Qunayṭira, Al-(Kuneitra)

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QUNAYṬIRA, AL-(Kuneitra)

QUNAYṬIRA, AL-(Kuneitra) , central town in *Ramat ha-Golan, at the crossroads where the highway connecting the Benot Ya'akov bridge with Damascus intersects roads to Mt. Hermon and Lebanon, to Sheikh Miskīn and the southern Bashan, and to *Ḥammat Gader on the Iarmuk River. The town lies in a shallow valley, approximately 2,950–3,100 ft. (900–950 m.) above sea level. Remains from the Byzantine period were found there, e.g., a granite column and three tombstones with legends in Greek. An archaeological survey in 1968 revealed additional Greek inscriptions, some of which testify to a Jewish population there in the Byzantine period, e.g., the legend "Archelaus ben Hananiah" on a tombstone. Until the mid-19th century al-Qunayṭira was only a wayfarers' inn (khān). With the settlement of Circassians in Golan the town became a regional center, and by the end of the 19th century had 1,800 inhabitants, almost all Circassian Muslims. Water from a spring was collected in a reservoir dating from the Byzantine period and conducted to ponds at several places in the town, and the houses were built along broad, paved roads. The Circassians regarded al-Qunayṭira as their national center. The economy was based on administrative services, commerce, small workshops, and auxiliary farming. In the 1950s, when the town belonged to Syria, it began to lose its Circassian character as Arab merchants settled there. In the 1960s al-Qunayṭira was made the district town of Golan, when the population approached 15,000 and the economy was increasingly geared to the Syrian military installations. A large headquarters for the "Palestinian Front" was erected at the town's western entrance. The Circassians by then constituted no more than 15–20% of the total population. When al-Qunayṭira was captured by Israel forces on the last day of the *Six-Day War (June 11, 1967), it was found abandoned by almost all its inhabitants. According to the Israel census (1967), there were still 206 people, but they subsequently left. Kibbutz Merom Golan was established at the town's western entrance. Al-Qunayṭira has a place in Theodor *Herzl's prophetic novel Altneuland. The town, which he envisioned as accessible by an electric train rising from the shores of Lake Kinneret, became a junction of Transjor-danian railways.

[Mordkhai Neishtat]