The Jerusalem-area village of Lifta has recently received the public attention it deserves – and for good this time. Earlier this month an Israeli court ruled that the Israel Land Administration (ILA) cannot market and sell the lands of this West Jerusalem village destroyed in 1948.
The ILA had been planning to sell the lands and remains of partially destroyed village homes and buildings in order to build a luxurious residential and commercial zone for Israelis.
Few villages captured the tragedy of the Nakba, the 1948 dispossession of the Palestinian people, – like the village of Lifta. Before that dramatic year, Lifta was known to be among the wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem area and its embroiderers among the most artistic. As 1948 came, most of the 3,000 Palestinians living in Lifta fled their homes in fear of being victims of a massacre like the one enacted by the Jewish militia in the nearby village of Deir Yassin. The few people remaining in Lifta were evicted soon afterwards.
Following the1949 Armistice line, half of Lifta fell within West Jerusalem and the other half within East Jerusalem. After Palestinians were evicted from Lifta in 1948, they either found shelter with their families in the eastern side of the village or decided to leave for further shores in the West Bank.
In 1950 the Israeli government declared the village buildings absentee property. Officially this was done for custodianship of the properties until a political solution for the refugees was reached. In reality, the properties in question were transferred to a government development authority and sold to private settler organisations. The Palestinians received no due process, no notice and no compensation. Nowadays many of the landowners live just 500 meters from the village, but they have no legal title over their lands.
Lifta had been inhabited for over 2000 years before establishment of the state of Israel but many Israelis don’t miss a chance to claim religious rights over this enchanting piece of land. Today the village sees a high number of Israeli visitors and, if some of them come to explore the stunning beauty of this abandoned place, many others crave to mark the territory as ‘Jewish only’.
An important step has been done to prevent the Israeli authority to grab the last piece of the Palestinian history and to turn it into a chain of luxurious apartments and hotels. Yet as the organisation Saving Lifta states, “Lifta must be preserved and rebuilt by/for its original owners to raise awareness about the history of 1948. The original Palestinian inhabitants of Lifta, their memories of the village, their exile and longing to return must be respected and supported by local and international community institutions and organisations.”
Photos of Lifta by Elena Viola
Source: Alternative Information Center
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