Location and population: Beit Hanina is located 4.5 miles (6 kilometers) to the north of Jerusalem, on the road which connects the holy city with Ramallah. It is surrounded by the villages of Hizma to the east, Shu'fat and Lifta to the south, Beit Iksa and Nebi Simwail (Samuel) to the west, and Bir Nabala, Aljeeb, Kofr Aqab and Al-Ram to the north. The total area of Beit Hanina is approximately 20 square kilometers (about 15 square miles). The old village lies about one mile to the west of the
Jerusalem-Ramallah road, while the new town stretches around that road and is considered another neighborhood of Jerusalem. The old village itself is within the Ramallah district.
The population of Beit Hanina has grown as follows: from about 120 persons in the 16th century, to 300 in the 19th century; 996 (1922); 1226 (1931); 1590 (1945); 3067 (1961); and 6065(1982). It should be noted, however that not all current inhabitants of the town are of original Beit Hanina descent. Thousands of Hanaynas (original citizens of Beit Hanina) have migrated to the New World while strangers settled in the town thus weakening, not only threatening, the majority of Hanaynas in their own balad (village).
A Town.... A name
The name "Beit Hanina" might be a name of a person "the house of Hanina." But who was that "Hanina?" There are many stories about the name. The following are some accounts:
1a. some scholars say that "Hanina" is derived from the Assyrian "Han-nina" which means the one that deserves pity (hanan).
1b. it may also be "Hana" which means camped, making Beit Hanina the "House of Campers."
Reference: Dabbag, M.M; "Our Nativeland Palestine."
2. In the preliminary first volume of "Survey of Western Palestine," it is said that Beit Hanina is "named after a person." Old Hanaynas relate a tale about an ancient woman named Hanina who lived thousands of years ago in that strategic place. Beit Hanina was originally the house of that woman.
3. Another story is mentioned in Guirre'n's "Description de La Jude'e." After claiming that the village's name is pronounced either Beit Hanina, H for Arabic letter
Concluded that it is the same village mentioned in the Old Testament as Anania. Several Western travelers adopted Guirre'n's views including Robinson, although W.F. Albright rejected them, maintaining that Anania is the current Alaizereyyah east of Jerusalem.
4. We can conclude from the previous accounts that Beit Hanina must be named after a person who lived before or within the Canaanite period. Beit Hanina is, in the words of Western scholars themselves, "an ancient site."
History of Beit Hanina
The village dates back to Canaanites who lived north of Jerusalem. Those people escaped the wars between the Jewish invaders and Palestinian defenders in the 10th century B.C. They continued to exist and live on their land. Even the Old Testament itself recognized this fact.
The village witnessed many occupiers during its long history, although Hanaynas never ceased to live in their village. Foreign settlements were built around Beit Hanina during successive periods, which accounts for the numerous ruins called Khirbets by both local citizens and foreigners who tour the area. After the Israelites came the Greeks, then the Romans. The Persian Arab states before Islam also had their share of power in Palestine, namely the Gassasenite and Nebetite Kingdoms. Several Arab tribes had migrated to Syria and, naturally, southern Palestine. We can give the tribes of Lakhem, Qudaa'h, and Kalb as examples. This led to enhancing the Arab-typed demography of Palestine long before its liberation by the Muslim Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab's army in the first half of the seventh century A.D. (638).
New waves of Arabian tribes moved into Palestine, mostly of mixed origins. Yemenite and Qaisi tribes alike lived in Beit Hanina and thrived peacefully under Arab rule. Villagers continued to grow their olive and fruit trees, planted wheat, barley, etc. until the time of the Crusaders' invasion. The Crusader army marched on Jerusalem, crossing the western mountains of Beit Hanina, thus inflicting
Heavy casualties among our forefathers, who had to flee their village, or hide in caves. Later, however, they returned back to their farms and cultivated them under the cruel,
Feudal rule of the Crusaders.
Saladin conquered the Crusaders, re-liberating Jerusalem in the year (1189). Many Muslims, several thousand at least, were killed around Jerusalem. To restore the balance in favor of the Arabs, Saladin brought many harsh Bedouin tribes to Jerusalem in order to defend the city against future enemy attacks.
