By Jan Harris
A battle is raging over the derelict village of Lifta, a thriving community prior to Israel’s occupation of Palestine during the 1948 war when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
The village, now comprising 55 derelict stone houses, is a potent symbol of Palestine’s hopes that it might one day reoccupy lands which are now part of modern-day Israel.
Israel destroyed hundreds of villages during the “nakba”, or catastrophe, as the event is known in Palestine, and the destruction of Lifta is seen as a clear signal of Israel’s intention to finish what it started.
The Israel Lands Authority is planning to develop the site into a luxury housing development, providing shops, apartments and a hotel, mainly as holiday homes for wealthy Jewish tourists.
While some of Lifta’s original buildings will be preserved, they would be little more than poignant reminders of former way of life among the bustle of a modern complex.
The plans have stirred criticism from architects as failing to respect conservation rules, and the former inhabitants of the village are fighting a legal battle to prevent the development.
While an appeal has been launched to Unesco, for Lifta to become a world heritage site, the cost of the village’s restoration would be prohibitive, according to Israeli conservation groups.
In September, The Palestine Authority will ask the UN to formally recognize Palestine as an independent nation state.
Although this move would be largely symbolic it is opposed by Israel and the US has said it would veto the vote.
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