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Hebrew transcription(s)
 • Hebrew גִ'שׁ/גִ'ישׁ, גּוּשׁ חָלָב
 • ISO 259 Ǧiš, Guš Ḥalab
Arabic transcription(s)
 • Arabic الجش
Jish is located in Israel
District Northern
 • Type Local council
 • Head of Municipality Elias Elias
 • Total 6,916 dunams (6.916 km2 or 2.670 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 3,000

Jish (Arabic: الجش‎; Hebrew: גִ'שׁ, גּוּשׁ חָלָב‎,[1][2] Gush Halav) is a town in Upper Galilee, located on the northeastern slopes of Mount Meron, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Safed, in Israel's North District.[3] Its population is predominantly Maronite Catholic and Melkite Greek Catholic Christians (55% and 10% accordingly), with a Sunni Muslim Arab minority (about 35%).[4][5]

Archaeological finds in Jish include two historical synagogues, a unique mausoleum and burial caves from classic era.[6] According to Roman historian Josephus, Gischala was the last city in the Galilee to fall to the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War.[7] Historical sources dating from the 10th-15th centuries describe Jish (Gush Halav) as a village with a strong Jewish presence.[6] A small Druze community lived in Jish in the 17th century. The village was re-established in the 18th century AD by farmers from Mount Lebanon.

In 1945, Jish had a population of 1,090 with an area of 12,602 dunams. It was largely depopulated during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, but was resettled by Maronite Christians, who were expelled from the razed villages Kafr Bir'im.[8][9] In 2010, the population of Jish was 3,000.[9] The village is a center for the Aramaic revival, an initiative by local Maronites, now officially funded by the Israeli Ministry of Education until 8th grade in the local school.[10]


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Antiquity 2.1
    • Roman and Byzantine period 2.2
    • Arab, Crusader and Mamluk rule 2.3
    • Ottoman rule 2.4
    • British Mandate 2.5
    • State of Israel 2.6
  • Demographics 3
  • Geography 4
  • Religious sites and shrines 5
  • Archaeology 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10


The Arabic name el-Jish is a variation of the site's ancient name Gush Halav in Hebrew.[11] During the classic era the town was known as Gischala - a Greek transcription of the Hebrew name Gush Halav, lit. "abundance of milk", which may be a reference to the production of milk and cheese, for which the village had been famous since the early Middle Ages,[7] or to the fertile surroundings.[12] Other scholars believe the name Gush Halav refers to the light color of the local limestone, which contrasted with the dark reddish rock of the neighboring village, Ras al-Ahmar.[7]



Settlement in Jish dates back 3,000 years. The village is mentioned in the Mishnah as Gush Halav, a city "surrounded by walls since the time of Joshua Ben Nun". Caananite and Israelite remains from the Early Bronze and Iron Ages have been found there.[7]

Roman and Byzantine period

Both Josephus and later Jewish sources from the Roman-Byzantine period mention the fine olive oil for which the village was known.[12] According to the Talmud, the inhabitants also engaged in the production of silk.[7] Eleazar b. Simeon, described in the Talmud as a very large man with tremendous physical strength, was a resident of the town. He was initially buried in Gush Halav but later reinterred in Meron, next to his father, Shimon bar Yochai.[13]

After the fall of Gamla, Gush Halav was the last Jewish stronghold in the Galilee and Golan region during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE). Gischala was the home of Yohanan of Gush Halav, known in English as John of Gischala, a wealthy olive oil merchant who became the chief commander of in the Jewish revolt in the Galilee and later Jerusalem.[14] Initially known as a moderate, John changed his stance when Titus arrived at the gates of Gischala accompanied by 1,000 horsemen and demanded the town's surrender.[15]

In addition to Jewish burial sites and structures dated to 3rd - 6th centuries,[6] Jewish-Christian amulets were discovered nearby.[16] Christian artifacts from the Byzantine period have been found at the site.[17]

Arab, Crusader and Mamluk rule

Historical sources from the 10th-15th centuries describe Gush Halav (Jish) as a large Jewish village.[6] It is mentioned in the 10th century by Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi. Jewish life in the 10th and 11th centuries is attested to by documents in the Cairo Geniza. In 1172, the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela found about 20 Jews living there.[18] In 1211, another traveller, Rabbi Shmuel bar Shimon, wrote that he had visited the graves of Shmaya and Avtalyon and read the Purim megilla in Gush Halav. Ishtori Haparchi also attended a megilla reading when he visited in 1322.[13] In his book Kaftor Vaferah, Ishtori Haparchi says that the megilla was read on two days in Gush Halav (14th and 15th of Adar) because it was a walled city.

