, also Shfar'am
(شفاعمرو, Šafā ʻAmr; , Šəfarʻam) is a city in the North District
. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics
(CBS), at the end of 2006 the city had a population of 34,100.
Location and name
Shefa-'Amr is an ancient city located in the North District
at the entrance to Galilee
. It is located from the Mediterranean Sea and from each of three cities, Haifa, Acre and Nazareth, which gives its inhabitants ample opportunity for employment. The city is located on seven hills, which gives it the name "Little Rome".
The elevation of the city and its strategic location as the connection between the valleys and mountains of Galilee made it more than once the center of its district, especially in the period of Otman the son of Daher el Omar, who built his castle in it, and towers around it. If you stand in a high spot in the city you can see a great view: the bay of Haifa with the sea stretching between Haifa and Acre in the west, and in other directions the high mountains of Galilee and the valleys surrounding the city.
In the Roman Era, the town was known as "Shofar Am", Hebrew for "horn of a nation". It is thought that this name is derived from that of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which for a time was located in the city and was considered the nation's horn. Alternatively, the name could be based on the literary Heberw word shefer שפר, meaning "beauty" or "goodness", i.e. "the beauty of the people".
The Arabic story for the name that is widespread among the people of the city is different. It is said that Amr Ibn Al-Aas, an Arab military commander, was sick when he came to the area, and when he drank of its water he was healed, so his soldiers started saying in Arabic "Shofiya Amr" (Amr was healed), and that was the source of the name. The spring which Omar drank from is still standing today southeast of the city. Others think that the name "Shfar-am" was changed to an Arabic form "Shefa-'Amr" in the Ottoman period.
Archaeological research in Shefa-'Amr indicates that the area has been inhabited for centuries. It is unclear who the early inhabitants were, although they may have been Canaanites
Shefa-'Amr is mentioned in the Talmud as one of the cities that contained the seat of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Shfar'am was mentioned in connection with Jewish revolts against the Romans, and Jewish graves and remains in caves dating to Roman times have been found there.
Christian churches dating to the fourth century in Shefa-'Amr attests to Christian habitation. Islam is also practiced here. Muslims used the city as one of their bases to fight the crusaders. The crusaders called the city "Sefrram" and built a fort on one of its peaks.
In the 18th century, when Dhaher al-Omar took over Acre and tried making the area independent from the Turkish sultan, he made his son governor of Shefa-'Amr. When the Turks divided the land into districts, Shefa-'Amr became the capital of its district which contained 28 cities.
The fort is located in the middle of the city. it was built in 1760 by Dhaher el Omar, at the time the governor of the area, for the purpose of securing the entrance to Galilee. The fort was built on the remains of a Crusader fort from the Middle Ages, called "Le Seffram".
Dhaher wanted to go as high as possible with his fort because he wanted to be able to see his brother's fort in Safed. He was able to build the first two floors but when he started on the third one he stopped apparently because he had low funds and also the low security in Galilee in that time. The first floor of the fort was a big place for the horses, the second floor was where Dhaher used to live. Dhaher's fort is considered the biggest remain of the Zidans in Galilee.
The Byzantine period tombs are located in the middle of the city. They were the graves of the 5th and 6th century Christian community. The tomb entrances are decorated with sculptures of lions and Greek inscriptions which make mention of Jesus.
Shefa'-Amr is home to an old synagogue on the site of an even older structure. It is recorded as being active in 1845. During the October 2000 events
, mayor Yassin stopped youth wanting to burn it down with his body. The synagogue was renovated in 2006.
The old market
The old market of Shefa-'Amr was the pounding heart of the city, stretching on a long area in the middle part of the city. The old market contained the main stores of the local inhabitants for a long period of time, it had restaurants, clothing stores, groceries, shoe makers and more.
throughout the times the old market started losing its position as the heart of the city and businesses started gradually moving out of it to other places all around Shefa-'Amr. The only place that is still opened and working until today is an old coffee shop where old men gather every day passing their times playing backgammon and drinking Arab coffee.
The only one of the four Towers of Shefa-'Amr still standing today, It was also built with defense in mind.
St. Jacob's Church
In the center of the city, where the Sisters of Nazareth monastery stands today, was a 4th century church called St. Jacob's Church. This church is mentioned in the notes of Christian church historians, although the church is not still standing today (the church of the monastery is where it was). Some marble columns remain, like those used to build the earliest churches.
St. Peter and St. Paul's Church
Is located in one of the town's peaks near the fort, it has a high bell tower and a large blue dome. The church was built by Otman, who made a promise to build it if his fort was finished successfully, so its history goes back to that of the fort. The walls of the church started to get weak so in 1904 the whole church was strengthened and improved. It remains standing today and is the main church of the Greek Catholic community of Shefa-'Amr.
Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba Grave
Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba was a well-known Rabbi from the 2nd century. He was captured and executed with the worst of executions by the Romans. His grave is still standing in Shefa-'Amr and many Jewish believers come to visit it.
Shfar'am's diverse population drawn from several different communities gives the city a relatively cosmopolitan and multi-cultural ambiance.
According to CBS, in 2001 the religious and ethnic makeup of the city was mostly Israeli Arabs (consisting of 57.3% Muslim, 27.5% Christian, and 14.6% Druze). See Population groups in Israel.
