Press Releases

The Administrative Court in Jerusalem today (6.2.12) ordered the annulment of the Israel Land Administration tender for the marketing of lands of the abandoned Palestinian village of Lifta.

posted Feb 6, 2012, 8:39 PM by Lifta Society   [ updated Feb 6, 2012, 8:45 PM ]

Press Release
Monday, February 6, 2012
 
In a detailed ruling spanning 22 pages, the Administrative Court in Jerusalem (under the Honourable Judge Yigal Marzel) accepted the petition submitted in March 2011 by Attorney Sami Ersheid  in the name of public petitioners, the refugees of Lifta and Israeli human rights organizations (Sons of Lifta Jerusalem Association, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jafra Association, Dr. Daphna Golan, Ilan Shtayer, Salah Siam, Abed Elrahman abu Lail, Radwan Barakat, Daud Abidi, Jalal Aqel and Mohammad Odeh).

In its ruling, the Court ordered that the tender of the Israel Land Administration (number 405/2010) be annulled. Thus in essence the Court fully accepted the petition and prevented the marketing and sale of the Lifta village lands and abandoned homes to private entrepreneurs. It should be noted that this tender was publicised one year ago by the aforementioned Attorney Sami Ersheid, and the tender was frozen following an injunction prohibiting the Israel Land Administration (ILA) from continuing to market the lands. In today’s ruling the Court annulled the tender.

In their petition against the ILA, the petitioners requested Court intervention to prevent the transfer of Lifta lands and property to private hands for the establishment of an exclusive real estate project, and to halt destruction of the village, which represents a last testimony of the Arab villages, scenery and culture widespread in Israel throughout history until the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the petitioners, “given the situation according to which the village of Lifta is an abandoned village whose original owners live as refugees only several hundred metres from their village, it was appropriate to desist from all construction in the village and certainly to desist from construction that would result in destruction of the village and total dispossession of the original residents of their rights”. The petitioners further wrote that “the marketing of land for construction in the village of Lifta and as a result the establishment of new buildings on village lands and in place of the existing village, thwarts both the ability to preserve the existing village and any possibility of renovating the historic structure of the village and everything related to this”.

The petitioners requested that the Court order the annulment of the tender for the sale of land in Lifta and to order the ILA to desist from any action which would damage the physical and cultural heritage of the place, pending conduct of a comprehensive planning process of the village area, which will include planning preservation of the site in accordance with professional standards and with public cooperation.

To the petition was annexed a professional opinion of five senior architects, planners and preservation experts in Israel, concerning the serious preservation mistakes in the tender. They concluded in their opinion that the ILA tender does not meet preservation standards accepted in Israel and the world, and that full data is lacking to permit the marketing of land and issuance of building permits. The authors of the professional opinion determine that the tender process must be frozen pending completion of a detailed documentation process of Lifta, the preparation of a building and development plan and the signing of a development agreement between the ILA and Jerusalem Municipality.

During the Court hearings the ILA altered its position following the stance of the Antiquities Authority that it is preferable to conduct a complementary preservation and documentation survey of Lifta prior to giving the lands to private bodies.

A rare civil coalition of Lifta refugees, conservationists, environmentalists, human rights activists and planners coalesced around the struggle to save the Lifta village, everyone agreeing that the totality of human and environmental factors must be taken into account when discussing Lifta and its future.

Attorney Sami Ersheid responded that today’s Court decision is first and foremost a huge victory for the lengthy and just legal struggle for the heritage of the village and to prevent destruction of an important layer of history of this land and of Jerusalem. This is a ruling of special meaning which represents a precedent demonstrating that preserving the heritage of Lifta is also important for future generations.
 
For more info-
Att. Sami Ersheid - 0524204350
Ilan Shtayer - 0545602059
daphnagolan@gmail.com

On Facebook: click here

Summary of court hearing on the petition to stop the tender to lease building plots in the village of Lifta

posted Jul 9, 2011, 12:22 PM by Lifta Society   [ updated Jul 9, 2011, 12:41 PM ]

Administrative Petition 8661-03-11
By Sami Ersheid, Esq.
 
Following a petition filed on March 6, 2011, Judge Yigal Marzel issued an interim injunction ordering the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) to freeze the publication of the results of a tender offering to lease plots for construction in the village of Lifta. The petition was filed by lawyer Sami Ersheid on behalf of Jerusalem activists including natives of Lifta, the Sons of Lifta Society, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Jafra Association for the Development and Conservation of the Built Heritage and its Environment in the Arab Cities and Villages in the Country.
 
