THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME IQRITH
By: Dirgham H. Sbait, Ph. D.
Professor of Arabic/Semitic Languages, Literatures & Folklore
Portland State University
(Copyrights: D. H. Sbait)
Iqrith (also spelled Iqrit or Ikrit)l is Lebanese/Palestinian village located in the Galilee district about seven kilometers south of the Lebanese-Israeli border, 25.5 kilometers north east of Acre, or 7 kilometers east of the Mediterranean coast.2 The village is situated on a steep hill with 550 meters average elevation. The village was surrounded with arable land, which the indigenous villagers planted with almond, apple, fig, grapevine, olive, orange, pear, and other fruit trees. When the British and French mandate re-defined the border of Lebanon and Palestine in 1923, they included Iqrith and several other southern Lebanese villages in Palestine.3 In November 1948, the Israeli authorities illegally forced the lawful citizens of Iqrith out, and they became refugees in their own homeland since then.4
Iqrith the village was established by its original native residents at least before the first Crusade (1096-1099 A.D.,)5 as it was mentioned in the Atlas of Israel, in the Map of Palestine Under the Crusades by the name Acref.6 It also was quoted in the Israel Pocket Atlas and Handbook, in the Map of Palestine of the Crusades.7 It also appeared in Elester: IX P. 11 as Ikrit in the “Atlas of Israel,” in the "Map of Palestine Under the Mamlukes," (1250-1517 A.D.) and "the Ottomans," (1518-1918 A.D.)8 Such reliable references present hard evidence that originally Iqrith is one of the ancient villages of southern Lebanon (after 1923 a village of northern Palestine), and it is, at least, several centuries old.
The Origin of the Name Iqrith:
Iqrith (Iqrit or Ikrit), is not a familiar Arabic name, noun, or adjective; still it might be explained morphologically or linguistically. My research in Semitic languages leads one to believe that originally the name Iqrith may have been ikkarit, a word which has Acadian, Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew parallels, which could mean a village of farmers, (Aven Shoshan: I. 89). It is worth noting that the Hebrew noun ikkarit is spelled with the consonant kaf or khaf normally equal to Arabic kaf, yet Iqrith is written with qaf, which is equivalent to the Semitic quf, but there is no firm assurance that Iqrith was not spelled differently in an earlier stage.
Al-akkar, pl. akaratun, i.e., plowmen (al-Ma‘luf: 17), also ikkaratun, land which is given by its owners to men who sow and cultivate it (Lane: I. 71). It is also possible that the name Iqrith was akkaratun, while the nunation dropped and ta' replaced by tha', which meant farmers or hamlet of farmers.
Perhaps the name Iqrith was originally spelled and even pronounced differently, ‘iqqarit or ‘ikkarit, a word which also has Semitic roots which means foundation, root, or a very important thing. ‘ikkarit, i.e., core, yisodit, i.e., basic, hashuvah beyoter, i.e., very important (Aven Shoshan: V, 1988-9).
Furthermore the Arabic noun al-‘aqar, from which Iqrith may have been derived, means al-?ay‘ah, i.e., a hamlet or a small village (al-Ma‘luf: 519). Also the term 'qqarah, in the colloquial Arabic of the Palestinians, means a rocky land, or a forest in which it is hard to walk, or in which walking may cause an injury. Additionally, the verb qaratha in Arabic means to work hard and earn [one's living]. (al-Ma’luf: 618). It is possible that the name Iqrith was derived out of such a verb, and came to mean the village of the hard working people.
One can speculate that if the topography of today's Iqrith is similar to the topography of Iqrith which was established several hundred years ago, then the assumption that the name Iqrith was related to ikkarit, ‘iqqarit, or ‘qqarah, ought to be correct, because Iqrith of today stands on an overlooking hill. While some of its land is cultivated, most of the area around it is non-cultivated land, rocky, rugged land, and forests. Up until 64 years ago, when its residents were evicted from it by force, it was a small village of farmers who worked hard to earn their living.
Al-Khalidi mentions that Iqrith could be traced back to the Canaanites,9 who erected a statue on the site representing the god Melqart of Tyre.10 Melqart was the name of the “ba‘al,” which means the king of the city11. The Greeks called Melqart as Heracles12.
One may hypothesize that the name Iqrit could be a later alteration or distortion of Melqart due to the letters similarity between "elqart" or “ilqart,” and "iqrit."
Finally, Madrikh Yisrael mentions three very ancient name variations related to Iqrit: Ikrit, Ikar, and Yokrat Springs.13 These names may crucially help to explain the origin of the name Iqrith (Iqrit, or Ikrit) as known to the people of this historic village. In conclusion, there is a very clear and significant relevance between the abovementioned ancient and new names of Iqrith.
