|Governorate||Ramallah & al-Bireh|
|• Head of Municipality||Hassib Kaileh|
|• Jurisdiction||14,077 dunams (14.0 km2 or 5.4 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||"Well of [olive] oil"|
Birzeit (Arabic: بيرزيت) (also Bir Zeit) is a Palestinian town north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. Its population in the 2007 census was 4529. Birzeit is a Christian town and home to Birzeit University.
The village was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with all of Palestine, and in 1596 it appeared in the tax registers under the name of Bir Zayt, as being in the nahiya of Jabal Quds in the liwa of Quds. It had a population of 26 households, all Muslim. The inhabitants of the village paid taxes on wheat, barley, olive trees, vineyards, fruit trees, and goats and/or beehives.
The French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village in July 1863. He found it to have a population of 1,800 inhabitants, of those 140 were Latin Catholics, the others were "schismatic Greeks" and Muslims. The Catholic parish was administered by a young French missionary, Father Joly. The irrigated gardens were well grown, and the soil naturally fertile. It abounded in vines, figs and pears. He also noted some beautiful walnut trees.
An official Ottoman village list of about 1870 showed that "Bir Zet" had a total of 73 houses and a population of 250, though the population count included only men. Of this, 75 men in 20 houses were Muslim, while 175 men in 53 houses were "Latin" Christian.
In 1882, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine noted that Bir Zeit was "a Christian village of moderate size, containing a Greek Church and a Latin Church, with a well to the north, and olives round it. The red-tiled roof of the Latin Church, on top of the ridge, is a conspicuous object in the village."
In 1906, a former missionary with the Church Missionary Society published an account of an outbreak of cholera in Bir Ziet over thirty years previously. It began when a mother of a young man who had died of cholera in Nablus washed his clothes in the village spring. The disease quickly took hold and in a week killed 30 people, out of a population of 200-300. The infection was stopped when one of the village elders ordered the entire population to leave and camp out in their vineyards. Three men remained to bury the dead and there were no further casualties. The English author commented: "The incident is a notable one, as there was no European hand in it from first to last, and it shows what the Fellahin are capable of under wise and energetic native guidance."
In a census conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities, the village, called Bair Zait, had a total population of 896; 119 were Muslims and 777 Christian, while in the 1931 census, the village had 251 occupied houses and a total population of 1233; 362 Muslims and 871 Christians.
In 1945 the population was 1,560, all Arabs, while the total land area was 14,088 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 6,908 were allocated for plantations and irrigable land, 2,414 for cereals, while 402 dunams were classified as built-up areas.
The town has 200 historic buildings, including over 100 in the old part of town, some dating back to the Mamluk era. Birzeit University was formerly located there. Dozens of buildings vacated by the university's move to Ramallah were restored, reinvigorating social and economic development.
There are three Christian churches in Birzeit. The oldest one is St George Orthodox Church; now the Orthodox Christian community is building another large Orthodox Church, and an Orthodox Christian school that is considered to be the largest in the West Bank. The second church is the Our Lady Queen of Peace - Guadalupe (Roman Catholic), which also runs a high school. The Third church is St. Peter’s Episcopal/Anglican Church.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 227
- 2007 PCBS Census. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.113.
- About Birzeit, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 116.
- Guérin, 1869, p. 33-34
- Socin, 1879, p. 148-149
- Conder and Kitchener, 1882, p. 293-294
- Wilson, Rev. C.T. (1906) Peasant Life in the Holy Land. John Murray, London. pp.151,152. There had been a second out-break of the disease across Palestine since then.
- J. B. Barron, ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine. Table VII, Sub-district of Ramallah, p. 16.
- Mills, 1932, p. 48.
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 64
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 111
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 161
- West Bank: Renovating an embattled city
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Birzeit.|
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1882). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology 2. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine. Vol 1, Judee, pt. 3.
- Hadawi, Sami (1970), Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine, Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center
- Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft.
- Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine.
- Palmer, E. H. (1881). The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected During the Survey by Lieutenants Conder and Kitchener, R. E. Transliterated and Explained by E.H. Palmer. Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Socin, A. (1879). "Alphabetisches Verzeichniss von Ortschaften des Paschalik Jerusalem". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 2: 135–163.
- David Lynch: A Divided Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land. (New Island, Jan 2009)
- Bir Zeit (Fact Sheet), ARIJ
- Bir Zeit (Village profile), ARIJ
- Bir Zeit (photo), ARIJ
- Birzeit Society
- St George Orthodox Church site (Arabic)
- Welcome To Bir Zeit