In their petition against the ILA the petitioners requested the court's intervention to prevent the transfer of properties and land in Lifta to private hands to build a luxury real estate project and stop destruction of the village, which constitutes the last testimony to the Arab villages and cultural landscape that were prevalent in Israel through the ages until the beginning of the 20th century.
 
According to the petitioners, "in the present status according to which Lifta is an abandoned village and its original owners live as refugees only hundreds of meters from their village, all construction at the site should be avoided and especially construction that will destroy the village and totally dispossess its original residents from their rights." The petitioners go on to write that "marketing plots for construction in the village of Lifta and the consequent construction of new buildings on the village's land instead of the existing village would undermine the conservation of the existing village and the possibility of reconstructing the historic structure of the village with all it entails."
 
The petitioners ask the court to order the cancellation of the tender to sell plots in Lifta and order the ILA to avoid any action that would harm the site's physical and cultural heritage, until completion of a comprehensive planning procedure for the village area, including planning for the conservation of the site in accordance with professional standards with public participation.
 
Attached to the petition was a professional opinion by five senior architects and experts on conservation and planning, as to severe conservation flaws in the tender. The opinion said that the ILA's tender does not meet the accepted criteria of conservation in Israel and the world, and that the full data does not exist that would permit the marketing of plots and issuing of building permits. The authors of the opinion say the tender process must be frozen until completion of a complete documentation of Lifta, preparation of a construction and development plan and conclusion of a development plan between the ILA and the Jerusalem Municipality.
 
At the judge's request, both the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) were asked to respond to the petition. At a court hearing on Wednesday, May 11, the judge asked the representative of the IAA whether his response to the court did not constitute confirmation that the tender was issued before the necessary mapping was performed and whether it would not have been preferable to conduct a detailed conservation survey before releasing the land for tender. In the IAA's response, its lawyer said that there were similar cases when a tender was issued first and only then was a survey conducted, and that the IAA reserves the right to stop building even after the land is bought by private developers. However, after the judge asked whether in such a case the considerations are identical to the ones made before a tender, the IAA representative admitted that when there is a private developer who invested money his property rights have to be balanced with the conservation needs.
 
The judge asked the ILA lawyer why the ILA is rushing to issue the land for tender. She answered that there is a housing shortage in Jerusalem and that the plan had been approved after objections by all the relevant committees. Judge Marzel suggested to the ILA representatives that they cancel the tender.
 
At the request of the ILA's lawyer, the judge issued an extension until May 22 to receive the ILA's response. Meanwhile, the ILA asked for three extensions to submit its response which is scheduled to be submitted this week.

Lifta – an Endangered Cultural, Historical and Environmental Asset

posted May 19, 2011, 5:37 PM by Lifta Society   [ updated May 19, 2011, 6:00 PM ]

The Israel Land Administration has begun marketing plots for building 212 housing units and commercial areas on the remains of Lifta – a village on outskirts of Jerusalem. The planned construction in Lifta is expected to severely harm historical, environmental, cultural and social assets. The tender process and the marketing of plots must be stopped immediately and alternatives that include the conservation and maintenance of Lifta should be examined.


May 19, 2011 - The Civic Coalition for Saving Lifta

Conserving the physical heritage of the Village

Lifta village remains are a unique example of a local cultural landscape and of the Palestinian vernacular built heritage that has almost disappeared in this country. According to a report by the Antiquities Authority, Lifta is a "Reservation for the architecture and rural construction technologies on the verge of extinction .... remaining evidence of a landscape that was common in the country throughout history until the turn of the Twentieth Century."

 

Lifta's traditional built heritage includes ruins of terraces and archaeological remains from the time of the First Temple (second Iron Age), building remains from the time of the Crusaders, ancient wine presses and olive presses, burial caves and rock-hewn burial facilities containing ancient coffins. However, Lifta is particularly known for the traditional construction of the Arab village that blends together the structure of the terraces and the landscape. Besides residential buildings, the village includes public buildings, silos, baking ovens, wells and a system of roads, squares, courtyards, irrigation channels and agricultural areas. 

