Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 06.12.2006:
Dayr Rafat before 1948
The village was located on the western slope of a modern- lately high mountain. The first part of its name dayr was Arabic for monastery the village was the site of a large monastery that belonged to the Latin patriarchate. The village also had one mosque named after al-Hajj Hasan. In the late nineteenth century Dayr Rafat was a small hamlet situated on a ridge with a spring to the west of the estimated 430 people who were living in 1994/45 a total 100 were Christians and the rest Muslims in 216 dunums were irrigated or used for orchard of which 25 dunums were used for olives. Water was supplied by three khirbas that contained the foundations of buildings grape presses rock-hewn wells a grindstone and burial grounds.
Occupation and depopulation
Dayr Rafat was over run on 17-18 July 1948 during the second stage of the Israeli army’s the history of the war of independence relates that it fell to units of the hazel brigade toward the end of the here el brigade toward end of that operation when Israeli forces widened the Jerusalem corridor southwards .Israeli researcher Benny Morris reports that most of the people remain in the vicinity fled with the approach of the har el columns and the start of the mortar barrages .He also adds that the remainder were expelled but it is not clear what transpired at Dayr Rafat nor what happened to the residents in the adjacent monastery.
The village was not destroyed until several weeks later during the second truce of the war. In his comments on the demolition of villages during this period Morris specifically mentions the case of Dayr Rafat; during the three months of the second truce he writes from 19 July until mid October the army continued to destroy abandoned villages in piecemeal fashion usually for reasons which were described as military. In the center of the country for example most of the villages were blown up in September.
Israeli settlements on village lands
The settlement of giv at shemesh (145131) was established in 1954 on village land just to the west of the village site .
The village today
The site covered with large piles of stone rubble and stone terraces; some of the latter are still intact while others have been destroyed and are now mixed with the rubble of the houses. Cactuses grow on the northwestern edge of the site. There are a few tents belonging to the Negev tribe of the members of which have rented land from the monastery which owns the village lands. The monastery located 2km west of the site has a large statue of the Virgin Mary at the top its façade and parts of the structure are covered with red tiles. There is a spring on the western edge of the village and a cemetery lies in the south .one large tomb stage tomb stands out to west there is a large olive grove.