Beit Jala

Beit Jala

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Beit Jala is an Arab Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate
Bethlehem Governorate
The Bethlehem Governorate is one of 16 Governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the Palestinian Territories. It covers an area of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Its principal city and district capital is Bethlehem...

 of the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

. Beit Jala is located 10 km south of Jerusalem, on the western side of the Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 road, opposite Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

, at 825 metres (2,706.7 ft) altitude
Altitude
Altitude or height is defined based on the context in which it is used . As a general definition, altitude is a distance measurement, usually in the vertical or "up" direction, between a reference datum and a point or object. The reference datum also often varies according to the context...

. In 1997, Beit Jala had 12,239 inhabitants, predominantly Christian Palestinians with a Muslim minority, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is the statistical organization under the umbrella of the Palestinian Cabinet of the Palestinian National Authority....

.

Economy


Cremisan
Cremisan
The Cremisan Monastery is a Salesian monastery in the West Bank, near Beit Jala. The monastery, located on a hill 850 metres above sea level, is five kilometres from Bethlehem and 12 kilometres from Jerusalem...

 Cellars, located in the Cremisan monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

, is an important local winemaker. The winery has operated since the establishment of the monastery in the 19th century. Modern equipment was introduced in 1997. Beit Jala was once famous for its pork, olive oil, apricots and stone masonry. Other economic branches are tobacco, textiles, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. The Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company (formerly Jordan Chemical Laboratory) was established in 1958 to manufacture generic drug pharmaceutical products for the local market.

Health care


Beit Jala has a government-run 113-bed hospital, and a 77-bed privately-run specialized surgery hospital operated by the Arab Society for Rehabilitation. Primary health care is provided by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health. In addition, there are many charities, medical institutions and private health clinics. Societies for the disabled in Beit Jala include the Bethelehem Arab Society, Lifegate Rehabilitation and House Jemima, a Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

-founded home and daycare-center for children with mental disabilities.

Schools and religious institutions


Beit Jala is home to educational institutions run by a variety of Christian denominations, including the Arab Orthodox Benevolent Society
Arab Orthodox Benevolent Society
The Arab Orthodox Benevolent Society of Beit Jala, Palestine. It is the largest and oldest Orthodox Society in Palestine. It is an Arab Orthodox benevolence society established in 1907 to support the poor and incapacitated people of Beit Jala.It offers:...

. A Russian Orthodox
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 school was established in 1870. The Latin Patriarchate
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem is the title possessed by the Latin Rite Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem. The Archdiocese of Jerusalem has jurisdiction for all Latin Rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cyprus...

 Seminary
Seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

, which supervises religious liturgical
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 education in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, moved to Beit Jala in 1936. The Evangelical Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 Church in Jordan and the West Bank runs the Talitha
Talitha
-Stars:The traditional star name "Talitha" derives from the Arabic phrase, القفزة الثالثة meaning "The third leap [of the gazelle]", referring to an Arabic asterism...

 Kumi School in Beit Jala, which was founded by Lutheran deaconesses in the 19th century. The school has developed an environmental education program and operates the only bird-ringing station in the Palestinian sector. The school also runs a guesthouse. The Beit Jala skyline is dominated by several churches, among them the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Church of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas , also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra . Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker...

. According to tradition, St. Nicholas spent four years in the Holy Land. Both of these churches are Orthodox Christian
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

.

Local government


In the 2005 municipal election
Palestinian municipal election, 2005
Municipal elections were held to elect members of local councils in the Palestinian Territories between December 2004 and December 2005. They were the first local elections held in Palestinian areas in almost thirty years....

, six seats went to the United Beit Jala
United Beit Jala
United Beit Jala was a joint list of Fatah and the Palestinian People's Party for the May 2005 municipal elections in Beit Jala, the West Bank. The list won six seats. The top candidate of the lits was Raji George Jadallah Zeidan. One PPP member was elected, the rest belonging to Fatah....

 list (Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and Palestinian People's Party
Palestinian People's Party
The Palestinian People's Party , founded in 1982 as the Palestinian Communist Party, is a socialist political party in the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora....

), five seats went to Sons of the Land
Sons of the Land (Beit Jala)
Sons of the Land was a joint list of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and independents for the May 2005 municipal elections in Beit Jala, the West Bank. The list won 5 seats. The top candidate of the lits was Nadir Antoun Issa Abu Ashma....

 (PFLP
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 and independents), one seat went to Independent Beit Jala Group and one candidate was elected as an independent. The most popular candidate was Raji George Jadallah Zeidan of United Jala with 2,892 votes, followed by Nadir Antoun Issa Abu Amsha of Sons of the Land with 1764 votes.