Ottoman rule

In 1596, Jish appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Jira of the Liwa of Safad. It had a population of 71 Muslim households and 20 Muslim bachelors.[19] It paid taxes on goats and beehives.[19]

In the 17th century, the village was inhabited by Druze.[6] The Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, who passed by the village in 1648, wrote
Then comes the village of Jish, with one hundred houses of accursed believers in the transmigration of souls (tenāsukhi mezhebindén). Yet what beautiful boys and girls they have! And what a climate! Every one of these girls has queenly, gazelle-like, bewitching eyes, which captivate the beholder—an unusual sight.[20]

Soon after, a local feud erupted in which the village appears to have been destroyed and abandoned. In the early 18th century, Maronites, Greek Catholics and Muslims began settling in the town.

The Galilee earthquake of 1837 caused widespread damage and over 200 deaths.[6] Three weeks afterward, contemporaries reported "a large rent in the ground...about a foot wide and fifty feet long." All the Galilee villages that were badly damaged at the time, including Jish, were situated on the slopes of steep hills. The presence of old landslides has been observed on aerial photographs. The fact that the village was built on dip slopes consisting of soft bedrock and soil has made it more vulnerable to landslides.[21] According to Andrew Thomson, no houses in Jish were left standing. The church fell, killing 130 people and the old town walls collapsed. A total of 235 people died and the ground was left fissured.[21]

At the end of the 19th century, Jish was described as a "well-built village of good masonry" with about 600 Christian and 200 Muslim inhabitants.[22]

British Mandate

At the time of the 1922 census of Palestine, Jish had a population of 380 Christians and 341 Muslims.[23] The Christians were classified as 71% Maronite and 29% Greek Catholic (Melchite).[23] By the 1931 census, Jish had 182 inhabited houses and a population of 358 Christians and 397 Muslims.[24]

In 1945, Jish had a population of 1,090 and the village spanned 12,602 dunams, mostly Arab-owned.[25] Between 1922 and 1947, the population increased by 70%.[26]

State of Israel

Israeli forces captured Jish on 29 October 1948, in Operation Hiram,[27] after "a hard-fought battle."[28] Benny Morris reports allegations that ten prisoners of war, identified as Moroccans fighting with the Syrian Army, and a number of villagers, including a woman and her baby, were murdered.[29] The Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, ordered an investigation of the deaths[30] but no IDF soldiers were brought to trial.[31]

Elias Chacour, now Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, whose family resettled in Jish, wrote that when he was eight years old he discovered a mass grave containing two dozen bodies.[32]

Many of the residents of Jish forced to leave the village in 1948 fled to Lebanon and became Palestinian refugees. Christians from the nearby town of Kafr Bir'im resettled in Lebanon and Jish,[8][9] where today they are citizens of Israel, but continue to press for their right of return to their former villages.[8] In October 1950, Israeli forces raided Jish and detained seven suspected smugglers who were stripped, bound and beaten. They were released without charge.[33]

In December 2010, a hiking and bicycle path known as the Coexistence Trail was inaugurated, linking Jish with Dalton, a neighboring Jewish community. The 2,500 meter-long trail, accessible to people with disabilities, sits 850 meters above sea level and has several lookout points, including a view of Dalton Lake, where rainwater is collected and stored for agricultural use.[34]

Today Jish is known for its efforts to revive Aramaic as a living language. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Education approved a program to teach the language in Jish elementary schools. Maronites in Jish say that Aramaic is essential to their existence as a people, in the same way that Hebrew and Arabic are for Jews and Arabs.[9]


Today, 55% of the inhabitants of Jish are Maronite Christians, 10% percent are Melkites and 35% percent are Muslims.[4][5] The total population of the village is 3,000 people (2010).[9]


Tomb of the Prophet Joel in Jish

Jish is located in Upper Galilee, in the Northern district of Israel. The town is close to Mount Meron, the tallest standing mountain of Galilee. Recently, a new road has connected Jish with the nearby Jewish village of Dalton.

Religious sites and shrines

According to Christian tradition, the parents of Saint Paul were from Jish.[35] Other churches in Jish are a small Maronite Church that was rebuilt after the 1837 earthquake and the Elias Church, the largest in the village, which operates a convent.[36]

The tombs of Shmaya and Abtalion, Jewish sages who taught in Jerusalem in the early 1st century, are located in Jish.[12] According to tradition, the prophet Joel was also buried there.[36]


Remains of Gush Halav synagoguge

Eighteen archaeological sites have been excavated to date in Jish and vicinity.Archaeologists have excavated a synagogue in use from the 3rd to 6th centuries CE.[6] Jewish-Christian amulets were discovered nearby.[16]

Evidence was found of earthquakes in 306 CE and of the Galilee earthquake of 363 CE. A strong earthquake in 551 CE may have led to the site's abandonment.

