Origins of the Family
The Abu Ghoshes (also written AbuGosh, AbuGhawsh, AbouGhawsh), known as ancien seigneurs feodaux, an old feudal family who ruled the Jerusalem mountains and controlled the pilgrimage route from the coast to Jerusalem during the Ottoman Empire.
Some historians are of the opinion that the AbuGhoshes came from East Europe at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. They arrived with the Sultan Suleiman and were entrusted to control the route to Jerusalem (see Alexander Scholch, Palastina im Umbruch). Others (some Israelis) believe that the AbuGhoshes'origins go back to the Crusaders who came to Jerusalem with Richard Coeur de Lion in the 12th century AD (probably because many of them have blond hair and blue eyes). Members of the family and some other historians hold the view that the AbuGhoshes came originally from the Arab Peninsula. They were four Emirs of Yemen, who were brothers, when they arrived to Egypt. From Egypt they came to Palestine with the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman and were entrusted with the control of the pilgrimage route to the holy places (see Egyptian royal manuscripts).
It is confirmed that the AbuGhoshes were settled in the sixteenth century AD on the mountains of Jerusalem, about 10 kms west of the Jerusalem city, where they still reside now. There is no doubt that the AbuGhoshes became related to the native Palestinian people (known to be descendants of the Canaanites) who lived at the site at that time, through marriage, as well as with the descendants of the Crusaders, who are known to have lived in the same region at that time. Archeological excavations have revealed that the site where the AbuGhoshes live is one of the most ancient inhabited sites in Palestine. This site used to be Kiryat Yearim a Canaanite name dating back to 6000 years ("yearim" means forest). In the Islamic era the site was called kiryat al-Inab. This site took later, in the 18th century, the name of the family "AbuGhosh", a beautiful muslim palestinian small town near Jerusalem. Its inhabitants today are the descendants of the old feudal family of the 16th century.
At the beginning of the Ottoman Empire Sultan Suleiman entrusted the AbuGhoshes with the control of the route from the coast to Jerusalem and granted them an official permission "farman" to impose tolls on all pilgrims and visitors entering Jerusalem. The churches of Jerusalem also paid tax to the AbuGhoshes in a one off yearly payment for their visitors (see Alexander Schoelch, Palatina im Umbruch).
Palestine was part of Great Syria (Great Syria used to be divided in four main regions: Syria in the North, Lebanon in the West, Palestine in the South and Jordan in the East) and was governed by feudal families until middle of the nineteenth century. The AbuGhoshes were among the most known feudal families in Palestine. They used to govern the sites of 22 villages (see Finn, Stirring Times, I, 230). They had self determination powers in the region. All powers were in the hands of the Emir or Scheich (Lord) of AbuGhosh. The Scheich, also called Zaim and Mutasallem (leader, governor), was dealing with all matters, political, military, economic, social and legal matters. A dispute between two parties was solved by the Scheich and a judgment was taken by him and executed with no right of appeal. Seeking revision was sometimes possible if allowed by the Scheich. Any person acting against the local laws or tradition was imprisoned. The AbuGhoshes used an old crusader church as a prison for their prisoners. The relation between the AbuGhoshes and the peasants of the villages was a patronus clients relation (see Alexander Schoelch, Palaestina im Umbruch; Mustafa ad-Dabbagh, Biladuna Filistin).
According to tradition, any pilgrim or visitor to the holy sites passing through AbuGhosh had to give their respect to the Scheich. Some of the visitors of the holy places wrote about lady Stanhope (daughter of a British Lord, niece of the British Prime Minister William Pitt and a relative of Sir Sidney Smith who besiegt Napoleon in Akko and had correspondence with the Scheich Ibrahim AbuGhosh) that when she visited Jerusalem in 1811 she stopped in AbuGhosh to give her respect to the Scheich. Scheich Ibrahim AbuGhosh found her an interesting woman. He ordered a formal dinner and spent the night in her company. She came back the next year and the Scheich was delighted to see her again. The next morning he insisted to escort her with his guards and servants to Jerusalem (see kinglick journey to the East; Mustafa Dabbagh, Biladuna Filistin).