Sports


The Beit Jala Lions
Beit Jala Lions
The Beit Jala Lions is a rugby union club situated in the town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem in the West Bank.The team was started in October 2007 by international rugby players and local guys and later encouraged by members of the Munster Supporters Club...

 is a rugby
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

 club active in Beit Jala since 2007. Hailed as the first all-Palestinian rugby team in history, the team is made up almost exclusively of residents of Beit Jala.

Israeli-Arab conflict


In 1952, following a Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 reprisal raid
1952 Beit Jala raid
The Beit Jala Raid was an Israeli attack on Beit Jala, an Arab town on the border between Jordan and Israel on January 6, 1952. Seven Palestinian Arab civilians were killed in the attack...

 in Beit Jala in which seven civilians were killed, a complaint was lodged that Israel had violated the General Armistice agreement
1949 Armistice Agreements
The 1949 Armistice Agreements are a set of agreements signed during 1949 between Israel and neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The agreements ended the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and established armistice lines between Israeli forces and the forces in...

. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation issued a condemnation of Israel for breaching the agreement.

During the Second Intifada, Tanzim
Tanzim
Tanzim is a militant faction of the Palestinian Fatah movement.-Overview:The Tanzim militia, founded in 1995 to counter Palestinian Islamism, is widely considered to be an armed offshoot of Fatah with its own leadership structure...

 militants used Beit Jala as a base for launching launch sniper and mortar attacks on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo
Gilo
Gilo is a neighborhood in southern East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish. It is one of the five ring neighborhoods of Jerusalem and is built on land in the West Bank that was annexed to Israel in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law. The international community regards it as an...

. Gilo is located on a hilltop across from Beit Jala, partially on the lands of Beit Safafa
Beit Safafa
Beit Safafa is an Arab neighborhood in south Jerusalem midway between the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Patt and Gilo, on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Beit Safafa had a population of 5,463 in 2000. It covers an area of 1,577 dunams.-History:...

 and Sharafat. The Israeli government built a concrete barrier and installed bulletproof windows in homes and schools facing Beit Jala. The gunmen reportedly positioned themselves in or near Christian homes and churches in the knowledge that a slight deviation in Israeli return fire would harm Christian buildings.

One such building was the residence of Albert Abu Zgheibreh, a Palestinian Christian. During the intifada, Abu Zgheibreh was overseas, so Palestinian gunmen, not from Beit Jala, quickly occupied it. This was confirmed, according to an article in The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

, by Fatah gunman Abu Atef. Abu Atef says "it became a right of passage for the most daring gunmen to take their turn behind the group's belt-fed Browning M2 .50-caliber machine-gun. Several gunmen and residents of Beit Jala were killed in the resulting firefights. 'The first time we came, the neighbours were OK, but after their houses began to be damaged from the Israeli tanks, people became very angry and tried to push us to another area to shoot. They didn't give us any help, not even a drink of water when the guys were thirsty. Even now they don't like us,' Abu Atef admits."

In August 2001, the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 occupied the northeast corner of Beit Jala, declaring that it would only leave when the gunfire on Gilo stopped. Two days later, the troops withdrew. Instead of ending the firing on Gilo, Palestinian militants stepped up their attacks, adding mortars and heavy machine guns. According to Time Magazine
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

, the Palestinian militants were not locals, but took up positions in Beit Jala due to its proximity to Gilo. In August 2010, after a long period of calm, the concrete barrier built to protect Gilo was removed.

Christian-Muslim tensions


There have been incidents of tension between Christians and Muslims in Beit Jala since the Palestinian Authority took over in 1995. Many Muslim families from Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 and other parts of the West Bank moved to Beit Jala and illegally seized privately-owned lands. Christian residents who tried to prevent Tanzim gunmen in Beit Jala from firing at the Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 of Gilo
Gilo
Gilo is a neighborhood in southern East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish. It is one of the five ring neighborhoods of Jerusalem and is built on land in the West Bank that was annexed to Israel in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law. The international community regards it as an...

 were beaten by the gunmen who were also accused of raping and murdering two sisters. There have been reports by Christian women in Beit Jala of being harassed by Muslim men from the village of Beit Awwa
Beit Awwa
Beit Awwa is a Palestinian town in the Hebron Governorate in the southern West Bank, located 22 kilometers west of Hebron and 4 kilometers west of Dura. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Beit Awwa had a population of 8,064 inhabitants in 2007...

in the Hebron area. Muslim and Christian political leaders say that the violence is mostly the result of "personally motivated" disputes and deny the existence of an organized anti-Christian campaign.

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