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A map of the Tabor Mountain battle

In 1799, Napoleon made an attempt to conquer the land of Israel under the slogan “Free the holy sites” but his principal intention was to open a passageway to the Far East, the source of luxurious commodities. After a speedy expedition along the coastline, he put Acre, the Mediterranean’s major eastern port at that period, under siege. Two large Turkish regiments intended to save Acre: one of them assembled in Damascus and the other gathered in Rhodes and got ready to attack from the sea, aided by British Admiral Sydney Smith’s fleet.

In order to prevent the Damascene armed forces from attacking him, Napoleon left the Galilee’s defense to Marshal Cleber. As he had foreseen, on the 14.4.1799, the French observation posts detected a great dust cloud rising from Beit Shean valley and an army of 30,000 Turkish soldiers getting ready to camp on the plain between Sulam and Fulla. This army jeopardized the French because it planned to unite with local forces from Jenin and Nablus and attack them from the rear. To prevent this action, Cleber decided to strike the Turks by night. He sent a message to Napoleon and started moving at dusk.

Unfortunately, Cleber failed to calculate the road’s length correctly: at dawn, the Turks in the observation posts on Givat Hamore noticed him and immediately assaulted the French division (2000 soldiers) from all directions. The French were in a critical state and thus retreated to Fulla’s ruined crusader fortress in order to defend themselves. Luckily, Napoleon analyzed Cleber’s position and recognized the great danger. He consequently left Acre and set out with most of his army to rescue his favorite marshal. In the battle that followed, called Tabor Mountain Battle in French history, Napoleon attacked the Turks from the rear and accomplished his greatest victory in that voyage to Israel, while the Turkish army scattered far and wide. Then Napoleon gathered his army and went to Nazareth to pray and thank the Lord for his triumph.

A picture portraying the Tabor Battle – Cleber’s army is surrounded
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But this victory cost the French dearly: the whole journey lasted five days, which allowed the besieged people in Acre time to get fresh supply. Furthermore, the soldiers from Rhodes arrived in British ships and strengthened the garrison forces. When Napoleon returned to Acre, he realized he had to start the siege once more and in much worse conditions, since the heavy siege cannons he ordered from Europe were sent via ship and confiscated by the British who now pointed them at his direction. The state of affairs in Europe worried him as well, and he was therefore compelled to leave Acre and Israel and return to Egypt. Thus, paradoxically, the glorious victory in Merchavia became the turning point of the whole venture.

An interesting evidence of this battle was discovered in an almond orchard between the kibbutz and the moshav: it is an 18 mm sized copper button, decorated by oak leaves and bearing the inscription “Republic Francaise”. This button probably fell from the coat of a soldier who fought the battle. The button’s photo is displayed in the visitor center.

A picture portraying Napoleon’s soldier’s button

In order to coordinate your visit the Great Courtyard, please call Shlomo Sdeur and inform him of the date and hour you will be coming. Mr. Sdeur’s cell phone number: 052/3638156.