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Tantura ( , al-Tantura, lit. The Peak) was a Palestinian Arab fishing village located 8 kilometers northwest of Zikhron Ya'akovmarker on the Mediterraneanmarker coast of Israelmarker. It was built on the ruins of the ancient Phoenician city of Dormarker.



Dormarker was the most southern settlement of the Phoeniciansmarker on the coast of Syriamarker and a center for the manufacture of Tyrian purple, extracted from the murex snail found there in abundance. Dor is first mentioned in the Egyptianmarker Story of Wenamun, as a port ruled by the Tjeker prince Beder, where Wenamun (a priest of Amun at Karnakmarker) stopped on his way to Byblosmarker and was robbed. According to the Book of Joshua, Dor was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites commanding the heights of Dor whose king became an ally of Jabin of Hazor in the conflict with Joshua. Dor is also mentioned in the Book of Judges as a Canaanite city whose inhabitants were put to 'taskwork' when the area was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. In the Book of Kings we are told that Dor was incorporated into David's Israelite kingdom. In the 10th century BCE, it became the capital of the Heights of Dormarker under Solomon, and was governed by his son-in-law, Ben-abinadab as one of Solomon's commissariat districts.

Josephus Flavius in his Antiquities (14:333) describes Dor as an unsatisfactory port where goods had to be transported by lighter from ships at sea. Dora was the city where Antiochus, ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire with the aid of Simon Maccabaeus, laid siege to the usurper Trypho. During Pompey's invasion of Judeamarker Dora was razed, along with all the coastal towns, only to be rebuilt under Gabinius's direction.

Dor was an important salt production site, as attested to by pools and channels dug along the coast. Many shipwrecks have been discovered in the waters off Dor. Underwater exploration of a Byzantine wreck salvaged a medium-size boat constructed with iron nails. Based on coins recovered from the site, the boat dates to 665 CE, a decade after the Muslim conquest. Artifacts include several objects testifying to the practice of light-fishing.

By the mid-third century CE, the city had deteriorated to little more than a fishing village. Its importance rose from the 4th to the 7th century CE, when it became the center of a bishopric. Several bishops of Dor are mentioned in church records. The settlement migrated off the ancient tell to the area east of it, centering around the church complex, which served as a way-station for pilgrims traveling to the holy places. In 1950-1952, the church was excavated by J. Leibowitz, in 1979-1983 by C. Dauphin, and 1994 by S. Gibson and Dauphin. The village of Tantura, further south, was probably established after the church was abandoned in the early Arab period.

In the Middle Ages, a small fort surrounded by a moat was built on the southwestern promontory of the tell, overlooking the entrance to the southern bay. Dor has been identified with the Crusader principality of Merle, although excavations at the site, known in Arabic as Khirbet el-Burj, indicate that the moat was dug later, in the 13th century.

Ottoman era

Tantura rose in importance in the mid-18th century with the increased demand for cotton in Europe. Dhaher al-Omar carried out a policy of expansion of trade, increasing the capacity of the port at Tantura, as well as those of Haifamarker and Acremarker.

In 1799, when Napoleon Bonaparte besieged Akkomarker, he used the anchorage at Dor as a supply depot. Two archaeologists, Wachsmann and Rayeh, studied the Atlas of Jacotin, published in 1820, which portrayed the regions through which Napoleon's troops had marched, and concluded that Tantura was the spot where Napoleon camped on May 21, 1799.After the failure of his campaign, his troops retreated to Dor, where he hoped to evacuate by sea, but his navy failed to appear. To free up horses for carrying the wounded, he ordered heavy ordinance dumped in the bay. Artillery pieces, muskets and ammunition have been found in underwater surveys around Dor.

The British traveler James Silk Buckingham, writing in 1821, described al-Tantura as a small village with a small port and a khan (caravanserai). Mary Rogers, sister of the British vice-consul in Haifa, reported that in 1855 there were 30-40 houses in the village, with cattle and goats as the chief source of income.

In 1859 William McClure Thomson described Tantura/Dor in his travelogue:-
'Tantura merits very little attention.
It is a sad and sickly hamlet of wretched huts on a naked sea-beach, with a marshy flat between it and the base of the eastern hills.
The sheikh’s residence and the public menzûl for travellers are the only respectable houses, Dor never could have been a large city, for there are no remains.
The artificial tell, with a fragment of the Kùsr standing like a column upon it, was probably the most ancient site.
In front of the present village and five small islets, by the aid of which an artificial harbour could easily be constructed.
The entrance to which would be by the inlet at the foot of the Kùsr; and should “Dor and her towns” ever rise again into wealth and importance such a harbour will assuredly be made'.
Rothschild bottle factory, built in Tantura 1891

In 1884, Mordechai Bonstein, a Russian Jewish farmer pioneer from Rosh Pinamarker moved to Tantura to farm a tract of land owned by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Bonstein, his wife Haya, and their nine children, were the only Jews in the village. The farm was successful and the family maintained good relations with their Arab neighbors.

