Kefar Yasif

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KEFAR YASIF (Heb. כְּפַר יָסִיף), a large village at the foot of the mountains of Upper Galilee, about 7 mi. (10 km.) N.E. of Acre. The antiquity of the name Kefar Yasif is alluded to in the Septuagint, which instead of "Hosah," the portion of Asher (Josh. 19:29), reads ʾΙασιφ. The Jewish antiquity of the locality is evident from the stone door of a burial cave which is preserved at the Louvre in Paris. On it appear reliefs of a candelabrum and an ark. A stone tablet which is affixed over the door of one of the houses of the village bears reliefs of a candelabrum, a shofar (ram's horn), and a lulav (palm branch). In Crusader times it was a village called Cafersi in the territory of *Acre. As a result of the revival of Acre at the beginning of the 16th century, the Jewish settlement of Kefar Yasif was also renewed. It is reflected in the responsa of the rabbis of Safed and in the tax lists of the Ottoman archives of Istanbul. As one of the ten 16th-century Jewish village settlements in Galilee, its inhabitants also engaged in agriculture. Taxes were paid from the cotton crops.

With the renewed impetus of Jewish settlement in Acre during the first half of the 18th century, a new Jewish settlement was created in Kefar Yasif. This settlement also engaged in agriculture and observed the laws applicable to the Land of Israel. The community left in 1707 as a result of an attack of locusts, but was renewed by the kabbalist R. Solomon Abbadi in 1747 who sought, under the protection of Sheikh Dhaher el-ʾAmr, the ruler of Galilee, to establish a Torah center. The last settlement ceased to exist at the end of the first half of the 19th century (1841). The number of Jewish settlers fluctuated from 10 families in 1702, to 20 in 1764, to 15 in 1827. The present inhabitants of the village point to a "Jewish quarter." With the revival of the Jewish settlement in Kefar Yasif during the 18th century, the village became the burial site for the Jews of Acre (and not during the 13th–14th centuries as generally thought) because, according to the halakhah, it is doubtful whether Acre forms part of Ereẓ Israel or not. Upon their death, the wealthy of Acre were borne to Kefar Yasif on the shoulders of their pallbearers. Others preferred to be buried near the sacred tomb of "*Hushai the Archite" in the Druze village of Yirkah (3 mi. (5 km.) to the east of Kefar Yasif). The poor were buried on the eastern side of the walls of Acre. The custom of burial in Kefar Yasif was abolished either after the riots of 1929 or those of 1936.

[Joseph Braslavi (Braslavski)]

Kefar Yasif is now an Arab village with 7,820 inhabitants in 2002 (up from 3,470 in 1968), the majority Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox and the rest Muslim (57% Christians, 43% Muslims). Kefar Yasif has been governed by a municipal council since 1925. Its jurisdiction extends over an area of 2.6 mi. (6.7 sq. km.), with the village economy historically based on olive plantations, tobacco, and livestock as well as some intensive mixed farming, workshops, and small factories. In 2000 income was about half the national average.

[Efraim Orni]


R. Dussaud, Les Monuments Palestiniens et Judaïques (1912), 88; R. Gottheil and W.H. Worrell, Fragments from the Cairo Genizah (University of Michigan Studies, 13, 1927), 263; Rivkind, in: Reshumot, 4 (1925), 332–44; B. Lewis, Notes and Documents from the Turkish Archives (1952), 9, 16, 18, 20–21; Braslavi, Le-Ḥeker Arẓenu (1954), 123–8; idem, in Ma'aravo shel ha-Galil (1961), 179–98; idem, in Ma'aravo shel Galil ve-Ḥof ha-Galil (1965), 147–52; I. Ben Zvi, She'ar Yashuv (1965), 132–47.