It is said that at least one Hanini Hamoulah (Sub-tribe of Beit Hanina), named Dar Abdullah, was brought here by Saladin, although this Hamoulah might be traced back to Dar Hazzor, even to the time of the Canaanites. They lived continuously in the village, leaving it only when the Crusaders invaded our country. They returned back with Saladin to join their relatives, Dar Hazzor, who insisted on staying even under the Crusaders' occupation.
Beit Hanina then witnessed a series of Muslim rulers ranging from Ayyoubies to Mamluks before the rise of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks ruled between 1517-1918.
Their years here, even as Muslims, heavily burdened the local people. Most of the villagers suffered from illiteracy, illness, and poverty. Taxes were very high, paid
According to a cruel system called Al-Eltezam, or compulsion. Men were beaten, tortured, and imprisoned in order to pay taxes. Agricultural crops were hardly sufficient for paying the high taxes.
In the nineteenth century, and even before then, Turkish authorities forced villagers to join the armies fighting in distant provinces such as Balkan, Yemen, and Russia. There were no motives for these battles as seen from locals' eyes. It was possible, however, to escape recruitment by paying a large sum of money or getting married very early.
Thousands of olive trees were cut and sold to pay the Turks which lead to deteriorating agriculture. The idea of migration to the New World was considered a salvation at the beginning of the twentieth century, although very few people could afford the expenses of travel then.
In the year 1918, the western mountains of Beit Hanina were used again as a passage to Jerusalem, this time by British troops. This was the start of the Mandate Era in our modern history, an era characterized by disorders, revolts, and conspiracies with Jewish aspirations to fulfill the Balfour Declaration given in the year 1917. Inhabitants of Beit Hanina, like their Palestinian brethren, had their full share of suffering and misfortunes, and struggled to avoid this fate. However, the Jewish state was declared in 1948. Beit Hanina was not occupied that year, although many Hanaynas expected this to happen. Instead, our village was destined to live under Jordanian rule within the West Bank of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from 1949 -1967.
The Jordanian era was marked by relative peace. Education, building and security improved. Money sent by migrants to their families allowed for the appearance of the new suburb "Ras al-Tariq," on the eastern and western sides of the Jerusalem-Ramallah Road, creating one of the most modern towns in Palestine.
Things became worse when the town was occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Beit Hanina was partitioned into three or four parts. The old village was placed under military rule (later called Civil Administration!). The new suburb was decreed a neighborhood under the supervision of the Jerusalem Municipality. Parts of land were confiscated to establish or enlarge the Jewish settlements of Ramot, Nevi Yaakov, and Ras al-Tawil. Daheyatul Bareed was regarded as a part of the neighboring Al-Ram village, leading to the real dismemberment of Beit Hanina.
There are many Khirbets around Beit Hanina. The most important ones are:
1. Tel al Ful is a mountain located east of the Jerusalem-Ramallah Road. On top of the mountain there are ruins of a very ancient castle. Some serious scholars had good reason to believe this castle was built by Canaanites before the eleventh century B.C. It was burned and rebuilt several times.
2. Hazzor- To the west of the old village, on the road to Nebi Simwail, there are several Khirbets: Al-Abiar, Farraj and Hazzor. Excavation in these Khirbets led to a conviction that these Khirbets date back to Canaanite times. Some findings include graves dug in rocks, cisterns, stony wells, broken pillars and above all, signs of a very developed system of irrigation.
3. Addasah: On the cross-roads from Al-Ram leading to Bir Nabala, and to the south of the road crowning the head of a high mountain lays Khirbet Addasah. It overlooks the old village of Beit Hanina to the south. There are still rocky graves and water canals cut in stones joining several wells in the area. There are also foundations of a number of what had once been important buildings.
In addition to the above-mentioned Khirbets, we can name others such as Telilya, Saumaah, and Shaumer, Ras al-Tawil Irha, Deir Sallam, and Adasah. Although no important excavations were done in Khirbets other than Tel al Ful, many rumors spread among Hanaynas that a number of diggers found many antiques, and even gold, in the Khirbets.
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