Deir Yassin | Just Vision Skip to main content

The glossary is comprised of nearly 250 terms related to the Israeli-Palestinian context. Given the rapidly shifting landscape, these terms cannot capture the full range of nuances, narratives and historical events. This tool is meant as a starting point and we encourage you to continue your exploration of this topic through further research. Last update and review: September 2015.

Deir Yassin

Formerly a Palestinian village of approximately 600-700 people outside of Jerusalem, which was the site of a massacre that occurred during the 1948 War. In the pre-dawn hours of April 9, 120 Jewish paramilitary fighters from the Irgun and Stern/Lehi Gang attacked the village during an operation meant to open the main road connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The attack was unexpectedly resisted by the villagers, leading to a fierce gun battle. Ultimately, approximately 100 villagers were killed, a great many of them unarmed, among them women and children. Five Jewish fighters were also killed. The nature of the killings remains a source of controversy. Many Israelis maintain that those killed were fighters or were killed as a result of house-to-house combat, and that the paramilitary groups issued warnings to the civilians in the village to flee. However, multiple sources (including survivors from Deir Yassin and eyewitnesses from the Jewish forces) state that while some the villagers were killed during the fighting (many by hand grenades thrown/automatic gunfire sprayed into houses before fighters entered, and from houses being dynamited with people still inside) many others were killed execution-style after the fighting had ended. There are reports that some villagers may have been killed after they were taken prisoner and paraded through West Jerusalem. Though these accounts differ, stories of bodies being dumped in the nearby quarry have been part of numerous first-person accounts. Widespread looting of the village took place after the fighting ended, and there are reports (some by international observers who entered the village or interviewed survivors in the days following the attacks) that mutilations and sexual assaults had occurred. Rumors of the massacre and the related atrocities created terror among Palestinian villagers, and were a central catalyst of the flight of many Palestinians. In addition to contributing to the Palestinian refugee crisis, the massacre led to a full-scale invasion from surrounding Arab countries. The village was entirely depopulated and in 1949, the Israeli neighborhood of Givat Sha'ul Bet was built on the remains of Deir Yassin. For many Palestinians, the Deir Yassin massacre has come to symbolize the Nakba. The only remaining buildings of the original Deir Yassin are now the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center. See "The Historiography of Deir Yassin," Benny Morris, Journal of Israeli History: Politics, Society, Culture, Volume 24 Issue 1, 2005. See also "A massacre of Arabs masked by a state of national amnesia," Catrina Stewart, The Independent, May 10, 2010; and "In Pictures: Remembering Deir Yassin," Rich Wiles, Al Jazeera English, April 16, 2014.