1. The above-mentioned short essay is part of a complete research paper written by
Dirgham H. Sbait titled, “Iqrith: A Historical and Judicial Account of a Palestinian Village Striving For Justice.” Portland, OR. USA 1984-2012.
2. See: “Map of Palestine.” Compiled, drawn, and printed by Survey of Palestine, 1945.
3. al-Khalidi: 15
4. Rayan: 60; Kelley: 63, “Oral Histories and Testimonials of Palestinians Living in Portland (Oregon) Mark 50 Years of al-Nakbah – Dr. Dirgham Sbait presented the unique story of his native village of Iqrith in Galilee.
5. Historically speaking, Iqrith could have been established much earlier than the Crusades’ time: Madrikh Yisrael, (The Guide of Israel): 44, mentioned the following information about Iqrith, “It has been suggested here to identify Ikrit or Ikar, which was mentioned in the List of Towns of Tehotimis the 3rd, from the year 1468 B.C.; in this place there is an important hill, located near The Yokrat Springs, one of the very few ruins left from the Bronze Age in Upper Galilee; in this place potteries from the ancient, middle, and late Bronze Age were found, as well as from the Iron Age. There is a Roman potter’s field by it with many antiquities.” It is worth mentioning that the Bronze Age is the phase of man's material cultural development and the first phase in which metal was used. The start of the Bronze Age varies from region to region. By about 3,000 BC bronze was widely used – Webester’s Encyclopedia: 139.
6. Elester: IX. 10
Madrikh Yisrael: 44, confirms that the village was called Acref by the crusades. However, there is no reference to such name in Latin dictionaries, which were consulted. Harper's Latin Dictionary: 24, contains acrifolium, an unknown tree of ill omen. Incidentally, the Palestinian Bedouins of the Galilee call the village of Iqrith, Ijrif, also Igrif. Perhaps the Crusades had heard it as such and recorded it as Acref. One may suspect that Iqrith (Acref) was used as a fortress for the Crusades; yet, Setton in his book A History of the Crusades, book I, Important Towns and Fortresses, does not mention Acref as one. Still, Khalidi: 15-17, mentions that the Crusaders occupied it and called it Acref. He adds that like other villages in Palestine, Iqrit was devastated by the events of the Crusades. It was subsequently rebuilt, and by 1596 this village in the nahiya (district) of Tibnin (liwa' (Province of) Safad) had a population of 374 - Wolf-Dieter and Abdulfattah, Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in Late 16th Century.
7. Meyer: 35
8. Elester: IX. 11
9. al-khalidi: 15
The Canaanites are the natives of Canaan, the early name of Palestine, prior to 1300 BC. Webster’s Encyclopedia: 158.
10. al-Khalidi: 15
11. The people of Tyre spread the worship of Melqart in their colonies and they celebrated big holidays during the spring in honor of Melqart, al-Ma‘aluf: 683.
12. al-Ma‘luf: 1984, 683
13. Meyer: 44
Atlas of Israel. Jerusalem 1970.
Aven Shoshan, “Hamillon Hehadash” (The New – Hebrew-Hebrew- Dictionary,” Jerusalem 1964,
Elester, J., et al., “Atlas of Israel,” Jerusalem 1970, P. IX/10.
Lane, Edward. Arabic-English Lexicon, New York 1955.
Madrikh Yisrael (The Guide to Israel). Jerusalem 1978.
“Harper's Latin Dictionary,” New York 1907
Hutteroth, Wolf-Dieter and kamal Abdulfattah, “Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in Late 16th Century. Erlangen, Germany. 1977
Meyer, H. Israel Pocket Atlas and Handbook. Jerusalem 1961.
al-Khalidi, Walid "All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel In 1948.” Washington D. C. 1992.
Kelley, Elaine, “Oral Histories and Testimonials of Palestinians Living in Portland (Oregon) Mark 50 years of al-Nakbah,” Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs. 1998 – Vol. XVII. No. 5.
L. al-Ma'luf, “al-Munjid fi al-lughah wal-a‘lam,” Beirut 1960
Al-Ma‘luf, Lewis. Al-munjid fi al-lughah wal-a‘lam. Beirut 1984
Ositski-Lazar, Sara. "Iqrit and Bir'im - The complete story", Givat Haviva: 1993.
Ryan, Joseph L. "Refugees Within Israel - The case of the villages of Kfar Bir'im and iqrit", “Journal of Palestine Studies”, Vol. II, No. 4, Summer 1973, P. 60.
Sbait, Dirgham H. "The Improvised-Sung Folk Poetry of the Palestinians." Dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle: 1982.
Setton, Kenneth. “A History of the Crusades,” 2nd ed., Madison, 1969
“Washington Report on Middle East Affaris,” 1998, Vol. XVII. No. 5
“Webster’s Encyclopedia,” One Volume Edition. 1985.