views updated Jun 11 2018


RAMALLAH (Rām Allāh ; al-Bīra ), twin towns in the northern Judean Hills, 9 mi. (15 km.) N. of Jerusalem. While al-Bīra is supposed to stand on the site of biblical *Beeroth, Ramallah is generally identified with *Ramah. The twin towns occupy a strategic position at 2,854 ft. (870 m.) above sea level, where the Judean upfold broadens, and at a crossroads. During the British Mandate, Ramallah was preponderantly Christian-Arab with 4,710 Christian and 650 Muslim inhabitants in 1946. The proportion was reversed in al-Bīra, then a village with 2,100 Muslims and 150 Christians. Because of Ramallah's elevation, the authorities chose it as the site for the country broadcasting transmitters. The clear, brisk climate encouraged the development of the town as a summer resort, which gained impetus under Jordanian rule when wealthy citizens built summer houses there and tourists came from other Arab countries to spend the summer. In the *Six-Day War, Ramallah was taken by Israeli forces. The census taken by the Israeli authorities in the fall of 1967 revealed that the population of both towns had greatly increased since 1948, mainly through the opening of refugee camps, while the relative strength of the Christian communities had diminished. Ramallah in 1967 had 12,134 inhabitants, of whom 6,966 (57.4%) were Christians, while al-Bīra, with a population of 13,037, was larger than Ramallah and was almost exclusively Muslim. Following the Oslo Agreements and the transfer of the city to the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority located its government institutions there. Against a background of undiminished terrorism, Yasser *Arafat was confined to his headquarter compound in the city (the Muqata) by Israeli forces from 2003 until his death in 2004, and was also buried there. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, in 1997 the population of Ramallah was 18,017 and that of Al-Bīra was 27,972.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 09 2018


Palestinian city in the West Bank.

Located about 6.5 miles north of Jerusalem on the western side of the NablusJerusalem road, Ramallah was an important urban center under the British Mandate. After Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950, Ramallah became part of the Jerusalem governorate. In the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Ramallah was occupied by Israel. It was the site of many clashes between Israel's military authorities and Palestinians between June 1967 and December 1995, when Israel withdrew and the Palestinian Authority (PA) assumed control. The city underwent an economic boom during the mid-1990s when the PA established the town, unofficially, as its main West Bank administrative center. Many PA offices were built, as well as villas for returning emigres.

Ramallah was occupied by the Israelis several times after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada in late 2000. It is noteworthy among Palestinian towns for its strong educational and professional heritage. U.S. Quakers established a girls' school in Ramallah in 1889, and nearby Bir Zeit University is one of the best Palestinian universities in the West Bank. In the last official census of 1997, the city's population stood at 17,851.

see also arabisrael war (1967); bir zeit university; palestinian authority; west bank.


Fischbach, Michael R. "Ramallah." In Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, edited by Philip Mattar. New York: Facts On File, 2000.

lawrence tal
updated by michael r. fischbach