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Place Descriptions

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Bayt Nabala
submitted by Turathuna Bethlehem University

Bayt Nabala Before 1948
The village, situated on a rocky hill that sloped downward toward the southwest, overlooked the plain around Lydda to the east of Lydda airport. It was east of a highway leading to al-Ramla, Jaffa, and other cities. Bayt Nabala's accessibility to urban centers was enhanced by the secondary railway track that connected it to the Rafah-Haifa railway line. Another secondary road connected it to neighboring villages to the east and southeast. In 1596, Bayt Nabala was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa' of Gaza) with a population of 297. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, olives, and fruit, as well as on other types of property, such as goats, beehives, and a press that was used for processing either olives or grapes.

In the late nineteenth century, Bayt Nabala was a moderate-sized village situated at the edge of a plain. The British set up a military camp in the vicinity during the Mandate. During that period, the village was laid out in a rectangular grid, its secondary streets running parallel to two main streets that intersected at the center. A mosque, a number of shops, and an elementary school were clustered at this intersection. The school was founded in 1921 and had an enrollment of about 230 students in 1946-47. The villagers, most of whom were Muslims, built their houses of mud and stone. They earned their living from agriculture, cultivating grain (particularly wheat), olives, grapes, and fruits such as citrus and figs. Agriculture was primarily rain fed, but the citrus groves were irrigated from artesian wells. The village was ringed by farmland except in the west-southwest half-quadrant. In 1944/45 a total of 226 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 10,197 dunums were allocated to cere¬als; 1,733 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Two khirbas stood south of the village.

Occupation and Depopulation
Bayt Nabala was mentioned in the operational orders for Operation Dani. According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, Israeli forces were ordered to attack Bayt Nabala, where the Arab Legion had stationed a second-line company (of around 120-150 soldiers), after the capture of Lydda and al-Ramla. On 13 July 1948, the people of Lydda were expelled from their city and many were forced by Israeli soldiers to go to Bayt Nabala (which was still in Arab hands). The village probably fell a few days later, before the end of Operation Dani on 18 July. The New York Times reported that a unit of Israeli commandos stormed the outskirts of the village on 11 July to foil an Arab attempt to recapture the nearby Wilhelma, an agricultural colony founded by German Templars before World WAR I. But a later dispatch said that Arab forces recaptured the village on 12 July to establish shelling positions and counter Israeli attacks against Lydda. The Times story reported that the village was entered by Arab Legion armored cars; however, they were sent too late and were unable to relieve Lydda. The wire services reported that on 13 July, after a "stiff fight in which Israeli tanks and armored cars clashed with Arab Legion armored cars, Bayt Nabala was taken by the Israelis. The next day, it was reported to be a no man's land, but "no longer a threat to Lydda or Ramleh," both of which 'were in Israeli hands. A few days later, the New York Times said that the village had been taken before the second truce was signed on 18 July.

Morris claims that the residents of Bayt Nabala were evacuated from their village at the command of the Arab Legion some two months earlier, on 13 May. This cannot be confirmed. As for the village itself, a formal request for its destruction was made to the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Abandoned Property by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion on 13 September 1948.

Israeli Settlements on Village Lands
The settlement of Kefar Truman (in honor of American president Harry Truman) (143154), was established in 1949; it is west of the village site. The settlement of Beyt Nechemya (145153), founded in 1950, is south of the site. Both are on village lands.

The Village Today
The site is overgrown with grass, thorny bushes, and cypress and fig trees. It lies on the east side of the settlement of Beyt Nechemya, due east of the road from the Lod (Lydda) airport. On its fringes are the remains of quarries and crum¬bled houses. Sections of walls from the houses still stand. The surrounding land is cultivated by the Israeli settlements.

Source: Khalidi, Walid. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington, D.C: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

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