In 1891, Baron Rothschild financed the establishment of a bottle factory in Tantura, hoping to use the fine sand on the shore to manufacture glass bottles for the fledging wine industry in Zikhron Ya'akovmarker. A building was constructed under the supervision of Meir Dizengoff, a French glass specialist was brought in, dozens of workers were hired and three ships were purchased to transport raw material and bottles. However, the factory was abandoned in 1895 after a string of failures.

In a survey of Western Palestine in the late nineteenth century, Tantura was described as a village on the coast with a harbour located to the north, and a square, stone building used as a guest house for travellers (probably the khan referred to by Buckingham). The population, approximately 1,200, engaged in agriculture and conducted a small trade with Jaffamarker.Tantura had a boys elementary school, built around 1889, and another school for girls, founded in 1937-38.

British Mandate period

In 1922, al-Tantura had a population of 722 inhabitants, rising to 953 according to the British Mandate census in 1931. In Sami Hadawi's land and population survey in 1945, the town had a population 1,490 and a total land area of 14,250 dunams.

There were two Islamic holy sites in the village, including a maqam or shrine dedicated to an Abd ar-Rahman Sa'd ad-Din.

During the British Mandate the fish catch increased from 6 tons in 1928 to 1,622 tons in 1944. The major agricultural products were grain, vegetables, and fruit. In 1944/45 a total of 26 dunams was devoted to citrus and bananas, 6,593 to cereals and 287 dunums to orchards, mainly olives.

1948 war

In 1948 al-Tantura was within the area designated by the United Nations in the Partition Plan for the Jewish State. The village stood on a low limestone hill overlooking the shoreline of two small bays. The water was supplied from a well in the eastern part of the village. The al-Bab gate was in the southeast of the village. The Roman ruins were on the coast to the north with the hill of Umm Rashid to the south Some of the inhabitants were civil servants, working as policemen, custom officials and clerks at the Haifa Magistrates court. A paved road led to Haifa Highway. The village was one of the most developed in the region. Some residents of Tantura had been involved in the Arab Revolt, and three were killed in a skirmish with the British near the village. At the beginning of the 1948 Palestine War, the wealthier families fled to Haifamarker. Approximately 1,200 remained in the village, continuing to tend their fields, orchards, and ply their trade as fishermen.

Tantura was part of an Arab enclave cutting off the road from Tel Aviv to Haifa. On May 9, 1948, a decision was made to "expel or subdue" the villages of Kafr Sabamarker, al-Tiramarker, Qaqunmarker, Qalansuwamarker and Tantura. On May 11, Ben-Gurion advised the Haganah to "focus on its primary task," which according to Ilan Pappe was the bi'ur (lit. cleansing) of Palestine. According to Tiroshi Eitan, Tantura was ready to surrender in early May but not to relinquish its arms. The Alexandroni Brigade launched an attack on Tantura under cover of darkness without waiting for the village to surrender.

Operation Namal

The British were in control of the Haifa port area until April 23, 1948. The rest of the city fell to the Carmeli Brigade of the Haganah commanded by Moshe Carmel in Operation Misparayimmarker. After the fall of Haifa, Arab villages on the slopes of Mount Carmelmarker began attacking Jewish traffic on the main road to Haifa. The task of the Alexandroni Brigade was to reduce the Mount Carmelmarker pocket. Tantura was chosen as the starting point for this operation, codenamed Namal, which took place on the night of May 22-23. That night, Tantura was attacked and occupied by the Brigade's 33rd battalion. The attack commenced with heavy machine gun fire, followed by an infantry attack from all landwards sides with an Israeli naval vessel blocking off any chance of escape to the sea. By 800hrs on May 23, the battle was over, encountering little resistance.According to an unsigned Haganah report, dozens of villagers were killed and 500 were taken prisoner (300 adult males and 200 women and children).

Most of the villagers fled to the nearby town of Fureidismarker and territory controlled by the Arab League in the Triangle region near to what was to become the Green Linemarker. Women prisoners were taken to Fureidis. On May 31, 1948, Bechor Shitrit, Minister of Minority Affairs of the provisional Government of Israel, sought permission to evict the Tantura women from Fureidis due to overcrowding, lack of sanitation and the risk of information being passed to unconquered villages.A Ministry official, Ya’akov Epstein of Zikhron Ya'akovmarker, who visited Tantura shortly after the operation, reported seeing bodies, but said nothing of a massacre. In 1998, Yihiya Yihiya published a book on Tantura recording the names of 52 dead. The occupation of the village was followed by looting. Some of the items recovered by the Haganah included 'one carpet, one gramophone ... one basket with cucumbers .... one goat'.The male prisoners of war were held on the beach before being transferred to Zichron Ya’akov police station and put into labour battalions.

