Al-Bireh (Arabic: البيرة) is a town in the south-eastern portion of the Bekaa, a governorate of the Republic of Lebanon. Al-Bireh is part of the Rashaya municipal district. Its population is estimated to be 9000. It is a wholly Sunni Muslim town with two mosques and three schools.
The oldest part of the town lies on top of Jabal Arbi Mountains while the newer parts lie in the Wadi el-Taym valley and is referred to as Izza. More than 60% of the town’s population immigrated to Brazil, US and Canada. Residents of the town have left to the US as early as the 18th Century and have aggregated in cities like Dearborn MI. Many others immigrated to São Paulo, Brazil and Calgary, Canada.
The economy of the town relies on agriculture which thrived on the water springs commonly found in Al-Bireh. The town is known for growing olives, almonds, fruits and vegetables and a variety of crops. However, the severe migration has driven the agriculture activities down over the past three decades.
Four main families inhabit the town, namely the Elkadri, Salem, Jumaa and Omar families. Other families also live in the village; however the rise in immigration had driven some families into extinction with no members left in the town.
Al-Bireh is the birthplace of multiple intellects, politicians and religious figures. The late Nazim Elkadri (MP, minister and prime minister of Lebanon) was born in Al-Bireh. The Mufti of Bekaa, Sheikh Raouf Elkadri was also born in Al-Bireh. Nassouh Elkadri (an anti French occupation revolutionary leader) was from Al-Bireh.
Neighboring towns include Rafid, Kamed, Khirbet-Rouha, and Mdouckha. The town is located about 80 km from Beirut and 40 km from Damascus, Syria. From Al-Bireh, Jabal -Al-Sheikh (Mount Hermon) can be seen with its majestic snow-capped peak.
The mountain chain upon which Al-Bireh is located is rich with history. Caves dating back to 5000BC can be found all over the mountain. Ruins of other more modern civilizations are still very visible. The locals usually come across artifacts dating back to Phoenician, Bezentian, Roman and Canaanite eras. Many treasures were illegally excavated out of the caves and burial grounds during the Lebanese Civil War and the Israeli occupation, however it is hoped that one day, area will be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thus protecting the treasures.
The town was occupied first by PLO forces in the late 1970s,and Syrian forces who planted bombs in the village,and still the Syrian regime did not give an explanation to why these bombs were planted in the village, then by Israeli forces in the early 1980s. Before Israel's invasion, the town suffered from Israeli warplane attacks. In one incident, several houses were bombed, killing and injuring scores of civilians. Israel failed to provide any explanation as to why these were bombed.