PLace

Burayr

Place
Burayr — بُرَيْر
District
Gaza
Subdistrict
Gaza
Average Elevation
100 m
Distance from Gaza
18 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1931 1894
1944/45 2740
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Jewish Public Total
1944/45 44220 618 1346 46184
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable 362 1 1337 1700
Built-up 130 130
492 1 1337 1830 (4%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Cereal 43319 617 9 43945
Plantation and Irrigable 409 409
43728 617 9 44354 (96%)
Number of Houses (1931)
414

The village was situated on uneven ground on the southern coastal plain. Wadi al-Qa'a crossed its eastern periphery. A major inland highway that linked towns in the coastal plain with Gaza passed the village on its east side, connecting it with localities to the north and the south. This highway crossed the al-Falujaal-Majdal highway (which ran east to west) about 9 km north of the village. Burayr has been identified as the Buriron of Byzantine sources. In 1596, Burayr was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza), with a population of 1,155. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives.

In 1838 the American biblical scholar 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 Sâkieh, or water wheel with jars….' Forty years later Burayr was described as a large village with a water wheel to the east, a pool to the north, and a garden to the south. It had a quasi-circular layout, although the placement of its (mostly adobe brick) houses was somewhat irregular. During the Mandate period, the village expanded west toward a slightly higher hill, preserving the agricultural land on the other sides. The inhabitants of Burayr were Muslims and worshipped in a mosque at the center of the village. The marketplace, a clinic, and a grain mill were also located at the center. Two primary schools, one for girls and a second for boys, were founded in 1920, and had an enrollment of 241 students in 1947. Water for domestic needs was supplied by three wells inside the village; toward the end of the Mandate, the villagers drilled artesian wells.

The village economy received a boost in the 1940s, when the Iraq Petroleum Company discovered oil in the vicinity of Burayr and drilled an oil well, 1 km to the north. The activities of the marketplace were supplemented by a weekly Wednesday market that attracted other villagers and Bedouin. The villagers worked mainly in agriculture (both rainfed and irrigated), and some also raised animals. They cultivated grain, fruits―especially citrus, grapes and figs―and vegetables. In 1944/45 a total of 43,319 dunums were allocated to cereals; 409 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Burayr was constructed on an archaeological site where fragments of earlier architecture were visible. In addition, four archaeological sites (Khirbat Sha'ratta, Tall al-Mashanaqa, Khirbat al-Marashan, and Khirbat Umm Laqis) are found in the vicinity.

A significant foray into Burayr occurred in the early weeks of the war, on 29 January 1948. A correspondent for the Palestinian newspaper Filastin wrote that Zionist forces used five armored cars in the attack, which was repulsed without resulting in any casualties. A similar attack took place the following month on the afternoon of 14 February. This time, the newspaper reported, a Jewish convoy passed through Burayr, exchanged fire with its defenders, and escaped. The next day, two villagers were wounded when British troops forcibly removed a barricade at the entrance to the village.

The first step in the Zionist conquest of Burayr was effected with the establishment of a military settlement just outside the village. The settlement, Beror Chayil, was established on a hilltop less than a mile from Burayr on 20 April 1948. The New York Times correspondent reported that, 'When the Arabs [of Burayr] awoke they found the Jews setting up prefabricated houses and building a defensive wall and watchtower.' The settlers were World War II veterans of the British army who had emigrated to Palestine. Some of the villagers opened fire on the Zionist settlers but by noon the buildings were already in place. Just over three weeks later, during the night of 12–13 May, the Palmach's Negev Brigade struck at the village in coordination with the Giv'ati Brigade's Operation Barak . The History of the Haganah, which refers to Burayr as 'the village of the killers' (without further explanation) says that the village was occupied 'in one strike.'

Five Israeli settlements have been established on village lands: Beror Chayil in 1948; Telamim and Cheletz in 1950; Sde Dawid in 1955; and Zohar in 1956.

Scattered cactuses as well as some lotus and sycamore trees grow on the site. One can see remnants of houses, including an insubstantial portion of a cement wall, among some eucalyptus trees at the entrance of one house. Some village streets are still visible. The lands around the site are cultivated.