The Basilica of St. George in Izra'
|Elevation||600 m (1,968 ft)|
|Population (2004 census)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||+3 (UTC)|
Izra' (Arabic: ازرع Izra') is a town in Syria, administratively belonging to Izra' District of the Daraa Governorate located north of Daraa. Izra' has an altitude of 599 metres and had a population of 19,158 in 2004, according to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). The population is predominantly Christian.
Izraa, (Zorava, Zorowa or Zorabene) was a Canaanite city mentioned in the Bible. Located 80 km south of Damascus in the northern section of the Province of Daraa, its name appears in the “Tell Amarna letters”, documents which were exchanged between the Egyptian and Syrian rulers in 1334 B.C. Ancient inscriptions left by the Romans after their occupation of the Bashan area evidence the importance of the town.
An inscription, found by the archaeologist Richter, shows that the city was elevated to the rank of metrokomia (Great city) under the Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235 A.D.) and was known as Zorava.
Lejah, (Trachonides or “the Rocky Land ”) forms a triangle with Borac as the summit, Izraa to the south-west and Shahba to the south-east. In the course of history, this region was a natural fortress that invaders found very difficult to conquer. Herod’s soldiers failed to occupy it. Even the Crusaders under Baldwin III could not subdue it, because of its difficult terrain, the lack of water and the resistance of its people.
The Gospel reached this region early because of its close proximity to the Holy Land ; it thus became an episcopal seat during the Byzantine era. It was ranked second after the metropolitan see of Bosra throughout the whole of the Province of Arabia .
The historian Ismail Abulfida described in his book “Taqwim al Buldan” that it was “to be one of the major capitals of Hauran, 18 miles from the region of Sanameine”.
In 1596 Izra' appeared in the Ottoman tax registers as Madinat Zura' and was part of the nahiya of Badi Sarma in the Qada of Hauran. It had a Christian population consisting of 175 households and 61 bachelors, and a Muslim population of 59 households and 30 bachelors. Taxes were paid on wheat, barley, goats and/or beehives, water mill and jizya.
In 1840 CE the Egyptian ruler Ibrahim Pasha invaded the region and bombarded the church, causing great damage to the walls and dome, but he failed to occupy the city. During the great Syrian insurrection against the French Mandate forces (1925-1926), the rebels sought refuge in Izraa.
The town has a population of 19,158 based on the 2004 census. It is composed of Christians and Muslims.
Izra can have very strong (vii) earthquakes (on average one every 50 years) with occurrences at 6-7 Richter. When a strong earthquake occurs, it will be difficult to stand and noticed by people driving motor cars. Furniture and glass will be broken. The damage will be negligible in buildings of good design and construction but considerable damage may be inflicted on poorly built or badly designed structures. There is a very high occurrence of periods with extreme drought. Izra` has a semi-arid (0.2 - 0.5 p/pet) climate. The land area is totally cultivated, not much natural vegetation is left. The landscape is mostly covered with mosaic forest - shrubland/grassland. The climate is classified as a mid-latitude steppe (mid-latitude dry), with a subtropical desert scrub biozone . The soil in the area is high in leptosols (lp), a weakly developed shallow soil.
August is warmest with an average temperature of 33.5°C (92.3 °F) at noon. January is coldest with an average temperature of (2.8 °F) at night. Izra` has distinct cold and warm seasons, like cold winters and warm summers. Temperatures drop sharply at night. Winters have some periods of frost, with the coldest month most often being January. August is on average the month with most sunshine. Rainfall and other precipitation peaks around January. The time around June is driest.
- General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Daraa Governorate. (Arabic)
- Five years in Damascus and Hauran, Rev. J. L. Porter, 1855.
- L’Orient Romain, M. Sartre
- L’Arabie chrétienne, M. Picirillo, Mengès, 2002.
- Sharon, 2007, p. 165
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 217.
- Bostra, des origines à l’Islam, M. Sartre, Paris, 1985.
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- Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah (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.
- Sharon, Moshe (2007), Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, Addendum, BRILL