|Name meaning||"The little wilderness"|
|Date of depopulation||May 12, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Current localities||Bror Hayil, Telamim, Zohar, Sde David, Heletz|
Burayr (Arabic: برير) was a Palestinian Arab village in the Gaza Subdistrict, 18 kilometers (11 mi) northeast of Gaza City. Its population in 1945 was 2,740 and it was depopulated in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. It had an average elevation of 100 meters (330 ft).
During Mamluk rule, it was positioned on a main highway leading from Gaza to Beit Jibrin, branching off the Via Maris at Beit Hanoun. Burayr had its own independent source for water, making it a desired rest place for travelers. In the ruins of the village was discovered Fatimid inscriptions dating from the 10th centuries.
Burayr was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with all of Palestine and in 1596, it was under the administration of the Nahiya of Gaza, part of the Sanjak of Gaza. The village paid taxes on wheat, barley, fruits, beehives, and goats.
In 1838, Edward Robinson found that Burayr was "a flourishing village forming a sort of central point in the plain.. [It had] a large public well, at which camels were drawing water by means of a sakia, or water wheel with jars..." In 1863, Burayr was described as a "large and prosperous village of 1,000" and all of its houses were made of mud, except for that of the village sheikh whose home was built of stone, and "round the well, which is broad and deep, ten ancient shafts in greyish white marble are built up in masonry, serving to make a trough."
An official Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that Bureir had 167 houses and a population of 579, counting only the men. In 1883, the SWP described the village as large, with a water wheel to the east, a pool to the north and a garden to the south.
Burayr was strategically important in World War I and on November 9, 1917, was one of the first places captured by the Allied Forces from the Ottoman Empire, consolidating British hold on positions controlling the approaches to Jaffa and Jerusalem.
British Mandate of Palestine
During the British Mandate period, Burayr expanded westward, a mosque was built in the center of the village along with a clinic and grain mill. There were two primary schools—one for girls and one for boys—founded in 1920. Water was supplied by three wells inside the village and toward the end of the Mandate, villagers had drilled artesian wells. The local economy boosted in the 1940s when the Iraqi Petroleum Company discovered oil in the vicinity of Burayr and drilled an oil well. The activities of the marketplace were supplemented by a weekly Wednesday market that attracted other villagers and Bedouin. Agriculture and animal husbandry employed most of the residents and the main crops were citrus, grapes, and figs.
In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bureir had a population of 1,591, all Muslims, increasing in the 1931 census to 1894, still all Muslim, in 414 houses.
In 1945 Bureir had a population of 2,740, all Arabs, with 44,220 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 409 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 43,319 used for cereals, while 130 dunams were built-up land.
1948 war and aftermath
On January 29, 1948, Israeli forces entered the village in five armored vehicles, but were repulsed without casualties. On February 14, an Israeli convoy exchanged fire with the local militia and withdrew. The villagers built a barricade at the entrance of Burayr which was dismantled by British troops the next day.
According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, Jewish World War II veterans established kibbutz Bror Hayil on a hilltop about a mile from Burayr on April 20, 1948. He says the New York Times reported that "when the Arabs of Burayr awoke, they found the Jews setting up pre-fabricated houses and building a defensive wall and watchtower." The villagers opened fire on them, but the work was completed by noon. Benny Morris says the founding date was May 18, and Israeli sources say the founders were mostly Jewish immigrants from Egypt.
In the course of Operation Barak, which commenced in early May, the Palmach's Negev Brigade and Givati Brigade captured Burayr, which was referred to as "the village of the killers." Dozens of army-age villagers were apparently executed and a teenage girl was apparently raped and killed. All of the inhabitants fled to Gaza.
On the basis of Philistine pottery from the 10th or 9th centuries BCE found in excavations of the tell, archaeologist Jeffrey Blakely of University of Wisconsin-Madison believes that Burayr may be the site of a Philistine village contemporary with the nearby Judaean hill forts.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 367
- Morris, 2004, p. xix, village #318. Also gives cause of depopulation.
- Morris, 2004, p. xx, settlement #6.
- A History of the Jewish People, Abraham Malamat, Haim H. Ben-Sasson, Harvard University Press, page 322
- Dauphin, 1998, p. 881
- Sharon, 2004, p.XLVI ff
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 144. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.91.
- Robinson and Smith, 1842, II, p. 370 Cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 92 (Note: typing-error in Khalidi; he writes p.35)
- Guérin, 1869, p. 293
- Sharon, 2004, p.XLVIII.
- Guérin, 1869, p. 293; as translated in Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 274
- Socin, 1879, p. 149
- Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 259. Cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 92
- Khalidi, 1992, p. 92
- Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8
- Mills, 1932, p. 3.
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 45
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 86
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 136
- Morris, Benny (April 2008). 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. p. 307.
- Bror Hail, Negev Information Center
- Morris, 2004, p.258.
- Madison archeologist relocates border between Judah, Philistines
- Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922 (PDF). Government of Palestine.
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1883). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology 3. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Dauphin, Claudine (1998). La Palestine byzantine, Peuplement et Populations. BAR International Series 726 (in French). III : Catalogue. Oxford: Archeopress.
- Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine. 1:Judee, pt. 2.
- 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. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
- Khalidi, Walid (1992). All That Remains. Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
- Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas (PDF). Jerusalem: Government of Palestine.
- Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-00967-6.
- 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.
- Robinson, Edward; Smith, Eli (1841). Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the year 1838 2. Boston: Crocker & Brewster.
- Sharon, Moshe (2004). Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, D-F 3. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-13197-3.
- Socin, A. (1879). "Alphabetisches Verzeichniss von Ortschaften des Paschalik Jerusalem". Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 2: 135–163.
- Welcome to Burayr, palestineremembered.com
- Survey of Western Palestine, Map 20: IAA, Wikimedia commons
- Burayr, from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center