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Tel Kabri *

An aerial photograph of the palace of Tel Kabri taken at the conclusion of the 2013 season of excavation. The Tel Kabri Expedition team is lying down on the covered-over plaster floor of Ceremonial Hall 611, and they are spelling out the name of the site. The picture also gives a complete overhead view of all known parts of the palace proper as of 2013. Photo: Skyview Productions, Ltd. on behalf of the Tel Kabri Expedition. Copyright holder: Eric H. Cline

Tel Kabri – תֵל כַבְרִי‎ – تَلْ ألْقَهوَة‎, Tell al-Qahweh, (“the mound of coffee”) is an archaeological tel (mound created by accumulation of debris) in the Western Upper Galilee containing one of the largest Middle Bronze Age (2,100–1,550 BCE) Canaanite palaces in Israel. Kabri is named for the abundance of its perennial springs the presence of which has led to the site’s occupation and use as a water source from 6,400–4,500 BCE to the present day. The site was at the height of its power in the Middle Bronze, controlling much of the surrounding region. Kabri declined as a local power at the end of the Middle Bronze, but the site continued to be occupied at times, on a much reduced level, up until the Israeli War of Independence.

What’s in a Name

By the Iron Age, 1200-500 BCE, the site was called Rehov, and this continued into the Phoenician period which was concurrent with the Iron Age. Kabri might have been the same city as Rehov, referred to in the Ancient Egyptian list of enemy polities or from the topographic lists by Pharaoh Thutmose III.

Tell Kabri, is an archaeological site on the grounds of Kibbutz Kabri, near the city of Nahariya, Israel, The tel contains the remains of a Canaanite city from the Middle Bronze Age Photo: Hanay

Roman Period

Early in the Roman Period (64 BC–500s CE), the town of Kabrita had been established to the east of the tel. 

Mosaic of Rehov showing Kabrita Photo: הינדה גלסנר

The site is mentioned in the 3rd century Mosaic of Rehov, as marking one of the northernmost bounds of Jewish resettlement after their return from Babylonian exile.

 A view to the southeast of the 40 or so wine storage vessels in-situ in the D-West wine cellar at Tel Kabri. The photo was taken during the course of the 2013 excavation by The Tel Kabri Archaeological Project. The expedition has numbered the vessels in the photo. Photo:
Andrew J. Koh, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline

Middle Bronze Period

In the early and middle Middle Bronze I, Tel Kabri – along with Megiddo, Aphek, and Akko – was one of the earliest cities in the Levant. At the peak of its power, Kabri may have controlled a domain that stretched from Mount Carmel in the south to the Tyre in the north. By 1500 BC, the site was abandoned for reasons unknown.

 Alabaster & Obsidian Vessels, Tel Kabri, Wadi Rabah Culture, 5500 BC Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: Gary Todd
Ceremonial Hall 611 of the Middle Bronze Age Canaanite Palace at Tel Kabri as seen from the South. The floor of the hall is covered over with gravel to protect the geo-textile laid down on it in 1993. That geo-textile was meant to protect a Minoan-style painted-plaster floor, but over the years became bonded to the floor so that it is now impossible to remove without expensive chemical compounds. Photo: Henry Pelgrift
A limestone figure of an ox found at Tel Kabri. As of June 2015, housed in the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo: Henry Pelgrift
Duckbill axe from the Middle Bronze age found in Kabri Israel Photo: Sariel shalev

Iron Age

In the Iron Age, the site was reoccupied by Greek mercenaries under hire from the Phoenician city-state of Tyre. This town was destroyed by the armies of the Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II around 585 BC. After this destruction, the town was rebuilt and this new town grew during the Persian period (538–332 BC) and habitation at the tel itself ends at this point.

 The “Orthostat Building” of the Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri. The building gets its name from the large stones at its edges, with holes in them, called orthostats. This structure was discovered during the 2011 excavation season and can be found in Area D-West of the site. Photo: Henry Pelgrift
A basal bowl of the Wadi Rabah culture from Tel Kabri found before the 1957–1958 excavations by Moshe Prausnitz of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums. Photo: Henry Pelgrift

Arab Period

Kabrita became the Arab village of el-Kabira, which by the late 1200s AD was called al-Kabrah, eventually became al-Kabri. The name of Kabrita, and the later names, were derived from the triconsonantal Semitic root, כבר, meaning ‘great or powerful’, in reference to the plentiful water from Kabri’s springs.

Crusader Period

The village was called Le Quiebre by the Crusaders. 

Ottoman Period

In addition to al-Kabri which is located east of the site, during the Ottoman Period, two additional Arab villages were founded on the actual site – en-Nahr and et-Tel.

An Ottoman-era structure near the spring of ‘Ein Shefa’ on Tel Kabri. This building was part of the infrastructure for the Akko Aqueduct built by Jezzar Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Akko. Photo: Henry Pelgrift
Ottoman period French survey map from 1799 showing the Upper Galilee. Kabri’s springs are shown as being exploited by Akko. Photo:Public Domain

Al Kabri

A 1940s map of the area of al-Kabri from the Survey of Palestine.
Public Domain

Al-Kabri was first badly shaken by the Palmach raid on the village on the night 31 January/1 February 1948, in which the house of the main anti-Israeli al-Husayni-affiliated notable, Fares Efendi Sirhan, was demolished by a huge explosion. After this, Sirhan and his family fled to Lebanon. 

The cemetery of Al-Kabri Photo:Ori~ 

On the 27 March 1948, the Yehiam convoy bringing supplies to besieged Kibbutz Yehiam was ambushed while passing by al-Kabri and 46 Haganah members were killed.

In April 1948, the Haganah prepared an initial blueprint for an operation called “Ehud”, which provided for attacks on al-Kabri, al Nahar, al-Bassa and al-Zib. The village was likely occupied on the night of 20–21 May during the second stage of Operation Ben-Ami, by which time most of the inhabitants had fled.

Kibbutz Kabri

Kabri – כַּבְּרִי‎ is a kibbutz in northern Israel in the Western Galilee about 4 kilometres (2 mi) east of the Mediterranean seaside town of Nahariya. In 1949 a new kibbutz was founded on the site of the village by displaced members of kibbutz Beit HaArava and young refugees from the Youth Aliyah. Beit HaArava was located along the Jordan River near Jericho, and had been evacuated during the Israeli War of Independence, was subsequently destroyed by the invading Jordanian forces. Beit HaArava’s children and noncombatant women members had been evacuated to kibbutz Shefayim during the War of Independence. The members subsequently divided in 1949 into two groups. One became the founding members of Kabri and the other joined Gesher HaZiv, another kibbutz in the Western Galilee.

Kabri Photo:מיכאלי

The kibbutz is located on lands which used to belong to the depopulated Palestinian villages of Al-Kabri and al-Nahr.

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