Sur Baher

Coordinates: 31°44′14″N 35°13′59″E / 31.73722°N 35.23306°E / 31.73722; 35.23306
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Sur Baher
  • צור באהר
  • صور باهر
Hebrew transcription(s)
 • Also spelledTsur Baher (unofficial)
Sur Baher
Sur Baher
Sur Baher is located in East Jerusalem
Sur Baher is located in East Jerusalem
Sur Baher
Location of Sur Baher within Palestine
Coordinates: 31°44′14″N 35°13′59″E / 31.73722°N 35.23306°E / 31.73722; 35.23306
Grid position172/127 PAL
Jerusalem MunicipalityJerusalem
 • Total15,000
Name meaningThe wall of Bahir (Prominent)[1]
Sur Baher

Sur Baher (Arabic: صور باهر, Hebrew: צור באהר), also Tsur Baher, is a Palestinian neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem. It is located east of Ramat Rachel and northeast of Har Homa. In 2006, Sur Baher had a population of 15,000.[2]


During a general survey of the southern part of Sur Baher, ancient stone cut olive presses, wine presses, cisterns and a limekiln were found.[3] A cave, with remains dating to the Iron Age I (12-11th centuries B.C.E.) were excavated at Khirbat Za‛kuka, south of Sur Baher.[4]

A burial cave, dating to the end of the first century BCE and the first century CE have also been excavated. The cave contained remains of several ossuaries, in addition to arcosolia and benches.[5]

Pottery vessels that dated to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods were excavated from an ancient quarry at Sur Baher.[6] One mile straight to the east of Sur Baher tombs from the Byzantine era have been found.[7] They were probably connected with the Georgian monastery at Umm Leisun.[8][9]

In the Crusader era it was known as Casale Sorbael.[10][11] In 1179 the village was mentioned as being among the villages whose revenue were given to the Mt. Zion Abbey by Pope Alexander III.[12]

1517–1920: Ottoman era[edit]

Sur Baher, like the rest of Palestine, was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and in the tax registers of 1596 "Sur Bahir" appeared as being in the Nahiya of Quds in the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 29 households, all Muslim. They paid a fixed tax-rate of 33.3% on agricultural products, including wheat barley, vineyards and fruit trees, goats and beehives; a total of 12,983 akçe. 15/24 of the revenues went to a waqf.[13][14]

In 1838, Edward Robinson noted Sur Bahil N 13° E from Tuqu'.[15] It was further noted as a Muslim village.[16]

French explorer Victor Guérin visited the place in 1863, and described Sur Baher as having about 400 inhabitants.[17] An Ottoman village list of about 1870 found 46 houses and a population of 154, though the population count only included men. It further noted that it was an old, well-built and nice-looking village.[18][19]

In 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described Sur Bahir as "a stone village of moderate size, on a bare hill. On the north is a well in the valley, and there are rock-cut tombs above it to the west."[20]

In 1896 the population of Sur Bahir was estimated to be about 300 persons.[21]

1920–1948: British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Sur Baher had an all Muslim population of 993 persons.[22] In the 1931 census the population of Sur Bahir was a total of 1529, still all Muslim, in 308 inhabited houses.[23]

In the 1945 statistics the population of Sur Baher, together with Umm Tuba, was 2,450, all Muslims,[24] who owned 8,915 dunams of land according to an official land and population survey.[25] 911 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 3,927 used for cereals,[26] while 56 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[27]

1948–1967: Jordanian era[edit]

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Sur Baher was occupied and later annexed by Jordan.[28]

In the 1961 Jordanian census, the population of Sur Baher was 2,335.[29] Sur Baher's population together with Umm Tuba and Arab el Subeira amounted to 4,012 in the same census.[30]

1967–present: Israeli occupation[edit]

Structures at risk of demolition

Since the 1967 Six-Day War, Sur Baher came under Israeli occupation. The 1967 Israeli census showed there were 4,710 inhabitants in Sur Baher and Umm Tuba, an increase with 17.4% from the 1961 census.[30]

Parts of the village have differing status, some is within the East Jerusalem boundary and some within the West Bank and a part is outside the boundary but still on the Israeli controlled side of the barrier wall.

