PLace

Shilta

Place
Shilta — شِلْتا
District
Lydda
Subdistrict
Ramla
Average Elevation
300 m
Distance from Al Ramla
15 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1931 22
1944/45 100 100
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Public Total
1944/45 5379 1 5380
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 3187 1 3188
Built-up 6 6
3193 1 3194 (59%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Total
Cereal 2159 2159
Plantation and Irrigable 27 27
2186 2186 (41%)
Number of Houses (1931)
7

Shilta was situated on a hill of hard limestone on the easternmost edge of the central coastal plain. Several trails connected it to neighboring villages. The village site has been identified with the Crusader locality of Capharscylta. The French traveler Guérin, who visited Palestine several times, noted in 1874 that Shilta consisted of several houses, some of which were the remains of older buildings that had been supplemented with new enclosures to make them habitable. He also saw the remains of the Crusader structure. The stone-and-mud houses of Shilta were built very close to each other, separated by narrow alleys. Shilta was referred to as a hamlet in the Palestine Index Gazetteer. The population was predominantly Muslim. The shrine of a Shaykh Ahmad al-Shiltawi was located near the mosque at the north end. Rainfed agriculture and animal husbandry were the principal occupations of the residents, who cultivated a variety of crops, including grain, vegetables, grapes, figs, almonds, and olives. In 1944/45 a total of 2,159 dunums was allotted to cereals; 27 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

At the end of Operation Dani (see Abu al-Fadl, Ramla sub-disctrict), just as the second truce was about to take effect, Israeli forces turned their attention from the Lydda-Ramla plain towards al-Latrun. On the night of 17-18 July 1948, they made an attempt to cut the al-Latrun-Ramallah road. After midnight on 18 July, a company of the First Battalion of the Yiftach Brigade occupied Shilta. By morning, however, the unit discovered that its position, dominated as it was by an elevated position occupied by the Arab Legion, was indefensible. It decided to withdraw from Shilta, but came under heavy fire, losing forty-four men in the process. The History of the War of Independence states: 'Thus, in the few hours before the truce took effect, we experienced the most severe blow of Operation Dani, which had been full of triumphs.'

Israeli historian Benny Morris claims that this attack occurred a couple of days earlier. At any rate, Shilta was probably depopulated as a result of this attack. It is not clear when the village was reoccupied, but it may have been ceded to Israel as a result of the armistice agreement.

Israel established the agricultural settlements of Shilat (152147) and Kefar Rut (153146) in 1977 on village lands.

The site is overgrown with mountain flora, including long grasses and pomegranate, almond, and carob trees. Some of the cactus hedges survive, and several wells also are visible. Israelis have built greenhouses for growing flowers, as well as full-scale models of Arab houses and other structures on the site. One shows a shed, perhaps a watchman's, built of casually-stacked stones, topped with a wooden frame. Israeli settlement houses have been built on village land.