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Other transcription(s)
 • Arabic عقربا
 • Also spelled 'Aqraba (official)
Akraba (unofficial)
Aqraba is located in the Palestinian territories
Location of Aqraba within Palestine
Coordinates: 32°07′35″N 35°20′37″E / 32.12639°N 35.34361°E / 32.12639; 35.34361Coordinates: 32°07′35″N 35°20′37″E / 32.12639°N 35.34361°E / 32.12639; 35.34361
Palestine grid 182/170
Governorate Nablus
 • Type Municipality
 • Head of Municipality Jawdat 'Abd al-Hadi
 • Jurisdiction 34,659 dunams (34.7 km2 or 13.4 sq mi)
Population (2007)
 • Jurisdiction 8,180
Name meaning Scorpion[1]

Aqraba (Arabic: عقربا‎) is a Palestinian town in the Nablus Governorate, located eighteen kilometers southeast of Nablus in the northern West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Aqraba had a population of approximately 8,180 inhabitants in 2007.[2]

Nearby hamlets surround the village and are considered to be natural extensions of Aqraba; they are the khirbets of al-Arama, al-Kroom, Abu ar-Reisa, ar-Rujman, Firas ad-Din and Tell al-Khashaba. The total population of these hamlets was estimated to be 500 in 2008. The prominent families of Aqraba are Al Dayriyeh, Bani Jaber, Al-Mayadima, Bani Jame', and Bani Fadel.[3]


The origin of the name is Semitic - Canaanite or Aramaic. In Arabic 'aqraba' means "scorpion".[1][4]

History and archaeology[edit]

General remarks - Iron Age to Mamluk period[edit]

Pottery sherds from Iron Age II, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad and Crusader/Ayyubid period,[5] as well as rock-hewn cisterns have been found in Aqraba.[6] In 1874 surveyors found near the village rock-cut kokhim tombs.[7]

Aqraba is mentioned in the medieval Samaritan Book of Joshua - as Akrabith in its Samaritan-Hebrew version, and as 'Akrabeh in the Arabic one.[8][9] a text redacted in ca. 1300 CE.

Iron Age[edit]

Aqraba is not mentioned in the Bible.[10]

Hellenistic to Roman period[edit]

During the Second Temple period it was an importat town (see Mishna, Ma'aser Sheni 5:2), named by Josephus (37–c. 100) as Akrabbatá, the capital of a district called Akrabbatène (Wars 3:3, 5).[10] Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260–339) calls the town 'Akrabbeim and the district Akrabbatinés.[10]

Byzatine period[edit]

Local tradition concurs with a number of British scholars who believe the mosque was originally a Byzantine-era church.[4][dubious ]

Early Muslim period[edit]

By the late 8th century, Shihâb al-Dïn Ahmad al-Aqrabànï, a follower of the noted jurist al Shafi, lived and was buried here in 180 AH/796-7 CE.[11]

Crusader/Ayyubid to Mamuk period[edit]

Several medieval buildings and other remains were described in the 1930s and 1940s and revisited in the 1990s, such as a fortified courtyard building northwest of the mosque, known as al-Hisn ("the castle") dominating the village from its highest point and now part of a private building; an open cistern or pool (Arabic:birka) in the centre of the village, well preserved but now used as an orchard;[11][12][10] and a domed building said to be Mamluk, probably a mosque which is in use as the village school[10][11] The mosque's mihrab was flanked by marble columns topped by capitals, both from the Crusader period.[12]

The village mosque is built on the remains of a church, and in the Survey of Western Palestine the Greek inscriptions found there on a lintel decorated by a cross, are described as similar to Crusader-period ones.[7]

Pottery sherds from the Mamluk era[5] and a construction inscription in Arabic from 1414 have been found in the village.[5][10][13]

Ottoman period[edit]

Aqraba, like the rest of Palestine, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and in the census of 1596 the village appeared under the name Aqraba as being in the Nahiya (Subdistrict) of Jabal Qubal of the Liwa (District) of Nablus. It had a population of 102 households, all Muslim. They paid a fixed tax-rate of 33.3% on agricultural products, including wheat, barley, summer crops, olive trees, goats and bee-hives; vineyards and fruit trees, in addition to occasional revenues, and a press for olive oil or grape syrup.[14]

During his travels in the region in 1838 Edward Robinson mentions it, believing it was ancient Acrabi.[15] Victor Guérin visited in 1870, and described as a large town with 2000 inhabitants. He further noted that it consisted of four quarters, each with their own sheikh.[16]

In 1873-4 Clermont-Ganneau visited, and were told of the governor el Kadery, who resided in Aqraba at the time of Jezzar Pasha. He is said to have erected considerable buildings in the town.[17]

