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Kafr Bir'im

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Kafr Bir'im

Kafr Bir'im
The church of Kafr Bir'im
Kafr Bir'im is located in Mandatory Palestine
Kafr Bir'im
Kafr Bir'im
Arabic كفر برعم
Name meaning The village of Bir'im[1]
Also spelled Kefr Berem
Subdistrict Safad
Palestine grid 189/272
Population 710 (1945)
Area 12,250 dunams
12.3 km²
Date of depopulation early November 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Expulsion by Yishuv forces
Current localities Bar'am[3][4] Dovev[4]

Kafr Bir'im, also Kefr Berem (Arabic: كفر برعم‎, Hebrew: כְּפַר בִּרְעָם), was a Palestinian Arab village in Mandatory Palestine, located in modern-day northern Israel, 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) south of the Lebanese border and 11.5 kilometers (7.1 mi) northwest of Safed. The village was situated 750 meters (2,460 ft) above sea level, with a church overlooking it at an elevation of 752 meters (2,467 ft). The church was built on the ruins of an older church destroyed in the earthquake of 1837. In 1945, 710 people lived in Kafr Bir'im, most of them Christians. By 1992, the only standing structure was the church and belltower.



Kafr Bir'im is built on the site of the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Bar'am, from which the name is derived.[5] The remains of the a 3rd-century Synagogue of Kfar Bar'am are still visible.[6]

Middle Ages

A visitor in the thirteenth century described an Arab village containing the remains of two ancient synagogues.[7]

Ottoman period

In 1596, Kafr Bir'im appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Jira of the Liwa of Safad. It had a population of 114 Muslim households and 22 bachelors.[8]

Kafr Bir'im was badly damaged in the Galilee earthquake of 1837. The local church and a row of columns from the ancient synagogue collapsed.[9] In 1852 it was estimated that the village had a population of 160 males, all Maronites and Melkites.[10] During the 1860 civil war in Lebanon, Muslims and Druzes attacked the Christian village.[11]

In 1881, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described the village as being built of stone, surrounded by gardens, olive trees and vineyards, with a population of between 300 and 500.[12]

British rule

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, 'Kufr Berim had a population of 469; all Christians,[13] all being Maronites.[14] By the 1931 census there were 554 people in the village; 547 Christians and 7 Muslims, in a total of 132 houses.[15]

In 1945, Kafr Bir'im had a population of 710, consisting of 10 Muslims and 700 Christians, with 12,250 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey.[16] Of this, 1,101 dunams were irrigated or used for plantations, 3,718 for cereals,[17] while 96 dunams were classified as urban land.[18] The village population in 1948 was estimated as 1,050 inhabitants.

Israeli rule

Ruins of the depopulated village

Kafr Bir'im was captured by the Haganah on October 31, 1948 during Operation Hiram. In November 1948 most of the inhabitants were expelled until the military operation was complete, and none were subsequently permitted to return.[19] Today the villagers and their descendants number about 2,000 people in Israel. In addition, there are villagers and descendants in Lebanon and in western countries.[20]

In 1949, with cross-border infiltration a frequent occurrence, Israel did not allow the villagers to return to Bir'im on the grounds that Jewish settlement at the place would deter infiltration.[21] Kibbutz Bar'am was established by demobilized soldiers on the lands of the village.

In 1953, the residents of former Kafr Bir'im appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel to return to their village. The court ruled that the authorities must answer to why they were not allowed to return. On September 16, 1953 the village was razed and 1,170 hectares of land were expropriated by the state.[22]

The leader of the Vatican and other church authorities, and the Israeli government offered the villagers compensation. Archbishop Hakim accepted compensation for the land belonging to the village church.[23]

In the summer of 1972, the villagers of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit went back to repair their churches and refused to leave. Their action was supported by archbishop Hakim's successor, Archbishop Joseph Raya. The police removed them by force. The government barred the return of the villagers so as not to create a precedent.[24] In August 1972, a large group of Israeli Jews went to Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit to show solidarity with the villagers. Several thousand turned out for a demonstration in Jerusalem.[25] The Israeli authorities said most of the inhabitants of the village had received compensation for their losses, but the villagers said they had only been compensated for small portions of their holdings.[26] In 1972, the government rescinded all "closed regions" laws in the country, but then reinstated these laws for the two villages Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit.

This was met with criticism by the opposition parties. In the 1977 election campaign Menachem Begin, then leader of the right-wing Likud party, promised the villagers that they could return home if he was elected. This promise became a great embarrassment to him after he had won, and a decision on the issue was postponed as long as possible. It was left to his agriculture minister to reveal to the public that a special cabinet committee had decided that the villagers of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit would not be allowed to return.[27]

The operational name of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972 was named after this village and Iqrit.[28]

On March 24, 2000, Pope John Paul II appealed to Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak to do justice for the uprooted of Kafr Bir'im.[29]

See also


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 76
  2. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvi, village #38. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxii, settlement #160
  4. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p. 461
  5. ^ The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, By Ludwig Köhler, Walter Baumgartner, Johann Jakob Stamm, Mervyn Edwin John Richardson, Benedikt Hartmann, Brill, 1999, p. 1646
  6. ^ Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman world: toward a new Jewish archaeology, Steven Fine, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 13-14
  7. ^ Judaism in late antiquity, Jacob Neusner, Bertold Spuler, Hady R Idris, BRILL, 2001, p. 155
  8. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 175
  9. ^ N. N. Ambraseys, in Annali di Geofisica, Aug. 1997, p. 9331837 earthquake in southern Lebanon and northern Israel
  10. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1856, pp. 68-71
  11. ^ Yazbak, 1998, p. 204
  12. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 198. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 460
  13. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XI, Sub-district of Safad, p. 41
  14. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XVI, Sub-district of Safad, p. 51
  15. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 105
  16. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 70
  17. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 119
  18. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 169
  19. ^ Justice for Ikrit and Biram, Haaretz October 10, 2001
  20. ^
  21. ^ Morris, 1997, p. 124
  22. ^ Sabri Jiryis: "Kouetz 307 (27. Aug. 1953): 1419"
  23. ^ Sabri Jiryis: Israel Government Yearbook 5725 (1964):32
  24. ^ Sabri Jiryis: Haaretz 24 July 1972, Yedioth Aharonoth, 30 June 1972
  25. ^ Sabri Jiryis and Chacours autobiography
  26. ^ Sabri Jiryis: compensation for only 91.6 out of 1,565.0 acres (6.333 km2) had been given in Ikrit, in Kafr Bir'im only "negligible" amounts
  27. ^ Jerusalem Post, 18 January 1979, ref. in Gilmour, p.103
  28. ^ Morris & Black, 1991, p. 270
  29. ^ [1]


External links

  • Kufr Birim, from Electronic Intifada
  • Welcome To Kafr Bir'im
  • Survey of Western Palestine, Map 4: IAA, Wikimedia commons
  • Kafr Bir'im, from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center
  • Kufr Bir3em, from Dr. Moslih Kanaaneh
  • Kafr Bir’im, Dr. Khalil Rizk.
  • A visit to Bir’im with the Bir'im children's summer camp by Miki Levi (31/7/2004), from Zochrot
  • The right of return, colored in pink by Ronit Sela, Bir'im (6/8/2005) from Zochrot
  • Visit to Birem Summer Camp by Eitan Bronstein, (9.8.2007) from Zochrot
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