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Coordinates: 32°42′17.51″N 35°35′15.25″E / 32.7048639°N 35.5875694°E / 32.7048639; 35.5875694
Population 3,320

Handley Page, British four-engined long-range biplane airliner of the Imperial Airways, at Samakh, October 1931.

Samakh (Arabic language: سمخ‎) was a Palestinian Arab village located at the southern end of the Lake Tiberias in Palestine . It had a population of 3,320 Arab Muslims and Arab Christians in 1945.[1] The town's inhabitants fled after Haganah forces captured the town on March 3, 1948, with the remainder leaving in the wake of an assault by the Golani Brigade against the Syrian army on April 18, 1948. Most of the former residents became internally displaced refugees in the Arab city of Nazareth .[2]

It was the site of battle in 1918 during World War I.

Between 1905 and 1948, the town was an important stop on the Jezreel Valley railway and Hejaz railway, being the last effective stop in the British Mandate of Palestine (the station at al-Hamma was geographically isolated). Today, the Tzemah Industrial Zone and a part of kibbutz Ma'agan are situated on the location of the former village.

Location[edit | edit source]

The village was situated on flat land in the Jordan Valley, on the southernmost shore of Lake Tiberias, only a short distance east of the point where River Jordan exits from the lake. Samakh was the largest village in the Tiberias district, both in terms of area and population, and was a major transportation link. The village was served by a station on the railroad line that ran on the Jezreel Valley railway, an extension of the Hejaz Railway. It lay on a highway that ran along the lake shore and led to the city of Tiberias in the northwest. Sailing routes on Lake Tiberias also linked Samakh with Tiberias's harbour.[3]

History[edit | edit source]

The village was established in the early nineteenth century. Most houses were built of adobe, but some were built of the black (basalt) stone that was abundant in the Golan area near Samakh.[3] Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss traveler to Palestine who saw the village (which he called "Szammagh"), in 1812, described it as a collection of thirty or forty mud houses that stood alongside more costly houses built of black stone. He said about 100 faddans (1 fadda = 100–250 dunams) were cultivated in the immediate vicinity.[4][5]

In the late nineteenth century, Samakh was described as a village of 200 inhabitants who cultivated the surrounding plain.[6]

The village and its railway station were the site of a battle between British/Australian and German/Turkish forces in World War I. The battle ended in an Allied victory and opened up the way to Damascus for General Allenby's troops. It was described by Field Marshal Wavell as the most fierce and cruel battle in the Palestinian theater.[7]

In 1923 a local council was created, which still administered Samakh by 1945. The council's expenditure grew steadily, from P£310 in 1929 to P£1,100 in 1944.[8]

By 1944/45 the population of Samakh had increased to 3,320 Muslims, 130 Christians and 10 of other faiths. The majority of the population belonged to the settled Bedouin tribes of the 'Arab al-Suqur and 'Arab al-Bashatiwa. The village had two schools, one for boys and another for girls. Their chief crops were bananas and grain; in 1944/45 a total of 8,523 dunums were planted in cereals.[3]

The village was captured by the Haganah in the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, along with the British border guard base nearby, and became a military outpost that changed hands twice in the Battles of the Kinarot Valley, between the Haganah and the Syrian Army. On May 21, after the Syrian retreat, the Haganah set up a position in Samakh.[9]

Today[edit | edit source]

According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, the structure remaining of Samakh are the ruins of the railway station and a water reservoir. The members of Degania Alef also built a public park, a gas station, and factories known today as the Tzemah Factories on the village site.[10] The Kinneret College is also located there.

The kibbutzim Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan were established southeast of the village site in 1937, and have since expanded onto lands within Samakh's former jurisdiction. Both Ma'agan and the nearby kibbutz Tel Katzir were built on Samakh's land in 1949. The kibbutzim Deganya Alef and Deganya Bet are also close to Samakh's location, but not on land that belonged to the village.[10]

The Tzemah road junction, between Highway 90, 92 and 98, is located next to the site of Samakh, and has in its vicinity a small water park and a Burger Ranch restaurant.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Appendix B - Non-Jewish Population within the Boundaries Held by the Israel Defence Army on 1.5.49 - as on 1.4.45
  2. "Welcome to Samakh". Palestine Remembered. http://www.palestineremembered.com/Tiberias/Samakh/index.html. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Khalidi (1992), p. 537
  4. Burckhardt, 1822, p. 275.
  5. Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 537
  6. Conder and Kitchener: SWP I, 1881, p.361. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 537
  7. Ben Rehav, Uri (December 1989). "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". pp. 13–15. 
  8. Survey of Palestine (1945) 1:138-39. Quoted in Khalidi (1992), p. 537
  9. Wallach, Jeuda; Lorch, Netanel; Yitzhaki, Aryeh (1978). "Battles of the Jordan Valley". In Evyatar Nur. Carta's Atlas of Israel. Volume 2 - The First Years 1948–1961. Jerusalem, Israel: Carta. pp. 14–15.  (Hebrew)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Khalidi (1992), p. 538

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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