Hassan Bek Mosque

The Hassan Bek Mosque (Hebrew: מסגד חסן בק‎), (Arabic: مسجد حسن بك‎), also known as the Hasan Bey Mosque, is considered to be one of the most well-known mosques located in Jaffa, which is now part of the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality in Israel. It has been a site of much controversy, as demonstrated in recent years.

Its history is closely bound up with the various stages of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, from its beginnings as a communal strife under Ottoman and British rule up to the present. It has been on various occasions the subject of heated debate and eventful controversy, and has a deep symbolic and emotional meaning to Jaffa Arabs.

The unique Ottoman style architecture it displays, is known to contrast sharply with the contemporary modern high-rises that are situated near it. It is located between Neve Tzedek and the Mediterranean Sea, on the fast road to Jaffa.


The Hassan Bek Mosque was built in 1916, by Jaffa's Turkish-Arab governor of the same name. At the time, Arab Jaffa and the recently-founded Jewish-Zionist Tel-Aviv were both competitively expanding northwards and seeking to block each other; the mosque was part of Manshiye, Jaffa's northernmost neighbourhood which spread northwards along the Mediterranean seashore.

Some years after its construction, Tel-Aviv's Allenby Street was extended to the seashore some distance north of the mosque, blocking further Arab construction.

According to Yosef Nahmias, former member of the Irgun unit which conquered the area in April 1948, he and his men planted demolition charges in the Hassan Bek Mosque immediately upon its capture and prepared to blow it up, but this was strictly vetoed by his commander Menachem Begin (future Israeli PM ).

Also at various later times there were plans and proposals made to demolish the mosque, but they were never carried out. However, the rest of the former Palestinian houses surrounding Hassan Bek, whose original inhabitants now live in Gaza Strip refugee camps, were all completely razed and destroyed, some in the immediate aftermath of 1948 and some in the Tel Aviv city renovation plan of the 1960s.

The place of the razed Arab housing was taken by high-rise office buildings and a park, as well as the sea-shore Dolphinarium (used first for dolphin performances, stopped due to protests by animal rights groups, and than transformed into a nightclub - which was to become tragically famous in 2001). The Hassan Bek Mosque - spared due to the state and municipal authorities hesitating to be seen as desecrating a Muslim holy place - remained a single remnant of the area's pre-1948 past.

Real-estate scheme of 1979

The Hassan Bek Mosque lay derelict and neglected for many years, its empty shell used on some occasions by vagabonds and drug addicts.

In 1979, it was suddenly announced that the Jaffa Islamic Properties' Trustees had sold the mosque and its comopound to real-estate developer Gershon Peres (brother of Shimon Peres, then Israeli Labour Party leader and currently President of Israel) and that it was to be transformed into a shopping mall.

The disclosure aroused a storm of protests by Jaffa Arabs, supported by Israeli Jewish peace and human rights groups, who claimed that the Trustees had been appointed by the Government of Israel, that they did not represent the Muslim community of Jaffa, and that they had pilfered the money from the Peres deal into their own pockets.

The outcome was that the real estate deal was cancelled and the mosque returned to the hands of the Jaffa Muslim Community.

Collapse and reconstruction

Soon after title was handed over to the Jaffa Muslims, the mosque's minaret collapsed overnight in what was officially described as "an accident" but which was generally considered by Jaffa Arabs and left-wing Israelis to be a deliberate sabotage by extreme right groups and/or veterans of 1948.

While never investigating such rumors, the authorities gave permission for the Jaffa Arabs to restore the minaret, using volunteer work and funds provided by the governments of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This is considered by Jaffa Arabs an important milestone in their recovered self-awareness and assertiveness in defence of their communal rights.

Up to the present, Jaffa Arabs maintain an ongoing presence in the renovated mosque, and prayers are held in it regularly, though it is a considerable distance from the neighborhood where the surviving post-1948 Arab community of Jaffa is living.

Impact of the Second Intifada

On June 3, 2001, a Hamas suicide bombing occurred nearby at the Tel-Aviv Dolphinarium which claimed the lives of 21 Israelis.

A major anti-Arab riot soon developed with over one thousand Israelis besieging the mosque, with sporadic rock and fire-bomb attacks along with calls for revenge against Arabs. For their part, Muslim worshipers inside the mosque hurled rocks and bottles at the besiegers. This entire event led to over 20 people suffering light injuries from the demonstrators. The rock attacks led to increased Arab violence and attacks in the area, leading to stone-throwing attacks on Yefet Street in the Jaffa section of Tel-Aviv. Motorist were injured in the stone-throwing attacks that resulted in closing the street to motorists.

The mosque served also as the scene of a provocation against Muslims that occurred in August 2005. Several Israelis allegedly threw a pig’s head on the lawn of the Hassan Bek Mosque. The pig's head was wrapped in a keffiyeh with "Muhammad", the name of the prophet of Islam, written on it. Those suspected of taking part in this incident were promptly arrested and charged by Israeli police officials.

This event later led to an act of revenge by Abed al-Muaz Jueba, a Hamas sympathizer and resident of Hebron. He stabbed three yeshiva students on their way to the Old City of Jerusalem. The stabbing attack killed one, Shmuel Eliyahu Mett, while seriously wounding the two other boys who accompanied him.

Architectural style

In a unique building style, the mosque employs a white limestone instead of using the more common stone of the area being a yellow-brown limestone. The walls of the mosque are perforated with intricately decorated and colourfully glazed windows. The walls are also refined by narrow engaged piers that divide the wide façades into smaller sections.

Its towering slender minaret contrasts with the square prayer hall and it has a proportionally low flat concrete roof and shallow dome projecting from its central bay. A very low tower can be seen attached to the opposite side of the mosque.


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