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Ramallah (Rām Allāh; al-Bīra), twin towns in the northern Judean Hills, 9 miles north 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 feet 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's 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 headquarters compound in the city (the Muqata) by Israeli forces from 2003 until his death in 2004 and was also buried there.

In 2019, the population of Ramallah and Al-Bīra was estimated at 24,599 and 38,192 respectively.

[Efraim Orni]

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved;
World Population Review.