According to CBS, in 2001 there were 14,800 males and 14,700 females. The population of the city was spread out with 45.2% 19 years of age or younger, 17.0% between 20 and 29, 21.8% between 30 and 44, 10.1% from 45 to 59, 2.1% from 60 to 64, and 3.9% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate in 2001 was 3.2%.
Population in Shefa-'Amr over the years:
According to CBS, as of 2000, in the city there were 7,114 salaried workers and 872 are self-employed. The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS
3,836, a real change of 3.4% over the course of 2000. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS 4,543 (a real change of 5.3%) versus ILS 2,386 for females (a real change of -3.3%). The mean income for the self-employed is 5,777. There are 507 people who receive unemployment benefits and 5,315 people who receive an income guarantee.
According to CBS, there are 16 schools and 7,299 students in the city. They are spread out as 10 elementary schools and 4,324 elementary school students, and 8 high schools and 2,975 high school students. 57.7% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.
In the eastern part of the city mifaal hapayis built many educational buildings including: a public computer center, a public library, a big hall for various occasions and more.
Culture in Shefa-'Amr
- The Beit al-Musica Conservatory - founded in 1999 by musician 'Aamer Nakhleh is a well know music establishment among the local art establishments. situated in the center of Shefa-'Amr it not only offers a year-round programs of music studies in various instruments but also holds lots of music ensembles, performances and concerts.
- Every year the city of Shefa-'Amr holds a big music festival called "The Fort Festival", young Arab children from all around the country come and perform one of many classic Arabic songs and at the end of the night one of them is awarded the title "Best voice of the year".
- The Ba'ath choir - was established in Shefa-'Amr by Raheeb Haddad, its a well known choir that performs tens of concerts all over the country and participates in many international art concerts.
- Reem Talhami - is a well known classic singer, participated in many concerts all over the Arab world.
- Tayseer Elias - is one of Israels best Arab musicians and violet players.
- Butrus Lusia - Probably the best artist Shefa-'Amr has ever known. Throughout his life Butrus worked on lots of art projects, but since the 60's people started asking him to paint christian icons which they contributed for the churches of shefa'Amr, today most of the icons in the churched are of his work. But perhaps his best work is the one he painted back in 1940 of St. Elia and other saints riding a fire chariot going up to the sky which he conserved until his last day.
The first serious theater works in Shefa-'Amr were held back in the 50's by the Christian scouts of the city, many plays were held over the years by the members of the scouts.
Later in 1954 a few of young people from the city established a new acting group that held 2 Voluntarily plays for the purpose of establishing a new scouts movement.
for the next two decades, between the late 50's and the 70's, there were no real theater movement in the city except of some high school plays. In the 70's many theaters started appearing in the city, and many plays were held by each of them. probably the most known of them are: the sons of Shefa-A'mr theater, Athar theater, house of the youth theater, Alghurbal Al Shefa-'Amry theater and Al Ufok theater. today the biggest theater in the city is the Ghurbal Establishment which is a national Arab theater.
One of the well known artist in the city is Sa'eed Salame, an actor, comedian and a pantomimist. Sa'eed established an international pantomime festival that is being held annually for the past 4 years, pantomimists from all around the world participate in the festival which is held for 3 days.
For food items, Shefa-'Amr is most famous for its mastic
-flavored ice cream, bozet Shefa-'Amr
, and the Nakhleh Coffee Company, the leading coffee producer in Israel's Arab community.
Violent incident in Shefa-'Amr
On August 4, 2005, an AWOL Israeli Defense Force
soldier, Eden Natan-Zada
, opened fire while aboard a bus in the city, killing four Israeli Arab
citizens and wounding twenty-two others. After the shooting, Natan-Zada was overcome by nearby crowds, lynched
and beaten with rocks.
According to witnesses, the bus driver was initially surprised to see a kippah-wearing Jewish soldier making his way to Shefa-'Amr (an overwhelmingly Arab city) via public bus, so inquired of Natan-Zada whether he was certain he wanted to take his current route.
The four fatalities were Hazar Turki and Dina Turki, two sisters in their early twenties, and two men, Michel Bahouth (the bus driver) and Nader Hayek. In the days following the attack, 40,000 Arabs attended mass funeral services in the town for all of the victims: the two sisters were buried in an Islamic cemetery, and the two men were buried in the local Christian Catholic cemetery.
Shfaram and Israel Independence Day
In January 2008, the Mayor of Shefa-'Amr, Ursan Yassin, met with officials of the Israeli state committee on the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of independence, and announced that Shefa-'Amr intends to take part in the celebrations. He stated:
This is our country and we completely disapprove of the statements made by the Higher Monitoring Committee. I want to hold a central ceremony in Shefa-'Amr, raise all the flags and have a huge feast.
The 40,000 residents of Shefa-'Amr feel that they are a part of the State of Israel...The desire to participate in the festivities is shared by most of the residents.
We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our country and we want to live in coexistence with its Jewish
- Jeeran.com homepage
- Herzog, Chaim and Shlomo Gazit, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Vintage books, 2005.
- Ze'ev Vilnai, "Shefa-'Amr, Between the past and the present",Jerusalem 1962.