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Al-Bireh, Palestine

AlBireh Logo.gif
Municipal Seal of Al-Bireh
al-Bireh is located in the Palestinian territories
Arabic البيرة
Name meaning "The Water Well"
Governorate Ramallah & al-Bireh
Government City
Coordinates 31°54′18.51″N 35°12′53.85″E / 31.9051417°N 35.2149583°E / 31.9051417; 35.2149583Coordinates: 31°54′18.51″N 35°12′53.85″E / 31.9051417°N 35.2149583°E / 31.9051417; 35.2149583
Population 38,802 (2006)

22,406  dunams (22.4 km²)

Head of Municipality Umar Hammayil

al-Bireh or el-Bira (Arabic: البيرة‎) is a Palestinian city adjacent to Ramallah in the central West Bank, 15 kilometers (9 mi) north of Jerusalem. It is situated on the central ridge running through the West Bank and Israel and is 860 meters (2,822 ft) above sea level, covering an area of 22.4 square kilometers (8.6 sq mi). Its name means “Water Well,” due to the existence of many wells and springs.

Because of its location al-Bireh served as an economic crossroad between the north and south, along the caravan route between Jerusalem and Nablus. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the town had a population of approximately 39,538 inhabitants in mid-year 2006.[1]



Al-Bireh has been identified as the Biblical Be'eroth. It belonged to the Jewish Tribe of Benjamin. It is mentioned by Saint Jerome who described it as "a large village on the way to Emmaus (Imwas), 7 miles from Jerusalem."[2]

The Crusaders captured and named the town Birra. They built a castle, church and hospice there. The latter two buildings were built by the Templars 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 Hittin 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.[2]

Until 1917, the city served as a political and administrative center for the Ottoman Empire. On June 6, 1967, Israeli troops took control of the city during the Six-Day War. In 1994, the civil administration of the city was turned over to the Palestinian National Authority under the Oslo Accords. 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.[3] Due to its proximity with Ramallah, the towns form a single constituency for elections to the Palestinian National Authority.




In a 1922 survey by the British Mandate, al-Bireh had a population of 1,479, rising to 2,292 inhabitants in the 1931 census.[4] In a 1945 land and population survey by Sami Hadawi, the town's residents numbered 2,920. [5]

The 1997 census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics counted 27,856 residents, of which the gender distribution was exactly half male and half female.[6] The majority of the inhabitants were Palestinian refugees who made up 55.4% of the total population.[7] According to the PCBS, in mid-year 2006, al-Bireh had a population of 39,538 inhabitants.[1] In the 2007 PCBS census, there were 38,202 people living in the city.[8]


The vast majority of today's al-Bireh non-refugee inhabitants descent from the Bani Umar tribe, who came to the area from Transjordan in late-16th century, together with a close friend named "Rashed" from Haddadeen tribe. Hussein a Muslim peasant lived in al-Bireh, whereas his Christian friend Rashed (a blacksmith) lived in Ramallah.

al-Bireh is inhabited by five major clans: Abed, Quraan ,Hamayyel, Tawil, and Karakrah. Al-Rafidi, a Christian family, was accepted into the al-Tawil clan.


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 following Musa, until 1982, when Israel dissolved the council. They replaced it with the Civil Administration of Al-Bireh led by an Israeli officer. In 1986, Israel appointed a temporary council, but the municipal council was established in 1996 by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and consisted of 12 member with Sheikh Jamal al-Tawil as mayor.[9]

In the Palestinian municipal elections, 2005 the Hamas-backed Reform and Change List won 9 of the 15 seats, while independent lists won the remaining 6.[10] The current and elected mayor is Umar Hammayil.

Al-Bireh, located in Area A, is under the complete control of the PNA and serves as the muhfaza or capital of the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate.

Sister cities


  1. ^ a b Projected Mid -Year Population for Ramallah & Al Bireh Governorate by Locality 2004- 2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)
  2. ^ a b Sharon, Moshe. (1997).Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae BRILL, 236-238.
  3. ^ General view of al-Bireh Al-Bireh Municipality.
  4. ^ Al-Bira Town Statistics and Facts Palestine Remembered.
  5. ^ Hadawi, Sami. (1970). Ramallah District Statistics p.64.
  6. ^ Palestinian Population by Locality, Sex and Age Groups in Years Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
  7. ^ Palestinian Population by Locality and Refugee Status Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
  8. ^ 2007 PCBS Census. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.114.
  9. ^ History of City Council
  10. ^ Local Elections (Round Four)- Successful lists by local authority and No. of votes obtained Central Elections Commission - Palestine.

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