Infobox Former Arab villages in Palestine

caption=Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches
date=14 May 1948 [Benny Morris (2004): "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited", p. XVII. Also gives cause(s) of depopulation.]
curlocl=Betzet, Rosh HaNiqra, Shlomi

al-Bassa', ( _ar. البصة), also known as Betzet ( _he. בצת), and LeBassah (Crusader), is a former Palestinian village close to Lebanon's border, situated in the British Mandate of Palestine's District of Acre. The former village was 19km north of the district capital, Akko (Acre). It is 65m above sea level.

The Canaanites referred to al-Bassa by Bissah (meaning swamp), the Romans called it as Bezeth, and soon after the Crusades defeat in the 13th century the village was known by 'Ayn al-Bassa.

Two mosques and two churches, one of which remains standing. Al-Bassa had several shrines, some were holy for Muslims (one shrine remain standing), some were for Christians, and two other shrines were considered holy by both groups.

Archeological sites

Al-Bassa contains an ancient Christian burial place and 18 other archeological sites.

The village had a public elementary school for boys (built by the Ottomans in 1882), a private secondary school, and a public elementary school for girls. In 1922, the people of al-Bassa founded a local council which was responsible for managing its local affairs. By 1927 the village had a mixed population of Protestants, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox, as well as a Metawali Shi'ite minority. Its main economic activity was olive picking.

The 1938 camp of Jewish labourers and Notrim (police) for construction of Tegart's wall was located adjacent to the village, and it ultimately became the site of a Tegart fort. By 1945 the village had grown to 3,100 and was home to a regional college.

Important public structures at the time of its existence included two mosques, two churches, three schools and 18 other shrines both holy to Muslims and Christians, some of which are today preserved within the city of Shlomi and modern Israeli village of Betzet.

1948 War

Al-Bassa was captured by Israel through its Haganah forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in Operation Ben-Ami, on May 14, 1948. The village's defenders were local militia men. Residents that had not already fled the fighting, were completely ethnically cleansed on May 27th, 1949. One witness to the expulsion said that it was preceded by soldiers shooting and killing five villagers inside the church, while another said seven villagers were shot and killed by soldiers outside the church.cite book|title="Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948"|author=Meron Benvenisti|year=2002|publisher=University of California Press|isbn=0-520-23422-7|page=140] The villagers were mostly pushed north towards Lebanon, and was concentrated in the Dbyha refugee camp nearby Junyah. However, at the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, this camp was mostly ethnically cleansed by the Maronites Militias. Some villagers went to Nazareth, and became socalled 'Internally displaced Palestinians'.

The village was completely destroyed by the israelis, with the exception of a few houses, a church, and a Muslim shrine.

Eyewitness accounts

By Carel Willem Meredith van de Velde, 1861

Van de Velde visited "el-Bussa" in 1851, and stayed with the sheik of Bassa; Aisel Yusuf. (p. 252) "The inhabitants of Bussah are almost all members of the Greek Church. A few Musselmans live among them, and a few fellahs of a Bedouin tribe which wanders about in the neighborhood are frequently seen in the street." (p. 254)

By Henry Tristham, 1863

Henry Baker Tristram visited the village in 1863 and described it as a Christian village, and wrote that he was struck by the relative higher social position, manners, and appearance of women in Christian villages compared to those in Muslim villages. He described the women´s dresses as:

cquote|" [The women´s] dress was unlike any costume we had yet seen; consisting of rather tight blue cotton trousers tied at the ankle, slippers without stockings, a chemise of cotton, blue or white, rather open in front, and over this a long dress, like a cassock, open in front, with a girdle and short sleeves. This robe was plain, patched, or embroidered in the most fantastic and grotesque shapes, the triumph of El Bussah milliners being evidently to bring together in contrast as many colours as possible. The head-dress ...baffles my powers of description, but is very description, but is very interesting, as probably identical with that of the women of Galilee of old. [Such may Mary have worn, as she daily went to the well of Nazareth.] It is called the semadi, and consists of a cloth skull-cap, with a flap behind, all covered with coins -silver, but sometimes gold -and a fringe of coins suspended from it on the forehead. Round the face, from chin to crown, are two stout pads, by way of bonnet-cap, fastened at the top. But outside of these pads is attached a string of silver, not lengthwise, but solidly piled one on another, and hammered severally into a saucer-shape, with a hole drilled through the middle. They usually commence with some half-dozen Spanish dollars at the chin, gradually tapering up to small Turkish silver-pieces of the size of sixpences at the forehead. The weight is no trifle, and one little girl, whose head-gear was handed to me for examination in return for a present of needles, had £30 worth of silver round her cheeks. Many had frontlets of gold coins, and I saw one centre-piece on the fore-head of a sheikh´s wife consisting of a Turkish £5 gold piece. All the young ladies thus carry their fortunes on their heads; and this jewelry is the peculium of the wife, and cannot be touched by her husband. An instance in which a Greek priest had insisted on the payment of his fees out of the head-dress of a widow has been recited to me as a case of grievous extortion."|40px|40px|Henry Baker Tristram [Henry Baker Trisdam, p. 66-67]

Weir, after quoting what Trisdam wrote about the head-dresses in Al-Bussah, notes that coin headdresses went out of use for daily wear in Galilee at the beginning of the (20th.) century, but continued to be worn by brides for their weddings. [Weir, p.175-176]

Trisdam further describes the houses of the village:cquote|"The houses, excepting the very poorest, seem all alike. Each had a courtyard, with a high wall, for the goats, camels, firewood, and bees. At the end of the yard stands the mud-built house, with a single door opening into its one room. A pillar and two arches run across it, and support the flat roof. The door opens into the stable portion [ ] where horses and camels are standing before the manger of dries mud. Stepping up from this, the visitor finds himself at once in the simple dwelling-room of the family. A large matting of flattened rush generally covers one half, and a few cushions are spread in the corner, near the unglazed window. At the further end there are mud stairs leading up to the roof, the summer bedchamber of the family. Furniture there is none, except the few cooking utensils hanging on wooden pegs, a hole in the centre of the floor for holding the fire, with a few loose iron rods across the top, and the quaint wooden cradles of the babies, apparently hereditary heirlooms. In the better houses, there is a mat screen across the platform, behind which sleep the single women and girls. [ ]  On the top of every house is a wattled booth of oleander boughs, sometimes of two stories, with a wicker-work floor, in which the inhabitants sleep during the hot weather [ ] The tough and tenacious leaves of the oleander never shrivel or fall off, and form an effectual shade for many weeks.

Olive oil, goats´hair, and tobacco, seem to be principal produce of the district; the latter being exported in some quantities, by way of Acre, to Egypt. Bee-keeping, also, is not an unimportant item of industry, and every house possesses a pile of bee-hives in its yard."|40px|40px|Henry Baker Trisdam [Trisdam, p.81-82]



*Carel Willem Meredith van de Velde (1854): " [ Narrative of a Journey Through Syria and Palestine in 1851 and 1852.] " (Visited "el-Bussa" in 1851, stayed with the shaik of Bassa; Aisel Yusuf.)
*Tristram, H. B. (1865) " [ The land of Israel: Travels in Palestine.] "
*Weir, Shelagh (1989). "Palestinian Costume", London: British Museum Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7141-2517-2. (exhibition catalog)

External links and references

* [ History of Shlomi] he icon
* [ Al-Bassa International Association] - an "international forum" for former residents of al-Bassa.

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