Beit Ur al-Tahta

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Beit Ur al-Tahta
Other transcription(s)
 • Arabic بيت عور التحت
 • Also spelled Bayt Ur at-Tahta (unofficial)
Beit Ur al-Tahta, between 1950 and 1977.
Beit Ur al-Tahta, between 1950 and 1977.
Beit Ur al-Tahta is located in the Palestinian territories
Beit Ur al-Tahta
Beit Ur al-Tahta
Location of Beit Ur al-Tahta within the Palestinian territories
Coordinates: 31°53′42″N 35°05′01″E / 31.89500°N 35.08361°E / 31.89500; 35.08361Coordinates: 31°53′42″N 35°05′01″E / 31.89500°N 35.08361°E / 31.89500; 35.08361
Palestine grid 158/144
Governorate Ramallah & al-Bireh
 • Type Municipality
Population (2007)
 • Jurisdiction 4,372
Name meaning "Lower house of Ur"[1]

Beit Ur al-Tahta (Arabic: بيت عور التحتى‎‎, lit. "Lower house of straw") is a Palestinian village located in the Seam Zone in the central West Bank, in the Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate. The village is located on the site of the biblical Bethoron, on a hilltop facing Beit Ur al-Foqa. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Beit Ur at-Tahta had a population of 4,372 inhabitants in mid-2007.[2]


Early history[edit]

In January 2001, a burial cave was discovered on the southern outskirts of the village. The cave consisted of two chambers and an arched doorway. Artifacts inside the cave included several pottery fragments, a cooking pot, a bowl and goblet dating to the end of the Second Temple period (1st century BCE–1st century CE).[3]

To the west of the village is the ruins of a chapel, apparently from the Byzantine period,[4] and ceramics from the same period have also been found.[5] The place was mentioned in the 12th century as a fief of the Holy Sepulchre.[6]

Ottoman era[edit]

In 1596 the village appeared in Ottoman tax registers under the name of Bayt 'Ur as-Sufla and was part of the Nahiya ("Subdistrict") of Quds of the Liwa ("District") of Quds. It had a population of 20 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives, goats and/or beehives.[7]

A 19th-century traveler visiting the town found the remains of ancient foundations, rock-cut cisterns and a tomb that was said to have contained treasures. Father P.M. Séjourné, revisiting the site, noticed the ruins of a large church: "The mosaic pavement of an important church located northeast of the village has disappeared, at least for the moment, under a watermelon field. The scattered spoils of the Christian building have enriched the neighbouring modern mosque and many hovels nearby. Fragments of a graceful frieze, capitals with Corinthian acanthus carved in white marble, columns and dressed stones lie unused along the roads." Another researcher, Victor Guérin, saw two columns from the church inside the local mosque. Based on these finds, it was concluded that the village was once Christian, and had a large three-nave church.[8]

An official Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that Bet Ur et-Tatha had 35 houses and a population of 185, though it only counted the men.[9] In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described Beit 'Ur et Tahta as "A village of moderate size on a low ridge with wells to the west. In the middle of the village is the sacred place of Neby 'Or, with a palm tree in the courtyard: near it is a well in the street.[6]

British Mandate period[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Beit Ur al-Tahta had a population of 470, all Muslims,[10] while at the 1931 census, Beit 'Ur al-Tahta had 117 occupied houses and a population of 611, still all Muslim.[11]

In 1945 the population was 710, all Muslims,[12] while the total land area was 4,619 dunams, according to an official land and population survey.[13] Of this, 2,045 were allocated for plantations and irrigable land, 1,780 for cereals,[14] while 41 dunams were classified as built-up areas.[15]

Israeli occupation and Palestinian control[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, lands belonging to Beit Ur al-Tahta were confiscated by the Israeli government to construct Highway 443 along the pass of Bethoron. A petition challenging the move submitted to the Supreme Court of Israel in September 1983 was rejected by Justice Aharon Barak who ruled that under international law, a military government have the right to infringe private property if a number of conditions are fulfilled,stating that "The step is taken for the benefit of the local population". Highway 443 initially served as a main approach road linking the 25000 inhabitants of six villages to each others and to Ramallah. After the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the Israeli military prevented Palestinian use of the road and blocked some parts of it without a legal order,[16] and the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier closed off access to the old road, which lengthened the journey.[17] In 2007, The Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the state of Israel to explain why the road has been blocked for seven years without a legal order and why Palestinians are prevented from using it.[16]

In October 2009, infrastructure improvements were completed in Beit Ur al-Tahta that included improved roads and street lighting. The project was funded by American Charities for Palestine, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Sheikh Mohammed Shami Foundation. The total cost was $400,000.[18]


Beit Ur al-Tahta is situated in the foothills of the north-central West Bank, 11.4 kilometers west of Ramallah. The village has an average elevation of 390 meters above sea level. Nearby localities Kharbatha al-Misbah to the south, Beit Ur al-Fauqa to the southeast, Beitunia to the east, Ein 'Arik and Deir Ibzi to the northeast, Kafr Ni'ma to the north, Bil'in to the northwest, Saffa to the west and Beit Sira to the southwest.[19] The old center of Beit Ur al-Tahta is located in the southern part of the village, while the northern part is marked by wide terraces and is the site of several of the village's archaeological pieces.[20] The total area of the village is 5,653 dunams, of which 773 dunams were built-up areas.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 287
  2. ^ 2007 PCBS Census Archived December 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.114.
  3. ^ Excavation and Surveys in Israel: Israel Antiquities Authority
  4. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 86
  5. ^ Dauphin, 1998, p. 839.
  6. ^ a b Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 17
  7. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 117.
  8. ^ Bethoron - (Bayt Ur)
  9. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 148
  10. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Ramallah, p. 16
  11. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 47.
  12. ^ Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 26
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 64
  14. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 111
  15. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 161
  16. ^ a b Yuval Yoaz and Akiva Elder (2007-06-08). "State told to explain Palestinian travel ban on West Bank road". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  17. ^ Birgitta Elfström and Arne Malmgren (2005-01-31). "Palestinian Children Behind Bars" (PDF). International Commission of Jurists, Swedish Section. [permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Beit Ur Al-Tahta Development Archived September 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ a b Beit ‘Ur at Tahta Village Profile. Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ). 2012.
  20. ^ Finkelstein and Lederman, 1997, p. 161.


External links[edit]