A carved Aramaic inscription on one of the columns of the synagogue, believed to date from the middle of the 3rd century or early 4th century CE, reads: "Yosei son of Nahum built this. A blessing be upon him."

Coins indicate that Jish had strong commercial ties with the nearby city of Tyre. On Jish's western slope, a mausoleum was excavated, with stone sarcophagi similar to those seen at the large Jewish catacomb at Beit She'arim. The inner part of the mausoleum contained ten hewn loculi, burial niches known in Hebrew as kokhim. In the mausoleum, archaeologists found several skeletons, oil lamps and a glass bottle dating to the fourth century CE.

A network of secret caves and passageways in Jish, some of them located under private homes, is strikingly similar to hideaways in the Judean lowlands used during the Bar Kokhba revolt.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 76
  2. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 225
  3. ^ Yoav Stern (30 July 2007). "Galilee villages launch campaign to attract Christian pilgrims".  
  4. ^ a b YNET [1] On the slopes of a hill, at an elevation of 860 meters surrounded by cherry orchards, pears and apples, built houses, especially church building looks from afar. Number of inhabitants 3,000 divided by 55% Maronite Christian, 10% Greek Catholics and the rest are Muslims.
  5. ^ a b "Population" (in עברית). Jish local council. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Projects - Preservation
  7. ^ a b c d e Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem, 1978, "Giscala," vol. 7, 590
  8. ^ a b c Morris, 2004. p.508.
  9. ^ a b c d e "The Aramaic language is being resurrected in Israel". Vatican Insider -  
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ Elizabeth A. Livingstone (1989). Papers Presented to the Tenth International Conference on Patristic Studies Held in Oxford, 1987: Historica, theologica, gnostica, Biblica et Apocrypha. Peeters Publishers. p. 63.  
  12. ^ a b c The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Jerusalem, 1972, p. 539.
  13. ^ a b el-Jish/Gush Halav
  14. ^ Redefining ancient borders: The Jewish scribal framework of Matthew's Gospel, Aaron M. Gale
  15. ^ Eric M. Meyers, Carol L. Meyers, James F. StrangeExcavations at the ancient synagogue of Gush Ḥalav,
  16. ^ a b The missing century: Palestine in the fifth century : growth and decline, Zeev Safrai
  17. ^ Eliya Ribak (2007). Religious Communities in Byzantine Palestina. BAR International Series 1646. Oxford: Archaeopress. p. 53.  
  18. ^ A. Asher (c. 1840). The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela 1. NY: Hakesheth. p. 82.  This passage is not present in the edition of M. N. Adler (1907). The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela. London: Oxford University Press. p. 29. 
  19. ^ a b Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 176
  20. ^ Stephan H. Stephan (1935). "Evliya Tshelebi's Travels in Palestine, II.". The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 4: 154–164. 
  21. ^ a b Damage Caused By Landslides During the Earthquakes of 1837 and 1927 in the Galilee Region
  22. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP I, p. 198
  23. ^ a b Barron, 1923, Tables XI, XVI
  24. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 107
  25. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p70. [3]
  26. ^ Transformation in Arab Settlement, Moshe Brawer, in The Land that Became Israel: Studies in Historical Geography, Ruth Kark (ed), Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1989, p.177
  27. ^ Morris, 2004, p.473
  28. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 500–501
  29. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 481, citing Israeli sources but noting their lack of clarity
  30. ^ Gelber, 2001, p.226
  31. ^ Morris, 2008, p. 345
  32. ^  
  33. ^ Morris, 1993, p. 167
  34. ^ Galilee Coexistence Trail Inaugurated, Jerusalem Post
  35. ^ Galilee villages launch campaign to attract Christian pilgrims
  36. ^ a b Gush Halav
  37. ^ ERETZ Magazine


  • Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine. 
  • Gelber, Y. (2001), Palestine 1948, Sussex Academic Press
  •   (p. 94 ff)
  • Hartal, Moshe (2006-09-06), Gush Halav (A) Final Report (118), Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel 
  • Hartal, Moshe (2006-11-09), Gush Halav (B) Final Report (118), Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel 
  • Hartal, Moshe (2006-11-19), Gush Halav (C) Final Report (118), Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel 
  • Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft.  
  • Getzov, Nimrod (2010-12-23), Gush Halav Final Report (122), Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel 
  • Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine. 

External links

  • SWP map IV
  • Welcome To Jish (Gush Halav)
  • Gush Halav Synagogue
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