Theme Week Palestine – Al-Bireh

Friday, 29 December 2017 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean

Manara Square, border between Ramallah (left) and Al-Bireh (right) © Abutoum

Manara Square, border between Ramallah (left) and Al-Bireh (right) © Abutoum

Al-Bireh is a city in the central West Bank, 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) north of Jerusalem. The city borders Ramallah to the west. To the north is the Israeli settlement Beit El, to the east another Israeli settlement called Psagot and to the south al-Am’ari Refugee Camp and Kalandia. It is situated on the central ridge running through the West Bank and is 860 meters (2,820 ft) above sea level, covering an area of 22.4 square kilometers (8.6 sq mi). Because of its location Al-Bireh served as an economic crossroad between the north and south, along the caravan route between Jerusalem and Nablus. The city has a population of approximately 40,000. Al-Bireh is the second largest center of Palestinian administration after Gaza. Besides the governor’s headquarters, it also hosts a considerable number of governmental, non-governmental, and private organizations, including the Ministries of Transportation, Supply, Information, Public Works and Higher Education, as well as the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Due to its proximity with Ramallah, the cities form a single constituency for elections to the Palestinian National Authority.

Edward Robinson in the early 19th century thought Al-Bireh was the biblical Be’eroth, but modern scholars believe Be’eroth was located at Kh. el-Burj near Beit Iksa. Claude Reignier Conder and others identified it with Beirothah of the Samaritan chronicles. The Crusaders captured and named the town Birra. It was also called Castrum Mahomeria, Magna Mahomeria or Mahomeria Major. It was one of 21 villages given by King Godfrey as a fief to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1114, the gift was re-confirmed by Baldwin I of Jerusalem. In 1156, 92 people from Mahomeria pledged their allegiance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a further 50 names were added in the next three decades. Hence, it has been estimated that the total Frankish population at this time was 500-700. The Crusaders built a castle, church and hospice there. The latter two buildings were built by the Knights Templar in 1146 and belonged to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Ayyubids under Saladin drove away the Crusaders from Birra when they reconquered interior Palestine after the Battle of Hattin in 1187, and completely demolished the town. Yaqut al-Hamawi mentions seeing the ruins a few times during his travels in the area. Nearing the end of Ayyubid rule, in 1280, the modern town of al-Bireh was an inhabited village. The Ayyubids built a mosque in the town dedicated to Umar ibn al-Khattab adjacent to the church ruins. Potsherds from the Crusader/Ayyubid era have been found.

Manara Square, border between Ramallah (left) and Al-Bireh (right) © Abutoum © Mohammad Hijjawi/cc-by-sa-4.0 Great Mosque/Jamal Abdel Nasser Mosque © Abutoum Town hall © Abutoum
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Manara Square, border between Ramallah (left) and Al-Bireh (right) © Abutoum
Al-Bireh, like the rest of Palestine, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and in the census of 1596 the village, called Bira al-Kubra, was a part of the nahiya (“subdistrict”) of Al-Quds which was under the administration of the liwa (“district”) of Al-Quds. It had a population of 45 households, all Muslim, and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olive trees, fruit trees, occasional revenues, beehives and/or goats. In the spring of 1697, Henry Maundrell noted at Al Bireh, which he called Beer, the remains of a Church, which he wrote was built by Empress Helena. After the 1834 Arab revolt in Palestine, the Ottoman authorities conscripted many men from Al-Bireh as soldiers. In 1838, when Robinson visited, 60 had been taken away to be soldiers, out of a total population of 700. When French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village in 1863, he found it to have 800 inhabitants. Albert Socin, citing an official Ottoman village list compiled around 1870, noted that Al-Bireh had a population of 399 Muslims in 142 houses, and 20 “Greeks” in 5 houses, though that population count included men, only. It was further noted that the name meant “The cistern”. Martin Hartmann found that Al-Bireh had 142 houses. In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund‘s Survey of Western Palestine described Bireh as a good-sized village, with “fairly well built” houses. In 1896 the population of Bireh was estimated to be about 1,080 persons. Until 1917, the city served as a political and administrative center for the Ottoman Empire.

Al-Bireh established a city council headed by mayor Eid Musa in 1928 under the British Mandate. Eight other mayors took office either through elections or government appointments. The city had some well known mayors, including Abudul Jawad Saleh who was mayor in the 1970s until exiled by the Israelis. He later went on to become a member of the PLO executive committee and then minister of agriculture in the Palestinian Authority. In 1982, Israel instated a civil administration, but later appointed an Arab mayor, Hassan al-Tawil. In 1988, after two years in office, he was stabbed and critically wounded outside his office. In 1996, a 12-member municipal council was established by the Palestinian National Authority with Sheikh Jamal al-Tawil as mayor. In the Palestinian municipal elections in 2005, the Hamas-backed Reform and Change List won 9 of the 15 seats, while independent lists won the remaining 6. The current mayor is Omar Hammayil. Al-Bireh, located in Area A, is under the complete control of the Palestinian National Authority. In 2010, the Jerusalem Fund, and the National Arab American Medical Association Foundation and Physicians for Peace dedicated the Palestine Diabetes Institute in al-Bireh. Al-Quds University maintains a campus in al-Bireh.

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Read more on Wikipedia Al-Bireh. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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