Politics and Conflict
The geographical location of Umm Qais on a natural border (confluence of Yarmouk and Jordan river valleys) has put the site on the front line of politics and conflict for millennia.
Increasing opposition to Ottoman Turk control during the 18th and 19th century led to numerous revolts of rural Arab populations. Umm Qais’s position on the boundary between many tribal territories made it an important place of political discourse, and of conflict. The construction of the nearby Hijaz railway for transporting military troops was frequently the focus of attacks and sabotage. Many of the roofs of rooms in the traditional village use railway rails taken from the Hijaz railway as roof beams in place of traditional methods such as cross vaulting and arches.
After the World War of 1914 - 1918 and the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the western powers of France and the British Empire sought to divide up the former Ottoman occupied areas without regard to those living there. Due to Umm Qais’s political importance it was the location where many leaders from across Bilad al-sham (the Arab territories including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Saudi Arabia) met to discuss these issues. They agreed and signed a treaty with the British representative in Trans-Jordan in 1920, a document that played a significant part in the formation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
“The leaders of Umm Qais gathered with the royal representative and in 1920 agreed a treaty”
Interview with Talib al-Rousan: 1920 Treaty and foundation of Jordan
Interview with Talib al-Rousan: Arab-Israeli conflict, local politics and relocation.
Umm Qais’ strategic position and proximity to Palestine, Israel and the Golan heights put it again on the front line of the Arab-Israeli conflicts of the 20th Century.
Talib Al-Rousan recalls, with pride, witnessing frequent evenings and night-time penetrative operations through the enemy’s lines by Jordanian military units based near the village, using the hilly and complex topography of the area and its proximity to the Lake Tiberias and the Palestine-Jordan border region. Often these triggered immediate Israeli responses with heavy bombing of the area from the air and from Israeli artillery on the Golan Heights on the opposite side of the Yarmouk river valley. Most of the residents recall long nights when they took shelter in the ancient tombs and water cisterns cut deep into the rock of the hill when Israel’s ground and air forces bombed the village houses.
“when a battle starts, we used to hide in the caverns. There was one artillery battery here in ‘Al Ain road’ and whenever it gets in volved in a battle, you would see no one above the ground level, everyone would hide under the ground”
These conflicts and the wider movement of refugees from Palestine influenced local politics.