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ʿUsifiyyā

ʿUSIFIYYĀ

ʿUSIFIYYĀ (Isfiya ), Druze and Arab village, with municipal council status, on Mount Carmel, 5.5 mi. (9 km.) S.E. of Haifa. The village is spread over an area of about 20 sq. mi. (50 sq. km.). Remnants of a fifth- or sixth-century synagogue with a mosaic floor depicting a seven-branched menorah, etrogim, lulav, shofar, grapevines, a peacock, and other birds and bearing the inscription Shalom al Yisrael have been found in the village. The antiquities give substance to ʿUsifiyyā's identification with Ḥusifah, mentioned in an ancient kinah lamenting the destruction of its Jewish community. Although S. Klein (see bibl.) dates this event to the fourth century c.e., Y. Press assumes that it may be connected with the Byzantine reconquest of the country from the Persians under Heraclius at the beginning of the seventh century. Due to its proximity to Haifa, ʿUsifiyyā, which had about 1,100 inhabitants in 1947, progressed well under Israeli statehood, attaining a population or 4,000 in 1969 and 9,530 in 2002, of whom 75.5% were Druze, 16% Christians and 7.5% Muslims. The village's economy was based on hill farming (vegetables, field crops, fruit orchards, cattle, sheep, etc.) with a tourist industry bolstered by the beautiful surroundings. Together with neighboring *Daliyat al-Karmil, it constituted one of Israel's major Druze centers. In 2003 it was united with the latter as the city of Karmil. In the 1950s a Greek Catholic church was built there.

bibliography:

M. Avi-Yonah, in: qdap, 3 (1933), 118–31; Press, Ereẓ, 4 (19552), 745; S. Klein, in: Yedi'ot ha-Ḥevrah la-Ḥakirat Ereẓ Yisrael ve-Attikoteha, 7 (1943), 60ff., 107ff.

[Shlomo Hasson]

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