Friday , 21 June 2024

Beit Jann *

Beit Jann (بيت جن‎ –  בֵּיתּ גַ’ן‎) is a Druze village on Mount Meron in northern Israel. At 940 meters above sea level, Beit Jann is one of the highest inhabited locations in the country. Beit Jann has a cool climate, even in summer, and offers panoramic views that stretch as far as the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean on a clear day. The village is located inside the Mount Meron nature reserve.

Panorama of the outskirts of Beit Jann Photo: Someone35

Beit Jann was one of the major Druze centers in Israel. Beit Jann is located in the heart of the Mount Meron Nature Reserve 

As the legend goes, Druze communities existed in the area much earlier, congregating near water sources, but it was not until a pair of hunters chased a hare into a hidden cave where they found a fresh spring and hunting bows that they knew this would be the place for the Druze people to create a settlement. The oldest structure in the village now stands on the spot where the cave is said to have been found.

2008 Photo: רמי סלאלחה

Ancient History

The site of Beit Jann was an ancient village. There has been a settlement there since the Second Temple period. Many old stones have been reused in village homes. Cisterns and tombs carved into rock have also been found.

The Crusader Era

In the Crusader era the village was known as Beitegen

In 1249, John Aleman, the Lord of Caesarea (as John II) in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, transferred land, including the casalia (a cluster of houses in a rural setting) of Beit Jann, Sajur (Seisor or Saor), Majd al-Krum and Nahf to the Teutonic Knights.

Sajur (סָג’וּר‎ -ساجور‎) is a Druze village in the Galilee.

Sajur Photo: אריאל פלמון

Majd al-Krum (مجد الكروم‎ – מַגְ’ד אל-כֻּרוּם‎) Arab town in the Galilee.

According to local legend, Druze families in the area lived in scattered colonies in the hills near sources of water until the 13th or 14th century. Two hunters looking for hyraxes stumbled upon a cave where they found an ancient cistern filled with water. Concluding that this was a good place for permanent settlement, several families settled on the site of what would become Beit Jann.

Majd al-Krum in the 1970s Photo: רוחי מנאע

Nahf (نحف‎ – נַחְף‎) is an Arab town in the Northern District of Israel. 

Israel – Galilee – Nahf Photo:  Ariel Palmon 

The Teutonic Order is a Catholic religious order founded as a military order c. 1192 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem. After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East, the order moved to Transylvania in 1211.

Ottoman Era

In 1517, the village of Beit Jann became part of the  Ottoman Empire, and in 1596, Bayt Jinn appeared in Ottoman tax registers. It had a population of 102 households and 5 bachelors, all Muslims. They paid taxes on silk spinning, occasional revenues, goats and/or beehives, olive oil press and/or a press for grape syrup.

The village itself was established in the 18th century by Druze who came from Lebanon. In the 19th century Jews also lived there.

In August 1754, the Protestant Missionary, Stephan Schulz from Halle, visited the Ottoman Empire in 1752-1756. He authored a travelogue in as far as it covers the years the author travelled in the Ottoman Empire. The author largely refrains, as it was customary, from quoting earlier works in the genre, and could therefore be considered original.  The work, written in German, is little known but is exceptional in early modern travel literature. He noted that the inhabitants produced water-skins, and described the grapes of the region as particularly large and fine.

The American biblical scholar Edward Robinson, known for his magnum opus, Biblical Researches in Palestine, the first major work in Biblical Geography and Biblical Archaeology, which earned him the epithets “Father of Biblical Geography” and “Founder of Modern Palestinology.”

Edward Robinson (1794-1863) Public Domain

Robinson described Beit Jann as a “large well-built village” in 1852, with houses made of limestone. There were 260 male residents, all Druze, in the village. 

Victor Guérin  was a French intellectual, explorer and amateur archaeologist. He published books describing the geography, archeology and history of the areas he explored, which included Greece, Asia Minor, North Africa, Syria and Palestine.

Portrait of Victor Guérin Public Domain

In 1875, the French explorer visited the village, which he called Beit Djenn. He estimated it had two hundred people, all Druze. He further noted that: “A few years ago it was much larger, as is indicated by the abandoned houses which are beginning to fall into ruins. I am told that their occupants have fled to the Hauran ( A region that spans parts of southern Syria and northern Jordan) to escape conscription.”.. “The flanks of the hill on which the village stands are covered with vines which creep along the ground; their grapes [are] of a prodigious size..”

Map of the Hauran (satellite version) Photo: Amitchell125

In 1881 the Palestine Exploration Fund‘s Survey of Western Palestine described Beit Jenn as a good village built of stone, with 300 Muslims and 100 Druze, with extensive gardens and vineyards. A population list from about 1887 showed Beit Jenn to have about 1,215 inhabitants; all Druse. The Palestine Exploration Fund is a British society founded in 1865 and the oldest known organization in the world created specifically for the study of Palestine.

Palestinian Exploration Fund’s Quarterly Statement, July 1900 Public Domain

British Mandate Era

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bait Jan had a population of 902: 6 Muslims, 1 Christian and 895 Druze; the only Christian was an Anglican. 

A Jewish family that made cheese in the village in 1936 is the last testimony about Jews in the village.

Israeli War of Independence

Yiftach Brigade “D” Company Headquarters in Beit Jann. 1948 – Public Domain
Members of Yiftach Brigade, 1st Battalion “D” company, parading in Beit Jann. 1948 Photo: Public Domain

Israeli Era

This Druze settlement extends over several ridges, the two highest of which are 1047 meters above sea level is Mount Tzafrir (הר צפריר) and Mount Ha Ari (Jabal Hyder -ג’בל חיידר – הר הארי) which is 1048 meters above sea level)

At the summit of Har HaAri is a shrine edicated to Baha ‘Aladdin, one of the five prophets of the Druze religion.

Prophet Baha’ ad-Din Shrine  Photo:   Dr. Avishai Teicher
Shrine of Baha’ ad-Din, probably dedicated to the founding Druze leader of this name Photo: Dr.Avishai Teicher
A monument to the fallen IDF soldiers of Beit Jann. Photo: שועל

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