In 1882, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as "A large village, surrounded with olives, of houses better built than most in the country. It stands on a saddle between two hills, one of which rises north of it 700 feet, the village standing at the mouth of a pass, through which the main road runs. The place crescent-shaped, whence perhaps its name, ' carved.' On south is the fertile plain (Jehir 'Akrabeh). There is a mosque in the east part of the village, founded on the remains of a Christian church, and a second sacred place (er Rafai) on the south. The inhabitants used to number, according to their own account, 2,000 guns, but the present population appears to be about 600 to 800 souls."[9]

British Mandate period[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Aqraba had a population of 1,160; 1,158 Muslims[18] and 2 Orthodox Christians,[19] increasing in the 1931 census, where Aqraba (together with the smaller location Kh. Fasayil) had a population of 1,478, all Muslims, in a total of 309 houses.[20]

In 1945 Aqraba (including Kh. Fasayil) had a population of 2,060, all Muslims,[21] with 142,530 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey.[22] Of this, 3,383 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 19,732 used for cereals,[23] while 55 dunams were built-up land.[24]

Jordanian period[edit]

In the wake of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and after the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Aqraba came under Jordanian rule.

In 1961, the population of Aqraba was 2,875.[25]

1967, aftermath[edit]

After the Six-Day War in 1967, Aqraba had been under Israeli occupation.


The village's total land area is 34,700 dunams, of which 1,783 is built-up area. Around 62% of the remaining land is covered with olive and almond groves, 8% with other fruits and vegetables and the remaining 30% for grazing purposes.[26]

Aqraba's unemployment rate is above 50%.[citation needed] Because the Palestinian labor force is unable to work in Israeli localities, the town's workers currently hold public and private jobs. Some also depend on agriculture and industrial workshops as main sources of income.[26]

Some farmland near Yanun owned by 300 Aqraba villagers was defined as an IDF firing range in 1967, but exercises were customarily suspended for brief periods in the past to allow the villagers access to their lands, according to local Palestinians. Since then they claim, the area has not been used in as a fire range for two decades. Recently these villagers, who either farm or live there have been denied access. They claim that this restriction does not apply equally to an outpost, Givat 777, of the Israeli settlement of Itamar. They complain of settler harassment, the burning of vehicles, and of settler sheep flocks being led to greaze on their wheat fields. The IDF has replied that both Palestinians and Israeli settlers are treated in the same way.[27]

In August 2014, the IDF brought in bulldozers to demolish 4 Palestinian homes on the outskirts of the town, in the al-Taweel neighbourhood, apparently claiming that they were built without a permit. The villagers claimed that the houses have been there for a century.[28]


31% of Aqraba and Yanun land are located in Area B, giving the Palestinian National Authority control over its administration and civil affairs. The rest, 69%, is in Area C.[29]

The town is governed by a municipal council, consisting of eleven members including the mayor. In the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections, the Fatah-backed Future Palestine list won the majority of the seats (six) while the Hamas-backed al-Islamiya list won five seats. Jawdat 'Abd al-Hadi was elected mayor.[30]


  1. ^ a b Palmer, 1881, p. 251
  2. ^ 2007 PCBS Census Archived December 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.110.
  3. ^ Aqraba Village: General Information Archived March 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Land Research Center. 2008-10-20.
  4. ^ a b Acraba, the last village adjacent to the desert Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem. 2000-12-19.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c Finkelstein and Lederman, 1997, p. 818
  6. ^ Dauphin, 1998, p. 849.
  7. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, pp. 389-390
  8. ^ Conder, 1876, p.196
  9. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 386
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sharon, 1997, pp. 110-111
  11. ^ a b c Pringle, 2009, p. 235
  12. ^ a b Pringle, 1997, p. 20
  13. ^ Ellenblum, 2003, p. 245
  14. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 131
  15. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, p. 103
  16. ^ Guérin, 1875, pp. 3-5
  17. ^ Clermont-Ganneau, 1896, pp. 302-3
  18. ^ Barron, 1923, Table IX, Sub-district of Nablus, p. 25
  19. ^ Barron, 1923, Table XV, p. 47
  20. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 59
  21. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 18
  22. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 59
  23. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 105
  24. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 155
  25. ^ Government of Jordan, 1964, p. 14
  26. ^ a b A new Expansion in the colony of Itamar on the Lands of the Palestinian Town of Aqraba: General Information about Aqraba Archived June 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. The Land Research Center via POICA. ARIJ and LRC 2007-10-21
  27. ^ Amira Hass, 'IDF bars Palestinian farmers, but not settler outpost, from land in disputed firing range,' at Haaretz 3 July 2012.
  28. ^ 'Israel demolishes 4 Palestinian homes near Nablus,' Ma'an News Agency 20 August 2014.
  29. ^ Aqraba Town Profile (including Yanun Locality), ARIJ, p. 16
  30. ^ Local Elections (Round Three)- Successful lists by local authority and No. of votes obtained Central Elections Commission - Palestine. p.4.


External links[edit]