 

The construction plan that is currently being marketed for Lifta does not adhere to conservation norms. It transfers the responsibility for documenting and preserving the village from the government to private entrepreneurs, before either any documentation or a detailed conservation plan has been prepared. The new plans for the historic center of the village include construction of buildings, roads and high retaining walls, which will irreversibly harm this historical and cultural asset. Additionally, the plan and the tender contravene the guidance of the Antiquities Authority, which determined that: "Developing the area for residence will severely affect the delicate urban fabric and the rare archetypal houses that have been preserved in the site". In the words of Israel's senior conservation architects: "Lifta has a singular importance… that is at risk under the terms of the plan and its proposed implementation." 

 

Environment, landscape and ecology  

Lifta embodies significant natural and scenic values. It spans steep wadi slopes where a sealed spring flows all year long, with a conduit that leads to a large storage pool. Ecologically, this area is characterized by a variety of wild annual plants, perennial plants and geophytes, and the remains of mountain terrace farming, as well as fruit orchards and a wealth of wild animals, owing to the abundance of spring water. Lifta is an important part of the ring of wilderness surrounding Jerusalem, and because of its prime location at the entrance to the city, it is a highly accessible Green Lung and a magnet for varied Jerusalem populations, as well as for many Israeli and foreign travelers.

 

From the landscape point of view, the beauty of Lifta is a trademark of the outskirts of Jerusalem, an inseparable part of the entrance to the city, its vista and its charm. The planned construction in Lifta will be an environmental hazard, severely and irreversibly harming the ecology and landscape. It would alter the open character of the area, will substantially change the landscape and character of the entry to the City, and prevent the residents of Jerusalem (particularly those who use public transportation) from enjoying nature, the plants, the spring and the pool. Conservation is of extreme importance for the Lifta area as an open space with limited development.

 

Affordable housing

Construction in Lifta will not help meet the urgent housing needs of of Jerusalem residents. The construction program and tender show that the Lifta project will consist of only expensive, large luxury apartments exclusively designated for the rich. This clearly contradicts the policy of affordable housing announced by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Government. 

 

Under the plan, the maximum areas in the new buildings in Lifta will be from 189-300 m² per housing unit. The plan calls for very high construction standards, which will increase the the cost of apartments. Also, according to the tender, the development costs alone (excluding the price of the land and levies) will range between 491,000 - 932,000 shekels per housing unit. In light of the high price, apartment size and the "touristic" nature of the planned Lifta project, it can be assumed that most of those luxury apartment buyers will be foreign residents who will not even live in them most of the year and will not rent them out. Thus yet another ghost town will have been created in one of the more unique and fragile locations in the City. Diverting precious resources to a project that is meant only for a rich population, most likely consisting of foreign residents, violates important social and economical values and reflects impaired priorities rather than the public interest.

 

Collaboration and dialogue 

Marketing Lifta to real-estate developers and purposing it for luxury apartments raises the question of its heritage. Lifta was one of the more developed Arab villages in Israel prior to the 1948 war, both due to the characteristics of the village's inhabitants and its location on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The extensive lands of the village reached Ein Karem, the Mea Shearim quarter of Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah. In 1948 the population of Lifta numbered nearly 2,950. Lifta residents were forced to leave their village in January 1948 and became refugees. Many Lifta citizens live today in East Jerusalem. In spite of this, the original residents and their descendants, as well as the Jewish families that were housed at the edges of the village after the war and who live there to this day, were not made part of the planning process and did not participate in the discussion about the future of Lifta, and they oppose the current plan. 

 

There is now broad recognition that the preservation of a site should reflect its importance for communities which have an interest in it, and that these communities should take part in the planning and conservation process. Conserving the unique values of Lifta must be done with full cooperation of its past and present inhabitants. 

 

A genuine dialogue and the participation of the Palestinian Lifta residents in planning the future of the village will most likely serve as a model path for searching together for a joint life of peace, reconciliation and justice, while recognizing and acknowledging the pain. However, this unique opportunity will be missed if the construction plans for Lifta are realized and its heritage is erased. 

 

In light of all this, the Civic Coalition for Saving Lifta calls for an immediate halt to the marketing process of Lifta, and demands that the required surveys of the site are undertaken in a comprehensive manner and that a thorough public discussion is held in cooperation with experts in the field.

