The village stood on flat terrain on the southern coastal plain and was bordered on the east by Wadi al-Mari. Secondary roads linked it to adjacent villages, such as Yasar and Isdud, on the coastal highway. A military airport was constructed near the village during the Mandate; it was built on flat land to the southwest of al-Batani al-Sharqi, due south of its twin village, al-Batani al-Gharbi. (The names of the two villages identify one as “eastern (sharqi) and the other as western (gharbi).) The earliest mention of al-Batani indicated that it was originally founded as a “ranch” for the first Umayyad caliph, Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (AD 661-680). In 1596, al-Batani al-Sharqi was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa’of Gaza) with a population of thirty-nine. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce and property, such as goats, beehives, and vineyards.
In the late nineteenth century, the village of al-Batani al-Sharqi was situated on low ground and extended from east to west in a rectangular shape. Patches of gardens and a number of wells surrounded the village. Construction expanded westward—the wadi’s winter flooding impeded eastward expansion—along the road that linked it to al-Batani al-Gharbi until the distance between the two villages shrank to less than 2 km. Village houses, made of adobe, with wood-and-cane roofs,were built close together along narrow alleys. The two al-Batanis shared an elementary school that was opened in 1947; its initial enrollment was 119 students. The population was Muslim, and the village had its own mosque as well as a number of small shops. The inhabitants worked mainly as grain and citrus farmers. In 1944/45 a total of 319 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,663 dunums were allotted to cereals; 474 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Agriculture was both rainfed and irrigated from the many wells on the village land, which also supplied drinking water. In addition to crop cultivation, the community engaged in animal husbandry and poultry raising. And archaeological site in al-Batani al-Sharqi contained relics such as a mosaic floor, basin, the foundations of ancient buildings, and pottery fragments.
Occupation and Depopulation
Together with Bashshit and Barqa, the village was occupied by the Haganah’s Giv’ati Brigade, just before the end of the British Mandate over Palestine. According to historian Benny Morris, al-Batani al-Sharqi fell under Israeli control on 13 May 1948, as Giv’ati expanded southwards in anticipation of an engagement with Egyptian forces. But the History of the War of Independence puts the event almost a full month later, on 10-11 June, and attributes the occupation to the Eighth Battalion of the same brigade. This may mean that the village briefly changed hands in the course of Israeli-Egyptian battles on the southern front and that the Israelis finally captured it before the first truce went into effect on 11 June.
Israeli Settlements on Village Lands
There are no Israeli settlements on village lands.
The Village Today
Only a dilapidated police station from the Mandate period survives. It is a complex of three single-storey, concrete flat-roofed buildings. One of the buildings is higher than the other two; all three have rectangular doors and windows. A village street is clearly visible. Cactuses and fig, eucalyptus, and sycamore trees are scattered over the site. Israeli farmers cultivate citrus on the adjacent lands.
Source: All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Walid Khalidi. Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.