built that provided running water to the village houses. At the end of the Mandate period, a modern clinic was set up to provide medical services to the villagers and the surrounding population.

In September 1945, the Mandate authorities decided to set up a local council in the village. This step was meant to strengthen the settlement, and Sama’an Jubran, who had previously been the mukhtar of the Maronite community, was appointed as head of the council. He served in this role until his death in 1947. The establishment of a local council of ten members was testimony to the significant progress of the village during Mandate times.   Jish was one of the important Arab villages in the vicinity of Safad. The upward momentum of far-reaching demographic and social changes during the days of Mandate rule was damaged and later on halted completely after the Partition Plan for Palestine was accepted at the United Nations, and the flaring up of hostilities in the country between the two peoples at the outbreak of the1948 War .​​