Beit Ur al-Tahta
|Beit Ur al-Tahta|
|• Arabic||بيت عور التحت|
|• Also spelled||Bayt Ur at-Tahta (unofficial)|
Beit Ur al-Tahta, between 1950 and 1977.
|Governorate||Ramallah & al-Bireh|
|Name meaning||"Lower house of Ur"|
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.
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).
To the west of the village is the ruins of a chapel, apparently from the Byzantine period, and ceramics from the same period have also been found. The place was mentioned in the 12th century as a fief of the Holy Sepulchre.
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.
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.
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. 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.
British Mandate period
In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Beit Ur al-Tahta had a population of 470, all Muslims, while at the 1931 census, Beit 'Ur al-Tahta had 117 occupied houses and a population of 611, still all Muslim.
In 1945 the population was 710, all Muslims, while the total land area was 4,619 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 2,045 were allocated for plantations and irrigable land, 1,780 for cereals, while 41 dunams were classified as built-up areas.
Israeli occupation and Palestinian control
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, and the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier closed off access to the old road, which lengthened the journey. 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.
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.
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. 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. The total area of the village is 5,653 dunams, of which 773 dunams were built-up areas.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 287
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- Bethoron - (Bayt Ur)
- Socin, 1879, p. 148
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- Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 26
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- Beit ‘Ur at Tahta Village Profile. Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ). 2012.
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- Welcome To Bayt 'Ur al-Tahta
- Survey of Western Palestine, Map 17: IAA, Wikimedia commons
- Beit ‘Ur at Tahta Village (Fact Sheet), Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ)
- Beit ‘Ur at Tahta Village Profile , Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ)
- Bayt 'Ur al-Tahta, areal view, Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ)
- Locality Development Priorities and Needs in Beit ‘Ur at Tahta Village, Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ)