Al-Haditha: A Historical–Archaeological Study of a Depopulated Arab Village

Israel Science Fund research grant no. 1316/22

The project launched in 2022 intends to study the depopulated village of al-Haditha in an interdisciplinary way: a detailed archaeological analysis of material remains, together with a thorough historical inquiry. Our aim is to trace the village’s origins during Ottoman times and reconstruct its physical layout and social fabric. While al-Haditha is but one case study, its investigation can shed light on broader themes of village life in the region of Lydda and, by extension, other parts of Ottoman- and British Mandate period Palestine.

Al-Haditha existed on a mound known today as Tel Hadid from at least the middle of the 19th century until the 1948 War. By the time of its abandonment, al-Haditha was a relatively large-sized village with nearly 900 inhabitants, whose livelihood was based primarily on cultivating its fields and orchards as well as animal husbandry. Sources from the time of the British Mandate indicate the growth in population and its cultivated area during the nearly thirty years of the Mandate. Nonetheless, written sources are scarce, and the history of the village remains vague and fragmented. Many things remain unknown: the date of its foundation; the physical layout and social structure of the village; the socio-economic status of its inhabitants and their ties; their interaction with the Ottoman and British authorities and with nearby villages, the main towns in the area—Lydda, Ramla and Jaffa—and the neighboring Jewish settlement of Ben-Shemen; as well as the process of their uprooting during the 1948 War and their resettlement in the West Bank and Jordan. By integrating historical and archaeological methods, we would address these themes and strive to explore them in detail.

Figure: al-Haditha, 1940, looking northwest (IAA Archive)

Beyond the findings, the project aims to offer a new methodology for the study of ruined the villages. Thus, the study underscores the promise of historical-archaeological investigations of Israel’s recent past to illuminate unknown aspects of recent material culture (such as production, agriculture, and trade) and of assessing the points of accord or tension between artifacts on the one hand and textual and oral evidence on the other hand. It will also shed light on the under-studied rural communities that left little conventional record of their experiences.

This study is conducted by Prof. Yoav Alon, a historian, and Dr. Ido Koch, an archaeologist, who have assembled and lead a team composed of a historical geographer, a native Arabic speaker ethnographer, field archaeologists, and specialists in different archaeological and micro-archaeological remains—all studying together one village from multifaceted perspectives.