Article in Haaretz – Info about Tell es-Safi/Gath in Ottoman Period

Recently, Haaretz published a very interesting article about Ottoman/British Mandate “well houses” in Jaffa and its vicinity and its relationship to the Citrus industry during this time. Among others, there is a description of buildings that belong to the El-Azi family in Jaffa. The El-Azi family are long-time inhabitants of the region of Tell es-Safi/Gath and till today they have two groups of houses in which members of the family live, about 3 km to the west of the tell. Also, the El-Azi family has the grazing rights on and around the tell.

Over the years, we, the members of the project have developed a close relationship with the family and in particular with Yunis, the family head (“Sheikh”) and his sons. In fact, every summer, there is the “mandatory” visit to their houses in which we drink tea, eat fruit, and discuss what has happened over the last year.

Here is a link (katzav-and-yunis.jpg) to a picture of Yunis el-Azi (on right with gray shirt) shaking hands with Moshe Katzav (in white shirt), the former president of the State of Israel (the latter, now, “fallen from grace” [and actually, perhaps even on the way to the “slammer” for alleged sexual mis-conduct] …) during the ex-President’s visit to the excavations in the 2005 season (Right behind Yunis and to his right, you can see Dr. Stefan Wimmer’s “gingy” head with sunglasses).

Of particular importance to the project are the stories about the pre-1948 village which Yunis has told us over the years, revealing all kinds of forgotten information about the village of Tell es-Safi, various things about the surrounding areas, and of course, interesting stories about the relationships between the inhabitants of the region in the pre-1948 years.


8 thoughts on “Article in Haaretz – Info about Tell es-Safi/Gath in Ottoman Period

  1. Avi Woolf

    Sounds very interesting :). It’s nice to hear that they’re so hospitable.

    Still, I would be wary of taking the stories you’re told as gospel (regardless of who tells them, Jewish or Arab). Oral history is a VERY problematic source, especially in our politicized region…

    One sign of this is the tendency of Palestinian Arabs to paint the pre-’48 period in very rosy colors, a sort of “lost paradise” that probably never existed…

    Anyway, nice post!


  2. Achish Melek Gat

    It’s been my privilege to be one of the guests at the yearly “tea” visits to the home of Yunis el-Azi. I can say that his stories of pre-1948 ex-Safi, and the Arab life in the surrounding area, are not necessarily “rosy” or reflective of a “lost paradise” at all. They tend to be quite realistic, and involve mainly the personalities of the prominent locals (rather than relative evaluations of pre and post ’48 politics, etc). Some very interesting items about the 19th and 20th century periods in the village have been shared in these visits, for which I have been quite grateful (inasmuch as we excavate quite close to the village, and find its material culture in virtually every square). In the USA, there is a realization that archaeology can touch the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries CE in ways just as real as it touches earlier periods. I have found this to be true at Tell es-Safi as well, and the village of es-Safi and its Arab inhabitants are as real to me as the ancient Philistines, Judeans, and Canaanites who lived there. I’m as interested in the Arabs of es-Safi in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century as I am in the Crusaders or the 12th century or the Philistines and Judeans of the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries BCE. Yunis el-Azi’s annecdotes are valuable and useful to me in my perspective of the site (and the area I excavate) in much the same way that the biblical narratives are. Although I regard both with relative caution, I find both to be remarkably informative and helpful in dealing with the archaeology and anthropology of Tell es-Safi.

    AMG (Area F)


  3. Avi Woolf

    Well, if that’s the case, why not share some of these stories with the rest of us? You’ve really piqued my interest. :-)


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