The houses of the AbuGhoshes were described by pilgrims and visitors as beautifully built real stone houses and the residence of the Scheich was described as "a true palace..., a castle..., a protective fortress..." (see Sepp, Jerusalem und das heilige land, 2 bde, I,S150 Schaffhausen 1863; see also Tischendorf, constantin: Aus dem Heiligen Lande, Leipzig 1862, S 165f; see also Alexander Scoelch, Palaestina im Umbruch).
In the nineteenth century, between 1834 and 1860 AbuGhosh was attacked by military forces three times. The first attack was launched by the Egyptian military forces in 1832-4 led by General Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali, during the Egyptian occupation of Palestine (1831-1840). The castle of AbuGhosh was destroyed during this campaign and a fort in the village of Suba belonging to the AbuGhoshes was also destroiyed. The second attack was in 1853 during the civil war (between feudal families) and the third attack was made by the Ottoman military forces, helped and executed by the British forces, during the military expedition against the feudal families in the 1860s. All villages governed by the AbuGhoshes were bombarded during this battle. Lord Mustapha AbuGhosh who led an army of 12,000 fighters continued to govern the Jerusalem mountains against the will of the Sultan until he died in 1863.
The Ottoman Empire introduced reforms abolishing the feudal system and creating a new centralised government in Constantinople. Powers were transferred from feudal families to a Turkish governor, representing the Sultan, located in the city of Jerusalem. All villages and towns around Jerusalem were part of the Jerusalem District and each village was represented by a ؟Mukhtar؟, that is an elected person. Some Palestinian families living in the city of Jerusalem at this time, like Nashashibis and Husaynis, became wellknown in the second part of the nineteenth century through their work with government departments and European consulates, which were located in the city of Jerusalem, and gained a great importance in the Palestinian society, hence replacing the old feudal families.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a nephew of the Mukhtar of AbuGhosh, named Said AbuGhosh, left AbuGhosh and moved to reside in his owned land, an estate made of 22,000 dunum between AbuGhosh and the city of Ramla. He built his residence, a mansion fort, in his estate near the village of al-Qubab using a German architect. He was known to have hundreds of peasants working in his estate. He offered his protection to all villagers in the region. He was known to have founded a Sabeel, that is, offering water and a resting place to those travellers passing through on their way to Jerusalem, for free. He married the daughter of a Turkish General in the Ottoman army who had his residence in the village of al-Qubab. Lord AbuGhosh was loved and very much respected by the AbuGhoshes for the many contributions and support he provided.
After the declaration of the British mandate on Palestine in 1920 main concerns of AbuGhosh were the British occupation. He offered unlimited financial and military help to the Palestinian militants in order to fight the British occupation. He was also known to have bought land in all parts of Palestine, in order to avoid land coming into the hands of the Jews, which made him one of the biggest landowners of Palestine in his time. The reason for avoiding Jews getting land was the rumours which were spreading around about the Balfour Declaration of 1917 ( promise given by the British government to the Jews to create a homeland in Palestine). Lord AbuGhosh died in 1936 and was buried in his estate.
AbuGhosh after 1948
The year of the Declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948 on Palestinian land is called by Palestinians the Naqba year, that is, year of disaster, during which Palestinians were expelled from their homes by the Jewish militants (Hagannah,Irgun and Lehi) and driven to the borders. This year marks the beginning of the Palestinian Diaspora.
A few months before the end of the British Mandate on Palestine, started the realisation of an organised Jewish-British plan to force Palestinians, native inhabitants of Palestine, to leave their land, in order to create a homeland for the Jews. Jewish military vans equipped with loudspeakers carrying military forces invaded Palestinian villages and drove between houses ordering all inhabitants to evacuate immediately. Those who refused to leave and stayed in their homes were shot dead. Other acts of terrorism were committed (see Deir Yassin massacre), in order to create a panic in all neighbouring villages. Villagers had no option but to flee in fear of their own lives. British trucks were waiting at the entry of a village offering Palestinians "help" to drive them to the border.
