On the basis of Philistine pottery from the 10th or 9th centuries BCE found in excavations of the tell, archaeologist Jeffrey Blakely of University of Wisconsin-Madison believes that Burayr may be the site of a Philistine village contemporary with the nearby Judaean hill forts.
In the 1st century, the location of Burayr was a Jewish town by the name of Bror Hayil and the site of a yeshiva headed by rabbi Johanan ben Zakai. Ceramics from the Byzantine period have been found.
In Byzantine sources it was named Buriron.
The village's current name dates from the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century.
During Mamluk rule, it was positioned on a main highway leading from Gaza to Beit Jibrin, branching off the Via Maris at Beit Hanoun. Burayr had its own independent source for water, making it a desired rest place for travelers. In the ruins of the village was discovered Fatimid inscriptions dating from the 10th centuries.
Burayr was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 and in 1596, it was under the administration of the Nahiya of Gaza, part of the Sanjak of Gaza. It had a population of 210 household; an estimated population of 1,155. All the villagers were Muslims. The villagers paid a 40% tax rate on agricultural products, such as wheat, barley, fruits, beehives, and goats; a total of 32,000 Akçe. 5/24 parts of the revenues went to a waqf.
In 1838, 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 sakia, or water wheel with jars..." In 1863, Burayr was described as a "large and prosperous village of 1,000" and all of its houses were made of mud, except for that of the village sheikh whose home was built of stone, and "round the well, which is broad and deep, ten ancient shafts in greyish white marble are built up in masonry, serving to make a trough."
An official Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that Bureir had 167 houses and a population of 579, counting only the men. In 1883, the SWP described the village as large, with a water wheel to the east, a pool to the north and a garden to the south.
Burayr was strategically important in World War I and on November 9, 1917, was one of the first places captured by the Allied Forces from the Ottoman Empire, consolidating British hold on positions controlling the approaches to Jaffa and Jerusalem.
During the British Mandate period, Burayr expanded westward, a mosque was built in the center of the village along with a clinic and grain mill. There were two primary schools—one for girls and one for boys—founded in 1920. Water was supplied by three wells inside the village and toward the end of the Mandate, villagers had drilled artesian wells. The local economy boosted in the 1940s when the Iraqi Petroleum Company discovered oil in the vicinity of Burayr and drilled an oil well. The activities of the marketplace were supplemented by a weekly Wednesday market that attracted other villagers and Bedouin. Agriculture and animal husbandry employed most of the residents and the main crops were citrus, grapes, and figs.
In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bureir had a population of 1,591 inhabitants, all Muslims, increasing in the 1931 census to 1894, still all Muslim, in 414 houses.
In 1945 Bureir had a population of 2,740, all Muslims, with 44,220 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 409 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 43,319 used for cereals, while 130 dunams were built-up land.
On January 29, 1948, Israeli forces entered the village in five armored vehicles, but were repulsed without casualties. On February 14, an Israeli convoy exchanged fire with the local militia and withdrew. The villagers built a barricade at the entrance of Burayr which was dismantled by British troops the next day.
According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, Jewish World War II veterans established kibbutz Bror Hayil on a hilltop about a mile from Burayr on April 20, 1948. He says the New York Times reported that "when the Arabs of Burayr awoke, they found the Jews setting up pre-fabricated houses and building a defensive wall and watchtower." The villagers opened fire on them, but the work was completed by noon. Benny Morris says the founding date was May 18, and Israeli sources say the founders were mostly Jewish immigrants from Egypt.
In the course of Operation Barak, which commenced in early May, the Palmach's Negev Brigade and Givati Brigade captured Burayr, which was referred to as "the village of the killers." Dozens of army-age villagers were apparently executed and a teenage girl was apparently raped and killed. All of the inhabitants fled to Gaza.
According to Khalidi, the Burayr village still contains remnants of houses, streets and a cement wall. Israel established Telamim and Heletz in 1950, Sde David in 1955, and Zohar in 1956, all on village land.