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Dayr ‘Amr

Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 10.07.2006:

Dayr ‘Amr دير عمرو


Distance from Jerusalem (km): 12.5

Average elevation (meters): 750

Land ownership in 1944/45:


Arab: 3,072

Jewish: 0

Dayr ‘Amr Before 1948:

The village was located on a flat mountain peak, oriented in an east-west direction. A secondary road linked it to“` the Jerusalem- Jaffa highway, and dirt paths led to nearby villages. Dayr ‘Amr, a very small village that included only a few stone houses, had an irregular layout. The villagers were Muslims; they maintained a shrine for a saint called al-Sa’i (the messenger) ‘Amr, who was the namesake of the village.

The village was the site of an interesting Palestinian educational and social venture. In 1942, the General Arab Orphans’ Committee- a private body based in Jerusalem- established in Dayr ‘Amr a model Boys’ Farm, the curriculum of which combined a regular high school syllabus with agricultural training. Students were chosen exclusively from rural families whose breadwinners had died in the resistance during the 1936-39 rebellion against the pro-Zionist policy of the British Mandatory government. The idea was to encourage the Farm’s graduates to return to their villages and help in their development.

In 1946, the Farm had about 60 boarders. The following year construction of a building began for an adjacent Girls’ Farm, to be run along similar lines. The Committee’s funds were largely drawn from a countrywide network of contributors who made small but regular donations, thus ensuring the national prominence of Dayr ‘Amr. The president of the committee was the Palestinian educator Ahmad Samih al- Khalidi, whose book is frequently cited in this volume. After 1948, the Palestinian leader Musa ‘Alami revived the concepts underlying the Dayr ‘Amr Farm when he established the Boys’ farm in Jericho, which continues to operate to this day.

A spring located south of the village provided potable water. Grain was planted in the bottom of valleys and in the lowlands, while olive trees and vineyards were located on the slopes. Wild trees, grass, and herbs covered the mountain tops around the village. Rainfed agriculture was the main source of livelihood. In 1944/45 a total of 650 dunums was allocated to cereals; 18 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. In addition to agriculture, villagers engaged in livestock breeding. The village was built on an archaeological site sometime early in this century.

Occupation and depopulation:

The village was ‘cleansed’ by the Fourth Battalion of the Har’el Bridge on 16 july 1948, according to the History of the War of Independence; Israeli historian Benny Morris states that it was conquered on 17-18 July. These two dates may actually refer to two different stages in the conquest of the village; the New York Times correspondent filed a story on 16 July to the effect that the “strategic heights” of this village were taken by Palmach fighters. Perhaps the village itself was not seized until the following day. Dayr ‘Amr was captured as part of the second stage of Operation Dani along with other villages on a side road leading to Jerusalem. The inhabitants of these villages were displaced in one of three ways: they may have evacuated their homes some time before the operation (perhaps in reaction to the nearby Dayr Yasin Massacre), or been driven out by the mortaring and attacks that preceded the operation, and some were expelled by the invading Israel troops. This was the fate of the principal of the Boys’ Farm and his deputy, who were sent on their way by shots fired behind them.

Israeli settlements on Village Lands:

The main buildings of the Boys’ Farm were transformed into an Israeli mental hospital, Eytanim (159131), in 1952.

The village Today:

The site is surrounded with a fence and a guarded gate. All the houses still stand and new extensions have been added to some of them. Large cypress and carob trees grow among the houses; there is an olive grove on the southern edge of the village. The Bezek telephone and television company has established a large facility, with radar equipment, at the southern edge of the sit. The psychiatric hospital of the Eytanim is nearby.

Source: Khalidi, Walid. All That Remains. Washington, D.C: Institute of Palestinian Studies, 1992.

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