In 1964, the IDF released an official history of "The Alexandroni Brigade in the War of Independence" in which 11 pages were devoted to al-Tantura. There was no mention of any expulsion. In 2004, Alexandroni veterans acknowledged the forced expulsion.

Nahsholim and Dor

After the war, Kibbutz Nahsholimmarker and Moshav Dormarker were built on land on the outskirts of al-Tantura.Jewish settlers initially moved into the abandoned Arab houses in Tantura but left after building more suitable housing further down the coast. According to local legend, when bulldozers tried to knock down the local saint's tomb of Sheikh al-Majrami, the blades of the bulldozers broke.Kibbutz Nahsholim was established just southeast of the ancient tell. Moshav Dor was established by the southernmost bay. Kibbutz Nahsholim grows bananas, avocado and cotton, and raises fish in ponds. A plastics factory manufactures irrigation equipment. It also operates a beach resort.

Marine archaeology

A 9th century wreck known as Tantura B, most likely an Arab trading vessel, was discovered in shallow water off the Tantura coast. Excavations were conducted from 1994 to 1996 by the Institute for Nautical Archaeology (Texas A&M University) and Haifa Universitymarker's Center for Maritime Studies under the direction of Shelley Waschsmann and Yaakov Kahanov. The Tantura B hull was found resting on top of another shipwreck dating to the Roman period. Excavations at Tel Dor in 1986 unearthed an intact purple dye manufacturing installation, based on dye extracted from murex marine snails.

Massacre controversy

Israeli journalist Amir Gilat published the story of an alleged massacre in Tantura based on a master's thesis submitted to the University of Haifa by a graduate student named Theodore Katz. In a paper on The Exodus of the Arabs from the Villages at the foot of Mount Carmel, Katz claimed Israeli forces killed 240 Arabs from Tantura during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Katz himself did not use the word massacre, although other scholars were quick to use this terminology. The Alexandroni veterans protested and Gilat wrote a follow-up piece in which they flatly denied that a massacre had occurred.

Katz originally received a grade of 97%. According to both Meyrav Wurmser and Benny Morris, Katz's claims were wholly based on oral testimony, much of which was falsified. Morris found 14 different inaccuracies. Katz's presentation of the facts was also disputed by Israeli historian Yoav Gelber. The veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade sued him for libel. After two days’ cross-examination in court, Katz signed a statement, retracted 12 hours later, saying:

"After checking and re-checking the evidence, it is clear to me now, beyond any doubt, that there is no basis whatsoever for the allegation that the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the Jewish forces, committed killing of people in Tantura after the village surrendered."

The court disallowed Katz's attempt to retract his retraction, and ruled against him. He appealed to the Israeli Supreme Courtmarker but it declined to intervene. In the wake of this scandal, Haifa University suspended Katz's degree, inviting him to revise his thesis. The paper was sent out to five external examiners, a majority (3:2) of whom failed it. Katz was subsequently awarded a "non-research" MA. Historian Ilan Pappé continues to stand by Katz and his thesis. In the Jerusalem Report, Morris doubts that what took place was a "massacre," and maintains that eyewitness statements made long after the event are no substitute for contemporaneous documentary evidence. Katz interviewed 20 Israelis and 20 Palestinians (some of whom were 5–7 years old in 1948). Morris believes that one village woman was raped, Alexandroni troops may have executed POWs and there may have been some looting, based on an army report that uses the Hebrew word "khabala" (sabotage).

During the trial in December 2000, it emerged that Katz's claim that Abu Fahmi, one of the witnesses, had told him the "army rounded up the villagers, lined them up against a wall and shot them", was incorrect. The court ordered Katz to hand over the tapes of his interviews; no such statement was found. On the contrary, Abu Fahmi stated repeatedly that "we did not see them killing after we raised our hands". According to Morris, it is telling that "no residents went on record in 1948 or any time before the 1990s to claim there had been a massacre." In August 1998, a former resident of the village, Mahmoud al Yihiya Yihiya, published a book about Tantura in which he describes the battle and names 52 villagers who died, but does not call it a massacre.

Despite proposals in 2004 to exhume bodies from a site between Nahsholim and Dor believed to be a mass grave, no such action has been taken.

See also



  • Polzer, M. 2008. “Toggles and Sails in the Ancient World: Rigging Elements Recovered from the Tantura B Shipwreck.” IJNA 37: 225-52.
  • Abu-Sitta, Salman H. (2007): The Return Journey, A Guide to the Depopulated and Present Palestinian Towns and Villages and Holy Sites Palestine Land Society: Stratford, London. ISBN 0-9549034-1-2
  • Benvenisti, Meron. (2000): Sacred Landscape; The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of Californian Press ISBN 0-520-23422-7
  • Khalidi, Walid (1992): All That Remains, Washington D.C., Institute for Palestine Studies, ISBN 0887282245
  • Morris, Benny (2004): The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University press ISBN 0-521-00967-7
  • Pappé, Ilan (2006): The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld Publication Limited. ISBN 13: 978-1-85168-467-0

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