Shefaram

Today an Arab city 8KM from the bay of Haifa, on the west hills of the Galilee. In Roman times - the place of the Sanhendrin. The Crusaders built here a fort to protect the road from Acre to Nazareth. Later, a fort was built in the 18th C.

 

 

Home > Sites > West Galilee > Shefaram  (Shfaram, Shafa-Amar, La-Safran)

 

 

 

 

 

Contents:

Background

Location

History

Aerial map

Photos

  * General

  * Fortress

  * Churches

  * Synagogue

  * Burj

Etymology

Links

Background:

 

Shefaram (Shfaram, Shafa-Amar) is a Arab-Druze city east of the bay of Haifa, and the site of an ancient Jewish-Roman city which was the second Galilee site of the Sanhendrin in the end of the 2nd C AD. The Crusaders built here a fort.

 

Location:

 

This city is located at the western hills of the Galilee (100M height), 8 KM away from the bay of Haifa, on the road to Nazareth.

 

It is strategically  located close to the road that split from Via Maris, the main North-South highway, towards the east (center Galilee, and Jordan). This eastern fork passed through the city (towards  Sepphoris, Yafia and Nazareth) and through Iblin, 2 KM to the north, towards Netufa valley and the sea of Galilee.

 

The road from Acre or Haifa to Nazareth used to pass through Shefaram until recently (25 years ago). Now a new highway bypasses the City from the south.

 

History of the place:

 

In the Roman times this was a village, one of many agriculture villages in the area.  Its location on the western hills, close to strategic roads, made it important. During the Roman times (150-163AD) the Jewish religious and administrative leadership, the "Sanhedrin", moved to this city. It was its second Galilee location after the destruction of the temple (the first was Usha, about 2 KM south; the 3rd was Beit-Shearim).

 

The Crusaders fortified the city in order to protect the pilgrimage road from Acre to Nazareth. They named the fort "La Safran" and was controlled by the Templers.  After defeating the Crusaders, Saladin had his headquarters in the city to control the region and as a base against the last Crusaders' stronghold in Acre.

 

In the 18th C, during the Ottoman period, a Bedouin called Daher El-Omar,  captured the city and made it his headquarters (1751-1767) before taking Acre as well. He built the fort (1771) that stands today in the center of the city, in the highest place, probably above the ruins of the Crusaders fortress.  He also built 4 towers (Burj), where only the west one remains to date.

 

The citizens  changed the name to Shafa-Amar (health of Amar) in his honor, since according to their tradition he was cured by waters of the local well.

 

In the city lived several Jewish families from the 16th C until 1920, which is quite rare in Israel.

 

Due to the massive building in the 20th C, most of the old sites are gone; only the larger buildings survived.

 

Aerial Map:

 

The following aerial view shows the points of interest and a map of the area. You can point on the purple points to navigate to the selected point.

 

 

   Note that the ancient road crossed the city in the same path of the new road that passes between the two hills: from top-left (north-west, direction of Acre) to lower-right (south-east, direction of Sepphoris).

 

Photos:

 

(a) General View:

 

A view from the south, on the road to Nazareth, is seen in the photo below. It shows Daher El-Omar's castle on the hill in the center of the city. It  stood at the path of the road from Acre to Nazareth.

 

Click on the photos to view  in higher resolution...

 

(b) Daher El-Omar fortress:

 

This is the outer walls of the 18th C fortress (the Saraya), on the southern side:

 

 

Within the closed walls, there is an inner fort which is built on top of arches. The fort was reused as the Governor's house (19th C), and  later as the Police building.

 

 

The fort was  built on top of halls, each hall was 40m long X 7M wide x 8M  height. In one of the halls, there are two dozen stones with holes embedded along the walls, that were used to tie the horses and other livestock. There were once places for 400 horses.

 

 

From the top of the castle, a view towards the south-east. The hills in the left background are the way towards Sepphoris and Nazareth.  The ancient road from Acre passed just below the fort, where modern Shefaram is located today.

 

 

This is another view from the top of the fort, looking north-east. The blue and grey towers belong to the Greek-Catholic church.

 

 

(c) The Churches:

 

In Shefaram there are several Churches: Greek-Catholic, Greek-Orthodox, Latin-Catholic, and Protestant. They are about 50-100 years old and service the Christians in Shefaram and in the area. All the churches are built in the vicinity of the roof of the fort, on top of the hill.

 

The Greek-Catholic church seen in the previous photo is seen below. They are the largest community among the Christians in Shefaram.  Built in 1904, this church was built on top an older Byzantine church.

 

 

The inside of the smaller Greek-Orthodox church, located several streets away, is seen below.

 

 

(d) The Synagogue:

 

The ancient synagogue is located just behind the Catholic church, and was built in Mid 19thC. It was probably built over older synagogues: the previous from the 17th C, and the first built in the 2nd C AD. The Jewish community in the 19th C was small, and were merchants, donkey drivers and farmers.

 

 

Burj (tower):

 

Daher el-Omar built the fort and also 4 towers (Burj), where only a part of  the west one remains to date, as seen in the following photo. The tower, size is 12M x 10M with 2M walls.

 

 

Etymology (behind the name):

 

  • Shefaram - "Shefer" in Hebrew is beauty;  "Am" is nation - the beauty of the nation.

 

  • Shafa-Amar - the Arabic name preserved the Jewish name, and honors  Daher El-Omar, the regional Ottoman ruler.

 

  • La-Safran - the Latin name resembles the old name

 

References/Links:

 

  • Conder & Kitchner 1881-1883 I: 271-273; 339-343 (Shefa 'Amr)

 

 

 

 See also, in a related BibleWalks site, one of the pearls of Shefaram:

 

         Burial caves

 

 

 

Byzantine period Christian burial caves, with one of the most remarkable rock carvings in the Galilee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BibleWalks.com - walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land

 

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