|• Arabic||بيت جالا|
|• Also spelled||Bayt Jala (unofficial)|
View of Beit Jala from Gilo
|• Head of Municipality||Raji George Jadallah Zeidan|
|• Jurisdiction||12,911 dunams (13.0 km2 or 5.0 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||Carpet of Grass|
Beit Jala (Arabic: بيت جالا (help·info)) is a Palestinian Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. Beit Jala is located 10 km south of Jerusalem, on the western side of the Hebron road, opposite Bethlehem, at 825 meters (2,707 ft) altitude. In 2007, Beit Jala had 11,758 inhabitants according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. About 75% of the population were Christians (mostly Greek Orthodox) and about 25% Muslims.
Jordanian and Israeli rule
The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began relief operations for refugees in the West Bank in 1950. They also worked with Palestinians who had retained their houses and so were not technically refugees, but who had lost their land or means of making a living because of the war. As part of this relief, the MCC founded a school in Beit Jala which was still in operation as of 1979.
In 1952, following an Israel Defense Forces reprisal raid in Beit Jala in which seven civilians were killed, a complaint was lodged that Israel had violated the General Armistice agreement. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation issued a condemnation of Israel for breaching the agreement.
Control of the town was assumed by the Palestinian Authority following the 1993 Oslo Accords.
During the Second Intifada, militants from the Fatah-affiliated Tanzim group used Beit Jala as a base for launching sniper and mortar attacks on the Israeli settlement of Gilo. Gilo is located on a hilltop across from Beit Jala, partially built on the lands of Beit Jala, Beit Safafa and Sharafat. The Israeli government built a concrete barrier and installed bulletproof windows in homes and schools facing Beit Jala.
In several instances, militants were reported to have used the houses of some Palestinian Christian residents to fire on Israeli targets in Gilo. According to one Fatah fighter named Abu Atef, fighters were initially welcomed by residents, but after their homes were attacked by Israeli retaliatory fire and several fighters and residents were killed, they no longer tolerated the militants' presence. According to John Bunzl, the Israeli press used the incident to suggest there was a Christian-Muslim conflict in the incidents, with the former trying to prevent an attack until the Muslims forced them to surrender. Numerous statements taken from Christian residents appear to refute this. In August 2001, the Israeli Army occupied the northeastern corner of Beit Jala, declaring that it would only leave when the gunfire on Gilo stopped. Two days later, the troops withdrew. Palestinian militants subsequently increased their attacks, adding mortars and heavy machine guns. According to Time Magazine, the Palestinian militants were not locals, but took up positions in Beit Jala due to its proximity to Gilo. In August 2010, after a long period of calm, the concrete barrier built to protect Gilo was removed.
There have been reports by Christian women in Beit Jala of being harassed by Muslim men from the village of Beit Awwa in the Hebron area. However, Muslim and Christian political leaders say that the violence is mostly the result of personally motivated disputes and not an organized anti-Christian campaign.
This town was the only remaining Christian town, made up of five Christian tribes that trace their origins as Aramaic-speaking people who lived in that area near Bethlehem prior to the 7th century Islamic occupation. At the 1931 census of Palestine the population of Beit Jala was 2,732. This included 196 Muslims, 2,532 Christians, and one Jew. In 1947, Beit Jala had a population of approximately 3,700. In 1967, according to a census conducted by the Israeli Army Command, the population was 6,041. The population in 2007 was 11,758 according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Cremisan Cellars, located in the Cremisan monastery, is an important local winemaker. The winery has operated since the establishment of the monastery in the 19th century. Modern equipment was introduced in 1997. Beit Jala was once famous for its pork, olive oil, apricots and stone masonry. Other economic branches are tobacco, textiles, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. The Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company (formerly Jordan Chemical Laboratory) was established in 1958 to manufacture generic drug pharmaceutical products for the local market.
The West Bank Barrier is being extended to encircle the area, splitting the monastery, whiuch would end up on the Israeli side, from the sister Salesian convent, and making access to this recreational area for Beit Jala residents very difficult. 57 Christian families are slated to lose their agricultural property.
Beit Jala has a government-run 113-bed hospital, and a 77-bed privately run specialized surgery hospital operated by the Arab Society for Rehabilitation. Primary health care is provided by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health. In addition, there are many charities, medical institutions and private health clinics. Societies for the disabled in Beit Jala include the Bethlehem Arab Society, Lifegate Rehabilitation and House Jemima, a Dutch-founded home and daycare-center for children with mental disabilities.
Schools and religious institutions
Beit Jala is home to educational institutions run by a variety of Christian denominations, including the Arab Orthodox Benevolent Society. A Russian Orthodox school was established in 1870. The Latin Patriarchate Seminary, which supervises religious liturgical education in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, moved to Beit Jala in 1936.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has a congregation in Beit Jala. The denomination also runs the Talitha Kumi School in Beit Jala, which was founded by Lutheran deaconesses in the 19th century and relocated in Beit Jala in 1961. The school has developed an environmental education program and operates the only bird-ringing station in the Palestinian sector. The school also runs a guesthouse.
The Beit Jala skyline is dominated by several churches, among them the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Church of St. Michael, and the Church of Saint Nicholas. According to tradition, St. Nicholas spent four years in a cave where the Church is built upon it. These three churches belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. The Latin Church of Annunciation is the Catholic Church built in 1850.
The Syrian Orthodox Church runs the Mar Afram school in Beit Jala. Since 2007 Mar Afram has offered classes in Aramaic (more specifically, the Syriac dialect) to its students, which are taught by elderly residents of the town who still speak the waning language fluently. A similar program is run for Maronite children in the Arab Christian village of Jish in northern Israel.
In the 2005 municipal election, six seats went to the United Beit Jala list (Fatah and Palestinian People's Party), five seats went to Sons of the Land (PFLP and independents), one seat went to Independent Beit Jala Group and one candidate was elected as an independent. The most popular candidate was Raji George Jadallah Zeidan of United Jala with 2,892 votes, followed by Nadir Antoun Issa Abu Amsha of Sons of the Land with 1764 votes.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beit Jala.|
- West Bank Local Elections ( Round two) - Successful candidates by local authority, gender and No. of votes obtained Beit Jala p 24
- 2007 PCBS Census Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.118.
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- The ravaged palace that symbolizes the hope of peace
- John Bunzl,Islam, Judaism, and the Political Role of Religions in the Middle East, University Press of Florida, 2004 p.78-79
- Israel: We'll leave Beit Jala if Firing Stops
- Israel leaving Beit Jala, say Palestinians
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- Jahsan, Ruby. "Wine". The Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation. Archived from the original on 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- Beit Jala Project Renewal
- Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company
- Yolande Knell, Bethlehem nuns in West Bank barrier battle, ' BBC News, 3 May 2012.
- Beit Jala Municipality
- Bethlehem Arab Society
- Lifegate Rehabilitation
- House Jemima
- "History and Mission". The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- "Talitha Kumi Evangelical Lutheran School, Beit Jala". Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Diaa Hadid (June 2, 2012). "Attempts to revive language spoken in Jesus' time". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Municipal Election results
- Chris Toenjes (2008-03-15). "Rugby Goes Palestinian". Ma'an News Agency.
- Official Site of Beit Jala
- Beit Jala City (Fact Sheet)
- Beit Jala City Profile
- Beit Jala City Area Photo
- The priorities and needs for development in Beit Jala city based on the community and local authorities’ assessment
- Talitha Kumi School
- House Jemima
- Lifegate Rehabilitation
- Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation
- Nativity Hotel in Beit Jala