PLace

Sarafand al-'Amar

Place
Sarafand al-'Amar — صَرَفَنْد العَمار
Known also as: Sarafand al-Kubra
District
Lydda
Subdistrict
Ramla
Average Elevation
50 m
Distance from Al Ramla
5 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1931 1183
1944/45 1950 1950
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Jewish Public Total
1944/45 9223 761 3283 13267
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 1 565 566
Built-up 36 36
37 565 602 (5%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Cereal 4012 500 2718 7230
Plantation and Irrigable 1665 1665
Citrus and Bananas 3509 261 3770
9186 761 2718 12665 (95%)
Number of Houses (1931)
265

The village was situated in a flat area on the central coastal plain, on the western side of a highway between Ramla and Jaffa. It was also called Sarafand al-Kubra ('the larger Sarafand') to distinguish it from Sarafand al-Sughra ('the smaller Sarafand'), its sister village some 5 km to the southwest. In 1596, Sarafand was a village in the nahiya of Ramla (liwa' of Gaza) with a population of 358. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, sesame, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce and property, such as goats, beehives, and orchards. The Egyptian Sufi traveler Mustafa al-Dumyati al-Luqaymi (d. 1764) reported visiting the shrine of Luqman (see below) in Sarafand. In 1838 Robinson passed by the area; he reported that there were two villages with the name of Sarafand, one of which was inhabited and the other ruined. Thus it may be that Sarafand al-Kubra was at that time also known as Sarafand al-'Amar (from the Arabic 'amara, 'to build up, populate'); if Sarafand al-Sughra was the ruined village referred to, it would have been known as Sarafand al-Kharab ('ruined'). At any rate, when the authors of the Survey of Western Palestine passed through the area in the 1870s, they noticed only one Sarafand. They said it was a village built of adobe bricks and situated on rising ground; a few olive trees were scattered around it.

During the Mandate the adjective al-'amar ('built-up, populated') acquired additional significance, as events drastically changed the two Sarafands. The British established their largest military base in the Middle East in the area near Sarafand al-Kubra, thus 'building it up' significantly. The British also built a prison for Palestinian activists next to it. At about the same time, in the late 1920s, the British burned Sarafand al-Sughra, temporarily reducing it to a ruined state once again (see Sarafand al-Kharab, Ramla sub-disctrict).

Sarafand al-'Amar was laid out in the shape of a rectangle, and its houses were made of mud. It was the site of a popular shrine for Luqman al-Hakim ('Luke The Wise'). The population was composed of 1,910 Muslims and 40 Christians. The village had two elementary schools, one for boys and one for girls. The boys' school was founded in 1921 and became a full elementary school in 1946-47. It had an enrollment of 292 students at this time and was endowed with 14 dunums of land for agricultural training purposes. The girls' school was founded in 1947 and had an enrollment of 50 students. Adjacent to it were the al-Raja' ('Hope') Orphanage (for the children of Palestinians killed in the 1936-39 rebellion against the British), a public hospital, and an agricultural station. Agriculture was the main economic activity, with citrus being the main crop. In 1944/45 a total of 3,509 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,012 dunums were allocated to cereals; 1,665 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. The orchards were irrigated from artesian wells, while the rest of the crops were rainfed. Artesian wells also provided drinking water. Archaeological evidence in Sarafand al-'Amar suggests that the village existed in the Roman and Byzantine periods.

On the morning of 2 January 1948, Arab workers at the large British army camp in Sarafand discovered twelve timed charges set to explode at noon, a time when they would have been lined up to collect their weekly wages. The Palestinian newspaper Filastin noted that none of the Jewish workers in the camp had reported to work that day, implying that they had been warned by Zionist groups responsible for the attack.

A party of Haganah sappers carried out a raid on Sarafand on 15 April 1948. The attackers penetrated 'deep in Arab territory,' according to a New York Times report, and demolished a three-story building. The British authorities stated that 16 people were killed and 12 wounded in the ruins of the building. A statement by the attackers charged that the building was used by militia forces led by Shaykh Hasan Salama, the Palestinian guerilla commander of the Jaffa sub-disctrict, and that 39 people were killed in the raid.

As the British army evacuated Palestine in mid-May, it allowed Arab forces to take over the army camp, which covered about 500 acres. Israeli foreign minister Moshe Shertok (Sharett) was quoted by the New York Times as saying that Jewish institutions had purchased the camp, but that it was handed over to the Arabs, nevertheless. According to the History of the War of Independence, the army outpost was handed over to Arab forces on 14 May. The 'small, semi-regular' Arab unit positioned there was driven out five days later by a two-pronged attack from the southeast and north; the Arab unit's defensive formation had been prepared only for an attack from the adjacent settlement of Rishon le-Tziyyon (to the west). The account adds that “the outpost fell into our hands without any casualties.' The Associated Press quoted unnamed Zionist sources as saying that they had made a profit of $2.5 million by capturing it. That was the sum they had reportedly offered (but never paid) for the former British camp. The same sources said that they were hoping to take advantage of the camp's facilities to house 20,000 new Jewish immigrants.

Sarafand al-'Amar was probably occupied during the night of 19-20 May 1948 by the Second Battalion of the Israeli army's Giv'ati Brigade. That places the occupation of the village within the scope of Operation Barak, Giv'ati's May offensive in the Ramla area (see al-Batani al-Gharbi, Gaza sub-disctrict). The residents of the village probably fled or were evicted at the same time.

Israel established the settlement of Tzerifin (136151), which included a military camp, on the ruins of the village in 1949. The settlement of Nir Tzevi (137151), built in 1954, is also on village land. Talmey Menashe (135150) was founded nearby in 1953; although close to the site, it is on lands belonging to the destroyed village of Abu al-Fadl.

The site, which contains what may be the largest Israeli army camp as well as an air base, has been designated a military area. No more than six houses remain; most of them are deserted, but one or two are occupied by Israelis. The school is also deserted, its front yard overgrown with cactuses. The surrounding land is cultivated by Israelis.