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Panoramic Views > Bekaa > Rashaya > Yanta

The village of Yanta

The plain of the Beqaa stretches from north to south along the Syrian frontier between the two mountain chains of the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. The southeastern part of the Beqaa projects into the Ghor at the foot of Mount Hermon. This plain is most fertile and there is an adage that says: “Abundance invades the market only when comes the produce of the Beqaa.”

To reach the region of Rashaya, the western slopes of Mount Hermon and the Ghor Depression, one takes a turning at Anjar and then one finally comes to the Druze village of Yanta, fifty miles from Beirut at an altitude of nearly five thousand feet.

The name Yanta is said to be derived from ancient Semitic languages, with the meaning of God the Planter. Alternative explanations are that in the Syriac language Yalta means the White Dove and in Arabic it is the future tense of a verb meaning to jump or to rise up.

Yanta – He plants, He tends...

There are many ancient remains to be seen at Yalta, a Roman temple, cellars, pieces of mosaic, the citadels of Idriss and Al-Diab, and the traces of a monastery. There are several springs gushing up, such as Ain el-Hari, Ain er-Rouess, and Ain et-Tyer, to mention only three – for springs are to be found everywhere and Yanta has an abundant water supply. There is also a Kiloosh, that is to say a Druze house of prayer, of great beauty.

Most of the former inhabitants have emigrated to Canada, but they come back to pass their summer in Lebanon, so there are fine residences and luxurious houses and villas. The village has an adequate modern infrastructure, with a government school, medical facilities, a sports club and telephone services.

Being comfortably well off, the inhabitants are generous in their contribution to the development of this large Druze settlement wide open to the world. It was here on the western slopes of Mount Herman that in the eleventh century the Druze community was formed around the major towns of Rashaya, Hasbaya and Shebaa. This dissident movement broke away from the Fatimite Isma’ilian form of Islam at the time of Caliph Hakim in 1017, under the impulsion of one of his court officials, Mohammad Ibn Isma’il an-Nushtakim, called Darazi, whose tomb is still venerated at Nabi Shitte near Hasbaya.

The important Druze village of Yanta stands more to the north of the mountain massive, close to the main Beirut-Damascus road running along the valley of an affluent of the Jordan, and backing onto the eastern spurs which rise up to well over 5,500 feet.

The township was once part of a line of military defenses going back to early antiquity. There are remains of rock dwellings, and of Roman, Frankish and Arab fortifications among the orchards, almond and olive groves, fig trees, vineyards, tobacco plantations and scattered corn fields.

All this area, inhabited by Druze smallholders, hardworking and peace-loving, well deserves the name of the town of Yanta, He plants, He tends, whether referring to God or to the peasant farmers.

The Druze population of Lebanon and nearby is centered mostly around Mount Hermon in proportions as follows:

In the Houran region in southwest Syria called Jebel Druze – 450,000
In Wadi et-Taim, Barook, and the Shouf in southeast Lebanon – 400,000
In northeast Israel – 75.000
In northwest Jordan – 15,000
Emigrants in Europe and the Americas – 80,000
Total – approximately 1,000,000

The emirs governing these mountain peasants have led them to play a considerable political role over the centuries, the Buhturs under the Mamelukes, 12th to 14th centuries, the Ma’an, Arslans, and Junblatts under the Ottomans, 16th to 19th centuries, and the Atrash in the Syrian Jebel Druze in the 20th.

Emir Fakhreddine II († 1536) set on foot the beginnings of an independent Lebanese state within the Ottoman Empire that lasted into the 19th century. The Druze still play a considerable role in Lebanon.

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: K.J. Mortimer

- The village of Yanta: >> View Movie << (2011-09-01)



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