The Muslim cemetery in Balad a-Sheikh reminds us of the days before the 1948 Nakba, when Haifa was a major Palestinian city. Since 1948, the state of Israel and private companies have been trying to destroy the cemetery and convert it to commercial property. The Palestinian community succeeded, so far, to prevent its destruction. Now, facing new plans to build on the cemetery, the struggle is entering a new phase.
The Historic Significance of “Al-Qassam Cemetery”
In the beginning of the twentieth century Haifa was a rising city on the Mediterranean shore, with its port, new rail lines that stretched to Damascus and Amman, and developing industry and commerce. This development accelerated under the British occupation (since 1918) with a deep water port, an airport and the petrol refineries. People from all over the region were emigrating to Haifa to look for work and opportunities. Haifa developed as a center of Arab cultural and political activities. Many Palestinian trade unions, clubs, associations and parties were established or expanded in the city.
As the city was full of people, its old cemeteries became overcrowded. So, in the thirties, a new Muslim cemetery was established in Balad a-Sheikh, a few kilometers South-East of the city. It was a big cemetery, spanning over 44 dunam (dunam is a thousand square meters), and it served people from Haifa and the surrounding villages and shanty towns.
A central figure in Haifa’s public life at the time was Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Imam of the Istiqlal mosque and head of the Young Men’s Muslim Association. In the
— source mondoweiss.net | Yoav Haifawi | Jan 7, 2022