 

For more information, support, donations and volunteering:

The Civic Coalition for Saving Lifta 

ilan@makinghistory.co.il

Tel: +972-54-5692059

Petition (English): http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/lifta

Petition (Hebrew & Arabic):  http://www.atzuma.co.il/lifta 

29 March Press Conference in East Jerusalem: Save the Village of Lifta

posted Apr 7, 2011, 5:56 PM by Lifta Society   [ updated Apr 30, 2011, 4:37 PM ]

You are cordially invited to attend a press conference for the movement to Save the Village of Lifta. The press conference, organized by the Lifta Society, will be held on Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10.30 a.m. at the Ambassador Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.
Published March 29, 2011


Background: A court case is pending concerning the future of Lifta, a Palestinian village, which is located in both West and East of Jerusalem. Lifta has been targeted by the Israeli land authority for the development of a Jewish luxury residential/commercial neighborhood. The plan will lead to the destruction of the village. The Court ruling will decide whether the refugees of Lifta, who were forced to leave the village in 1948, can keep their property, heritage, culture and memory. The people of Lifta have obtained a freeze on processing the call for tender, through a petition, to the central court.
 
On the 6th of March, Attorney Sami Arshid submitted a petition on behalf of the Lifta Society, Jerusalem activists and urban planners to object to the unlawful sale of the property of the Lifta refugees to the private sector. On Monday, 7 March, Israeli Judge Yigal Marzel issued a temporary injunction, ordering the Israel Land Administration to freeze publication of the results of a tender to lease plots for building in the historic Palestinian village of Lifta.
 
If these plots are sold and new construction begins, it will be impossible to preserve the history, heritage and culture of the people. As the petition states, the “marketing of plots for building in the village of Lifta and furthermore the construction of new buildings on the village lands and in place of the existing village could thwart the ability to preserve the existing village and foil any possibility of reconstructing the historic structure of the village, and everything that is derived from this.”
 
The whole village is running the risk of losing its property and the people of Lifta need as much support as possible in order to save the village and raise the profile of their case to prevent losing their village forever. 

Source: The Alternative Information Center 


Ambassador Hotel
Nablus Road | Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem 19186, Israel

Temporary Injunction Issued against Tender for Building Plots in Lifta Village

posted Apr 3, 2011, 8:30 AM by Lifta Society   [ updated Apr 30, 2011, 4:40 PM ]


March 7, 2011 
Press Release 
Coalition to Save Lifta 

Temporary Injunction Issued against Tender for Building Plots in Lifta Village 

Administrative Petition: 8661-03-11 

Following a petition submitted yesterday (6 March), Judge Yigal Marzel issued a temporary injunction
today ordering the Israel Land Administration to freeze publication of the results of a tender to lease plots
for building in the village of Lifta. The petition was submitted by Attorney Sami Arshid on behalf of
Jerusalem activists, including descendents of Lifta, the Bnei Lifta Association, Rabbis for Human Rights
and the Jafra Association.  

In their petition against the Israel Land Administration, the petitioners requested court intervention to
prevent the transfer of assets and property in Lifta to private hands for the establishment of an exclusive
real estate project and to halt destruction of the village, which represents a final testimony to the Arab
villages and culture of scenery that were widespread in Israel throughout history until the early 20
the 20th century. 

According to the petitioners, “in the given situation and according to which the village of Lifta is an
abandoned village and its original inhabitants live as refugees at a distance of only a few hundred metres
from their village, it would have been befitting to abstain from all construction in the area and certainly to
prevent building that would result in destruction of the village and the complete dispossession of the rights
of the original inhabitants of the place”. The petitioners further write that the “marketing of plots for
building in the village of Lifta and furthermore the construction of new buildings on the village lands and in
place of the existing village could thwart the ability to preserve the existing village and foil any possibility
of reconstructing the historic structure of the village, and everything that is derived from this.” 

 The petitioners requested that the court order an annulment of the tender to sell plots in Lifta and order
the Israel Land Administration to desist from any action that would damage the physical and cultural
heritage of the place, until an inclusive planning process is completed that includes the area of Lifta, and
which will include planning for preservation of the site in accordance with professional standards and with
public participation. 

A professional opinion of five senior architects and preservation and planning professionals in Israel was
attached to the petition, concerning serious preservation defects in the tender. In the opinion it was
determined that the ILA tender does not meet the preservation criteria accepted in Israel and throughout
the world, and that full data does not exist that would permit the marketing of the plots and issuance of
building permits. Authors of the opinion determine that the tender process must be frozen until completion
of the detailed documentation of Lifta, preparation of a building and development plan and conclusion of a
development agreement between the ILA and the Jerusalem Municipality. 

For additional details: 

Petitioners:
Dapha Golan: 054 8820698
Yaacoub Odeh (from Lifta): 052 287 2840 
Attorney Sami Arshid: 02 6231244
Professional opinion: Architect Shmuel Groag: 050 5922428

Letter to the Israeli Association of United Architects to Help Save Lifta

posted Apr 3, 2011, 8:24 AM by Lifta Society   [ updated Apr 30, 2011, 4:42 PM ]

Husam Bajis of Lifta and Abe Hayeem Chair of APJP, photo by Lifta Society. 


ARCHITECTS  & PLANNERS  FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE 
9 February 2011 

Israeli Association of United ArchitectsYitzhak Lipovetsky, President 
13,Hamigdalor Street , Tel Aviv/Jaffa 68037 
Israel 

Dear Yitzhak Lipovetsky 

Please help the campaign to save Lifta 

You may be aware that there has been on ongoing campaign to save Lifta, which has become known within Israel and internationally as a quintessential Palestinian village, one of the few of the 500 villages that had not been completely destroyed by Israeli forces in the war of 1948. Lifta is celebrated as part of a beautiful landscape of ruins, loved by walkers and nature enthusiasts, but remembered primarily by its original inhabitants many of whom live nearby but have never been allowed to return.

Numerous organisations, especially BIMKOM, Zochrot and FAST have lobbied for the village to be listed by UNESCO as a heritage site, as a symbol of reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, and for alternative plans they have formulated with the Land and Housing Research Centre. Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine in 2005 placed an advertisement in the Times, signed by over 350 architects and planners worldwide, many of them eminent figures including academics, to help save Lifta for its original Palestinian inhabitants.  http://apjp.org/saving-lifta-a-case-against-a/ . Esther Zandberg in Haaretz has again written a moving plea for the village to be symbolically returned to those who were forcibly removed from there, instead of building 212 luxury apartments that will bought only be Jewish people, in the proposed decade-long project (plan number 6036) that the Israel Land Administration wishes now to commence. This is all on expropriated Palestinian land.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/the-lifta-that-never-will-be-1.340964

As with the campaigns against the projects in East Jerusalem for the City of David and the King’s Garden in Silwan, we have written to your Association on various occasions to ask you to refute and help stop these projects since they involve deep injustices to the Palestinians, (either citizens of Israel, or in the occupied territories), are contrary to international law and the Geneva Conventions, but more importantly are against professional ethics that are particularly needed in countries with whole sections of their populations that are being imprisoned and discriminated against by government policy as a people.

Despite international agreements, numerous UN resolutions and EU Commission reports against them, before the founding of the Israeli state in 1948 and since 1967, Israeli architects have continued to help build settlements and towns illegal under international law on expropriated Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories including annexed East Jerusalem. Israel’s discriminatory architectural and planning projects have accelerated daily, with thousands of dwellings and public facilities being built for Jewish citizens only, forcing the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes and land, and the destruction of their civic life, culture and national rights. This has prevented any just solution for establishing a Palestinian state, and an end to the house demolitions, evictions, and land theft that has so enraged the democratic world. Much of the work of Israeli architects can be construed as participation in war crimes, as has been described in ‘Hollow Land’ by Eyal Weizman.

These activities are in clear vio­lation of the code of ethics of the International Union of Architects (UIA), (article 3) which says that “there shall be no attempt to impose solutions of one society on other societies” (article 1:2) and that professionals shall fashion an environment “expressive of the genius of the people and reflective of the substance of their culture”). Principle 2 says: “Architects have obligations to the public to embrace the spirit and letter of the laws governing their professional affairs, and should thoughtfully consider the social and environmental impact of their professional activities.”

The UIA in Brazil on 31 July 2009 reaffirmed Resolution 13 at the UIA Assembly of July 2005 in Istanbul,.

“The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”

Our attempts at dialogue with the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) have brought no change. The IAUA has shown total detachment from these practices by its members, and maintains it cannot get involved with their work. Surely you must see that this is an untenable and unacceptable state of affairs. Yet the IAUA eagerly sought to reinstate its membership of the UIA last July 2010.

Surely now is the most critical time for the IAUA to have the courage to consider what is morally and ethically unacceptable and help to oppose the ILA’s plans for Lifta, (and all such projects) and to take to task the architects who are carrying such plans forward, as proposed by ARC in 2009 < http://apjp.org/israeli-architects-stop-design/>. It can be shown that even though Lifta is within Israel, building on land owned by Palestinian refugees is intrinsically illegal. The 1947 United Nations partition plan declared Jerusalem a corpus separatum, a separate body, to be run under an international UN administration. That is still its only internationally recognised status.

Further the Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes. In the specific case of the Palestinians, this right was affirmed by the United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948, and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by that same body, and has also been recognized by independent organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The U.S. government supportedResolution 194, and voted repeatedly to affirm it until 1993. Israel refuses to allow the refugees to return to villages, towns and cities inside Israel due to their ethnic, national and religious origin, nor to build for their sevenfold population expansion.

Although Israel has so far refused to recognize this right, all refugees have an internationally recognized right to return to areas from which they have fled or were forced out, to receive compensation for damages, and to either regain their properties or receive compensation and support for voluntary resettlement. This right derives from a number of legal sources, including customary international law, international humanitarian law (governing rights of civilians during war), and human rights law. The United States government has forcefully supported this right in recent years for refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and elsewhere.

This would be a wonderful opportunity for Israel, as an act of reconciliation, to cancel Plan 6036, and to allow the many alternative projects for Lifta to be considered for implementation, ones that involve the Lifta people. The IAUA can gain some credibility and approval by backing such projects, that do not involve the erasure of Palestinian history and humanity.

We look forward to hearing from you what you plan to do to help such an alternative project to come to fruition.http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4462.shtml

Yours sincerely

Abe Hayeem, RIBA
Chair, APJP and on behalf of all the signatories attached.

http://apjp.org/signatories/

Source: APJP, February 9, 2011

Save Lifta: nominate it a Unesco 2008 World Monument

posted Apr 3, 2011, 7:26 AM by Lifta Society   [ updated Apr 30, 2011, 4:43 PM ]

March 26, 2007

            

Architects for Peace and Unesco Observatory had adhered to APJP's campaign (Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine) to save Lifta by nominating it a Unesco 2008 World Monument.

We would like to encourage all its members, friends and colleagues to sign this petition. 

Unesco Observatory, Architects for Peace and Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine are supporting the Israeli group called FAST (Foundation for achieving Seamless Territory) in a campaign to preserve Lifta. The Israeli organizations Zokhrot and BIMKOM have also opposed this Israeli real-estate plan. 

"In a country that sanctifies memory, erasing Palestinian history is not only immoral, it is also foolish. We will not be able to build a future worthy of the name here if we erase and deny the memory of thousands of Palestinian refugees. It is possible to take their homes and erase their villages from the face of the earth, but as we know from Jewish history, longing for the roots and memories of homes is preserved for many hundreds of years. It is still possible to preserve the village, repair its buildings and turn it into a place of study of the past, forming a basis for dialogue about a common future of Israelis and Palestinians.” "

The letter below has been re-published with the permission of Abe Hayeem from Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP). APJP seeks to raise awareness in the planning, design and construction industries of how these professions are central to the occupation of Palestinian land and to the erosion of human rights.

SAVING LIFTA – A CASE AGAINST ARCHITECTURAL ERASURE 

Photo: The list of signatories as published in some UK newspapers, including the Times. or click here. Thanks to eryone who signed the petition, your ssupport has made a difference.

This is a plea against architectural erasure and the destruction of memory While Israel proudly preserves its biblical heritage and archaeological sites, the rich Palestinian heritage is being allowed to disappear or is deliberately destroyed. 

A poignant example, and an important symbol of this is the 4000 years old village of Lifta, which lies just outside Jerusalem, the nearest Arab village to the Jerusalem wall. It has been abandoned and has remained relatively untouched since the creation of Israel. T he Israeli army and the Irgun killed or drove out the last Palestinian inhabitants in 1948. Today Lifta is more or less a ghost town , frozen in time. The former villagers live mainly in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jordan and in exile in the United States. 

Now, however, a renovation project by the architect Gabriel Cartes of the Groug-Cartes firm, which collaborated with Ze'ev Temkin of TIK Projects, aims to turn Lifta into an expensive and exclusively Jewish residential area, mainly for Americans. The planned neighborhood would include three hundred luxury flats, a large hotel, a big mall, and a large tourist resort. In the process of carrying out the scheme, hundreds of Palestinian homes, all of which predated the creation of Israel in 1948, would be erased to obliterate any reminder that the area was once a prosperous Arab village – erasing its Palestinian history in the process. Architecture is being used to eradicate ethnic culture, that amounts to cultural vandalism. 

Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine are supporting the Israeli group called FAST (Foundation for achieving Seamless Territory) in a campaign to preserve Lifta. The Israeli organizations Zokhrot and BIMKOM have also opposed this Israeli real-estate plan.

There is an ongoing ban on ‘internal refugees’ to return to the remnants of their destroyed villages. The Lifta masterplan does not refer to its Palestinian past. In this effort, architecture is being used as a political device to further Israel’s colonial policy. 

Despite its international significance in an area important to three world religions, and its undoubted claim to be a world heritage site because of its timeless landscape, Lifta was never recognized by international institutions (like UNESCO) as a cultural heritage monument, due to Israel’s refusal to recognize Palestine as a nation . The “Or Commission” report, which investigated the causes of the riots by the Israeli Arab population in October 2000, is quoted in the written objection filed by BIMKOM in their original defence of Lifta. "The role of the state is not reduced to material matters alone," it states. "Governing authorities must find ways that will enable Arab citizens to express in public life their culture and identity in an appropriate and respectful manner." 

We ask that Liftah is retained as a ruin to be a reminder of its past or it should be allowed to be re-inhabited by survivors or descendants of the original residents. In either case they should be consulted. Four generations later the descendants are still protesting for the right to return. 

Yakub Odeh, a Lifta refugee says: “ Land ..that is designated for residential use should be planned such that it will be appropriate for the housing of the original residents of Lifta and their descendants, whose property was taken from them through no wrong of their own. This would enable the purchase or return of the land to them, and would constitute a rectification of the wrongs done to the place and its residents, and not only provide land to people of means who never had the slightest connection or link to the place." 
He continues… “There are 37 Lifta refugees in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, and we have a Lifta Association; and now the internet makes it possible to keep in touch with those that have moved further away. We all want to return to our village. I’m sure we can achieve our dream through peaceful means….We will never give in. They say that every human being is born in the land, but for us Palestinians, our land is born in us.” 

Esther Zandberg said in Haaretz in November 2004, when the plan was first presented: “the construction plan that has been under discussion since 1996 is a cause for wonder with regard to why it was ever commissioned. On such a emotionally charged and politically symbolic site, with terrain conditions that are difficult for modern construction, on a site on which the development of road, water or sewage infrastructure would require immense technological effort and heavy monetary expenditure, in a landscape in which any intrusion could be the source of perpetual regret, and on land on which there are no real estate pressures that might have provided an easy excuse, the plan seems opposed to all common sense, harmful to the interests of all of the parties on both sides of the conflict, and perhaps an attempt to conceal evidence of the existence of a people living in a "country without a people." 

In conclusion, Dafna Golan Agnon a prominent Israeli sociologist from the Hebrew University: “It is possible and proper to develop Lifta as a village that preserves the historical Palestinian memory of the place. Preserving the memory of the village and its history could be a focal point for reconciliation between Jewish and Arab citizens, and offer an experience that helps lead to a solution of peace with our neighbors. 

In a country that sanctifies memory, erasing Palestinian history is not only immoral, it is also foolish. We will not be able to build a future worthy of the name here if we erase and deny the memory of thousands of Palestinian refugees. It is possible to take their homes and erase their villages from the face of the earth, but as we know from Jewish history, longing for the roots and memories of homes is preserved for many hundreds of years. It is still possible to preserve the village, repair its buildings and turn it into a place of study of the past, forming a basis for dialogue about a common future of Israelis and Palestinians.” 


Abe Hayeem, Eyal Weizman, Sunand Prasad, Hans Haenlein, Haifa Hammami Neil Lambert, Wade Sowman, Mike Gwilliam, Joanna Chambers, Beatriz C. Maturana, Antoine Raffoul, Jake Brown, Mike Davis, Saskia Sassen, Charles Jenks...

Links: 



Source: Architects for Peace & APJP

1-7 of 7