Jerusalem’s central bus station lies in the Western Suburbs of the city; far from the old Ottoman walls that encircle the sites of pilgrimage of the three monotheistic faiths, but within ten minutes walking lies evidence of a history of a different kind.
escending into a valley to the East of the bus station; olive trees mark the way and enticingly beckon forward like lanterns, illuminating a lusciously green spring around which pomegranate and fig trees are in the infancy of blooming, a foreshadowing of the wonderful fruits they will bear in the summer. Tricking out of the white mountain rock, as it has for thousands of years, the spring water cools the air of the valley and provides weary travellers with a revitalising elixir and place by which to cool off.
This beautiful location would run parallel to any depictions of an abundant paradisiacal garden in religious literature or fantastical painting, were it not for the charred, skeletal remains of a village that used to exist in this very spot. Uninhabited since 1948, the village that was formerly Lifta stands in decay, a scar of a memory, a painful reminder of the stark reality that thousands of Palestinians faced that year, and everyday since.
The salt in the wound, if it were not enough already, is the spring that used to provide Lifta with its abundance of plenitude is now a popular bathing spot for young Israelis, as well as a spot Orthodox Jews use for their ritual cleansing.
It seems they do not know, or do not want to know, about the history of ground on which they stand; there are no signs marking Lifta as a former Palestinian town. It’s heartbreaking to witness, as it so blatantly challenges kindling hopes of reconciliation; solutions twist away in your mind and swim back into the abyss.
All images in this story by Joshua Vassella.
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