The AbuGhoshes' mansion fort, together with a bran new built hospital belonging to the son of the deceased Lord AbuGhosh, mentioned above (a medical surgeon who had a clinic in the city of Ramla), were bombarded by the Jewish military forces, the Hagannah, on the 1st April 1948. The Jewish military forces invaded the estate by dawn ordering the family to evacuate immediately and warning any person refusing to leave would be shot. They were given 15 minutes to leave. The family fled to Jordan . One of the guards was killed. According to eyewitnesses of servants who worked for the family, the mansion had been emptied from its contents by the Jewish militants before it was blown up and destroyed . The neighbouring villages were evacuated and destroyed weeks later.
As for the small town of AbuGhosh, where almost all the AbuGhoshes lived, there was two phases of exodus: the first phase, happened immediately after the destruction of the AbuGhoshes estate, near al-Qubab, one week before Deir Yassin massacre. Those inhabitants who left AbuGhosh were those who were directly involved in the Palestinian Resistance (secret meetings of the Palestrinian Resistance were held in AbuGhosh). The second phase took place immediately after the Deir Yassin massacre (254 villagers killed, including women and children), near Jerusalem, which was not far from AbuGhosh. Inhabitants of AbuGosh left their homes in fear of their own lives, with the intention to return when the troubles were over. People who remained in AbuGhosh were elderly and sick people who could not flee.
Most of the expelled inhabitants of AbuGhosh in April 1948 made their way back home a few weeks or months later after the truce. When the Israelis found out about the return of AbuGhosh inhabitants, they killed every person passing through the borders trying to enter Palestine. Many of the AbuGhoshes were killed in trying to return home, including women and children. The AbuGhoshes, native inhabitants of AbuGhosh, who lived there for 500 years, were called by the newly created State of Israel "illegal infiltrators" and were shot dead immediately if found near the borders trying to return. In 1949 the IDF (Israel Defence Force) surrounded the town of AbuGhosh announcing with loudspeakers the town under siege and warning anyone trying to get out would be shot. They conducted meticulous searches, arrested people, including women and children and took them to unknown places. They never came back. It became later known that they were first tortured, then driven to the borders and shot dead there (see Benny Morris, an Israeli historian and other Israeli historians). The Jewish military forces came back the next year on 7 July 1950. Residents of AbuGhosh were rounded up and taken to unknown places. They never returned back. It was said, they were killed. Many of the AbuGhoshes who were not allowed to return back home remained in exile, as refugees, in the West bank and Jordan until the present day.
AbuGhosh, like all villages, towns and cities in the occupied territories of 1948, became part of the newly created State of Israel. In 1950 a village near AbuGhosh, Beit Naquba, was destroyed . The Israelis built a Jewish settlement there. Its inhabitants found refuge in AbuGhosh, as a temporary arrangement. Some of them moved out later. A few are still living in AbuGhosh. The AbuGhoshes have difficulty to get along with those "foreigns" who reside in AbuGhosh since 1950, as they do not belong to the family and have different customs. Some of them succeeded to change their surname into "AbuGhosh" by paying a bribery to the registration officers, in order not to be evicted from AbuGhosh. Some other people live now in AbuGhosh, including Jewish people.
It is now the case that not every resident of AbuGhosh belong to the AbuGhosh family, as it used to be before 1950, and not every member of the AbuGhosh family lives in AbuGhosh. Most of the AbuGhoshes live in other parts of the occupied territories, the West Bank, Jordan, Kuwait, Europe and USA.
The AbuGhoshes Estates outside the small town of AbuGhosh from the coast to Jerusalem were confiscated by the Israelis in 1948, as "Absentee Land" or "Miri Land".
Alexander Schoelch, Palastina im Umbruch, Stuttgart 1986
Finn: Stirring Times
Mustafa Dabbagh: Biladuna Filistin, Beirut 1965-1976
Sepp: Jerusalem und das Heilige Land, 2Bde, Schauffhausen 1863
Tischendorf, Constantin: Aus dem Heiligen Lande, Leipzig, 1862
Benny Morris and other Israeli historians
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