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SHEFARAM (Heb. שְׁפַרְעָם; Ar. Shefā ʿAmr), town in western Galilee. The earliest mention of Shefaram occurs in talmudic sources (rh 31a–b; Sanh. 13b, 14a; Av. Zar. 8b), which describe it after Usha as a seat of the newly reconstituted Sanhedrin, following the War of Bar-Kokhba and the persecutions of Hadrian. From Shefaram the Jewish authorities moved to Bet She'arim. In the crusader period it was known as Le Safran, a possession of the Templars; churches of St. James and St. John were located there. It was the headquarters of Saladin in 1191, when it was renowned for the woods and vines growing in the vicinity. In 1761 Ẓāḥir al-ʿAmr, the Bedouin ruler of Galilee, established his capital there, building a fortified castle and naming the place in Arabic after himself, Shefā ʿAmr. An attempt to settle Jews there in the 16th century had failed, but at the invitation of Zahir al-ʿAmr the Jews successfully renewed their efforts to settle in Shefaram. In 1813, Jews from Safed, fleeing an epidemic, settled in Shefaram. Later, in 1850, Jewish families from North Africa settled there. The community, most of whose members were farmers, maintained itself through the 19th century, although in dwindling numbers: 60 persons in 1856; 13 families in 1895; four families in 1900. The last Jew left the place in 1920, leaving behind a synagogue and a large cemetery. Shefaram's total population in 1881 was 2,500 according to Palestine Exploration Fund data; in the 1922 census it was 2,288; and in 1931 it was 2,824.

When the town was occupied by the Israeli army in June 1948, a number of Muslim inhabitants fled, while other villagers from the vicinity moved in. The population grew from 3,412 in 1948 to 7,225 in 1961 and to 10,000 inhabitants (Christians, Druze and Muslims) in 1968. In 1987 Shefaram received municipal status. The city's area is 8.5 sq. mi. (22 sq. km.). By 2002 the population of Shefaram had increased to 30,300 inhabitants. Among them, 57% are Muslims, 27.5% Christians, and 14.5% Druze. Until modern times the town's built-up area remained within its narrow, ancient nucleus, but when expansion began, the inner quarter remained inhabited by Christians, while Druze inhabited a northwestern quarter and Muslims a northeastern part. After the founding of the state, new suburbs with a mixed population were built, including a housing area for Israeli war veterans from minority groups. Shefaram's position, midway between Haifa and the Christian center of Nazareth, attracted Galilean villagers, as well as non-Jews from other towns of the region, who were seeking relatively cheap housing. Bedouin who have given up nomadic life have also settled at Shefaram. The town supplied administrative and commercial services to non-Jewish villages in the region, among them Sakhnīn, I'billin, and Tamra, and holds a weekly market. Health, welfare, and employment services are also extended to the Bedouin tribes in the vicinity. Approximately 12% of the people work in agriculture, 44% in local commerce and services, and the rest commute to work in Haifa and its industrial zones.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Shlomo Hasson]