Israel has divided Sur Bahir & Umm Tuba in two main parts: the western part, called "J1", (about 6,476 dunums (78.5% of the towns’ total area)) is under the control of the Jerusalem Municipality. The eastern part (1,769 dunums (21.5% of the towns’ total area)), called "J2", is divided into:

Part of "J2" is inside the wall, part of it is outside.[31]

According to ARIJ, Israel has confiscated land from Sur Bahir & Umm Tuba in order to construct two Israeli settlements: 1,343 dunams for East Talpiot, and 354 dunams for Har Homa.[32]

In 1970, Israel expropriated land around the village used for livestock grazing and harvesting olive and citrus groves from its owners.[33] Most of that land was utilized in the building of the Jerusalem Jewish only neighborhood/settlement of East Talpiot.[33] According to Isabel Kershner, a fifth of Sur Baher's land was expropriated for East Talpiot, available land in the village became insufficient to meet the growing needs of the population, and it was difficult for Sur Baher residents to obtain building permits from the Jerusalem Municipality.[34] Residents constructed homes on the remaining land in the Wadi al-Ain and Wadi al-Humus valleys across what is designated by Israel as the municipal border.[34]

In 2000, the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality approved building plans for two new high schools and a youth center. In September 2005, the Jerusalem municipality, in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces, cleared a Jordanian minefield in Sur Baher. The work, carried out by an Israeli company, was completed by October 2005.[2] In May 2007, the municipality built two schools on the cleared land: a girls school attended by 800 students, and Ibn Rushd, a boys school attended by 700 students.[35] Since 2013, even non-Israeli Palestinian residents of Sur Baher are entitled to the services of Bituah Leumi (the Israeli National Insurance Institute) and the associated state health care.[36]

In response to the demolition on July 22, 2019, of up to 16 residential buildings in the neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hummus in the village of Sur Baher, Amnesty condemned the action stating: "These demolitions are a flagrant violation of international law and part of a systematic pattern by the Israeli authorities to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied territories; such actions amount to war crimes."[37] OCHA provided background information on the situation in Sur Baher where the Barrier has been routed around Sur Bahir so that parts of Area A, B and C fall on the Jerusalem side but have not been incorporated within the municipal boundary, although they are now physically separated from the remainder of the West Bank.[38]

Sights of Sur Baher[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer 1881, p. 329
  2. ^ a b Minefield as a School Ground: The Tzur Baher Minefield Clearance Project, by Bentzi Telefus
  3. ^ Dagan, Barda and ‘Adawi, 2009, Jerusalem, Sur Bahir, Survey Final Report
  4. ^ ‘Adawi, 2014, Jerusalem, Khirbat Za‘kuka (Sur Bahir) Final Report
  5. ^ Ganor and Klein, 2011, Sur Bahir, Survey Final Report
  6. ^ ‘Adawi, 2010, Jerusalem, Sur Bahir, Final Report
  7. ^ Bliss, 1898, pp. 239−243
  8. ^ Seligman, 2015, pp. 145–180
  9. ^ Umm el Âisûn, or Umm Leisûn, Umm Leisûn, p.n. according to Palmer 1881, p. 330
  10. ^ Rey, 1883, p. 391
  11. ^ Röhricht, 1887, p. 221
  12. ^ Röhricht, 1893, RRH, pp. 153-154, No. 576
  13. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 120.
  14. ^ Toledano, 1984, p. 299, gives Sur Bahir‘s position as 31°44′15″N 35°13′40″E
  15. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 2, p. 183
  16. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 3, 2nd appendix, p. 122
  17. ^ Guérin, 1869, p. 83
  18. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 161
  19. ^ Hartmann, 1883, p. 124 also noted 46 houses
  20. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, p. 30
  21. ^ Schick, 1896, p. 125
  22. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  23. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 44
  24. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 25
  25. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 58
  26. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 104
  27. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 154
  28. ^ Yoram Dinstein; Mala Tabory (1 September 1994). Israel Yearbook on Human Rights: 1993. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7923-2581-9. Retrieved 14 October 2015. Israel considers Jordan's annexation of the West Bank, recognised only by Great Britain and Pakistan, to have been illegal.
  29. ^ Government of Jordan, Department of Statistics, 1964, p. 14
  30. ^ a b Volume 6 Table A - Comparison between 1967 (Israeli) and 1961 (Jordanian) census, Levy Economics Institute
  31. ^ a b c d Sur Bahir & Umm Tuba Town Profile pp. 13-14
  32. ^ Sur Bahir & Umm Tuba Town Profile p. 14
  33. ^ a b Amir S. Cheshin; Bill Hutman; Avi Melamed (2001). Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem. Harvard University Press. pp. 35–37. ISBN 9780674005532.
  34. ^ a b Kershner, 2005, p. 143-145
  35. ^ Arnona 2008, newsletter published by the public relations department of the Jerusalem Municipality Archived 2006-11-10 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "Social benefits for Palestinians in Sur Baher, Hadoar". Jpost Inc. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  37. ^ "Israel continues policy of systematic forced displacement with wave of home demolitions in Sur Baher". Amnesty International. July 22, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  38. ^ "Threat of demolitions in East Jerusalem Houses to be demolished in Sur Bahir because of proximity to the Barrier". OCHA, UN. July 9, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.


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