Sirin was an isolated Palestinian Arab village located halfway between the Galilee sea and Beisan, c. 17km from each.
It is significant as just one of 5 villages (and parts of the city of Haifa) which Benny Morris claims were indeed evacuated on Arab orders. By June 1948, at least some of the inhabitants had returned but the village was permanently depopulated by Israeli troops in the summer of 1948 and Sirin was completely destroyed. Only the village cemetery and one house remain standing, along with the remains of a mosaic pavement and a vaulted spring dating to the Byzantine period. Mentioned in historical documents, the 1596 census indicated it had 22 people; by 1945, this had risen to 810.
Silin lay on one of the Jiftiliq's lands: historically these lands, at times referred to as 'mudawar' lands, were nominally under the Ottoman Sultan's title but were cultivated by Palestinian farmers. Sirin grew into a thriving community around the burial place (maqam) of a Muslim holy man named Shaykh Ibn Sirin. The terrain in that part of Palestine is tough and the summers are unbearably hot. And yet the habitation that developed around the maqam and the nearby springs, three kilomotres away, resembled that of villages endowed with a much better climate and an endless flow of fresh water. Animals carried the water from the wells and diligent farmers used it to turn the rugged land into a small Garden of Eden. Sirin was an isolated community as it was unreachable by car, but outsiders who did frequent the village single out the particular style of the buildings there: Sirin's houses were made of volcanic black stones mixed with clay, and the roofs were covered with intertwined layers of wood and bamboo.
Sirin was noted as a fine example of the collective system of land-sharing to which the villagers adhered, dating back to the Ottoman period, and here had survived both the capitalization of the local agriculture and the Zionist drive for land. It boasted three rich bustans (gardens with fruit trees) and olive groves, which spread out over 9000 cultivated dunam of land (out of 17,000). The land belonged to the village as a whole and the size of the family determined its share in the crops and territory.
Sirin was also a village that had all the right connections. The main family, the Zu'bi, had been promised immunity by the Jewish Agency because they belonged to a collaborative clan. Mubarak al-Haj al-Zu'bi, the mukhtar, a young well-educated man, with close connections to the opposition parties, was a friend of the Jewish mayor of Haifa, Shabtai Levi, from the time they had both worked in Baron Rothschild's company. He was sure his 700 villagers would be exempt from the fate of the nearby villages. But there was another clan in the village, the hamulla of Abu al-Hija, who were more loyal to the ex-Mufti, al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni, and his national party. According to the 1943 Hagana village file on Sirin, it was the presence of this clan that doomed the village. The file noted that in Sirin ten members of the Abu al-Hija had participated in the 1936 Revolt and that 'none of them was arrested or killed and kept their ten rifles'.
The village suffered from time to time from the animosity between the two main hamullas, but, as everywhere in Palestine, matters improved after the Great Revolt, and by the end of the Mandate the village had put behind it the rift that tore it apart during the rebellious days of the 1930s.
Sirin's mukhtar hoped that the village's immunity would be further ensured by the presence of a small Christian clan that had an excellent relationship with the rest of the people. One of them was the village teacher who, in his class of 40 children, educated the next generation without any prejudice to politics or clannish affiliations. His best friend was Shaykh Muhammad al-Mustafa, the imam in the local mosque and the guardian of the Christian church and monastery that were also located inside the village.
Like other villages in Palestine, Sirin fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire between 1517 and 1918. In 1596, Sirin formed part of the nahiya (subdistrict) of Jenin under the liwa' ("district") of Lajjun, with a population of 22. Villagers paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on goats and beehives.
James Silk Buckingham, who visited the village in the early 19th century, transcribes its name as "Sereen" and describes it as being made up of about thirty to forty houses with half a dozen Bedouin tents located close to it. In the latter half of the same century, the village of Sirin was described as being surrounded by hedges of prickly pear, with about 100 inhabitants who cultivated 35 faddans of land.
Sirin was one of the first of approximately two dozen villages that were evacuated on Arab orders in April-May 1948 for "pre-invasion military reasons" according to Morris but the same source says that when Israeli troops entered Sirin in June 1948, they found it still had about 100 inhabitants. After checking their IDs and searching for weapons (finding only some knives), the troops left the village. A report from the battalion's intelligence officer recommended, "the Arabs should be ejected from the area, the young men should be arrested, and the crops confiscated ..." In any case, Sirin, along with the villages of Hadatha, 'Ulam, and Ma'dhar, were all permanently depopulated by Israeli troops in the summer of 1948.
Ilan Pappe writes that the village was occupied by Jewish troops on May 12, 1948.
Within a few short hours, this microcosm of religious coexistence and harmony was laid waste. The villagers did not put up a fight. The Jewish troops gathered the Muslims - of both clans - and Christians together and ordered them to start crossing the River Jordan to the other side. They then demolished the mosque, the church and the monastery, together with all the houses. Soon, all the trees in the bustans had withered away and died.
Today, a cactus hedge surrounds the rubble that was Sirin. Jews never succeeded in repeating the success of the Palestinians in holding on to the tough soil in the valley, but the springs in the vicinity are still there - an eerie sight as they serve no one.
Walid Khalidi described all that was left of the village structures of Sirin in 1994: "The cemetery and one house (which serves as a storage room for straw) are all that remain of Sirin. Stone rubble surrounded by clusters of cactuses can be seen on the site. The site itself is used as a stockyard for cattle. The spring in the middle of the site is covered with a stone structure. Some of the land around the village is planted in cotton."
Ilan Pappe references Khalidi describing a cactus hedge that surrounds the rubble remains and notes that nobody has succeeded in cultivating the land since. The Jews never succeeded in repeating the success of the Palestinians in holding on to the tough soil in the valley, but the springs in the vicinity are still there - an eerie sight as they serve no one.
- Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter and Kamal Abdulfattah (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. p. 157. Quoted in Khalidi (1992), p. 60 and referenced in the Wikipedia.
- Buckingham, 1821, p. 449. Also cited in Khalidi, p. 60.
- Conder, Claude Reignier and H.H. Kitchener: The Survey of Western Palestine. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. (1881) II:86. Quoted in Khalidi, p. 60 and referenced in the Wikipedia.
- Morris, 2004, p. 176-77.
- Morris, 2004, p. 261.
- Morris, 2004, p. 308, footnote # 806.
- Pappe, 2006, p. 105.
- Jews never succeeded in repeating the success of the Palestinians in holding on to the tough soil from Khalidi All That Remains pp. 60-1, the Hagana's Village Files and Ben-Zion Dinur The History of the Hagana p.1420.
- Khalidi, 1994, p. 60.
- Buckingham, James Silk (1821): Travels in Palestine Through the Countries of Bashan and Gilead, East of the River Jordan, Including a Visit to the Cities of Geraza and Gamala in the Decapolis
- Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine Sami Hadawi 1970 Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center.
- All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, Walid Khalidi 1994 Institute for Palestine Studies
- The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Benny Morris, 2004.
- The ethnic cleansing of Palestine Ilan Pappe 2006.