New Petition to save Lifta
Lifta, a most picturesque Palestinian village, lies on the slopes of West Jerusalem below the highway linking it to Tel-Aviv. It has been abandoned since the invading Hagana underground forces backed by the Stern Gang drove the last of its Palestinian inhabitants in 1948 during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
It was the one single event which changed the nature of the place and the whole region. Although dozens of houses were destroyed, many of them still remain poised on the landscape.
Lifta is considered by many as a rare and fine example of Palestinian rural architecture with narrow streets aligned with the slopes of the mountains around it. Its cubist forms are a wonderful manifestation of the mastery of the Palestinian stone masons who were the indigenous owners and builders of these houses.
Today Lifta is more or less a ghost town suspended in space and remains deserted despite the fact that most of its original Palestinian inhabitants live in the surrounding communities. The Israeli authorities refuse to allow them to return.
Now the Jerusalem Municipality has produced plans to turn Lifta into a luxurious and exclusive Jewish development – reinventing its history in the process.
The Plan, numbered 6036, was designed by two architectural offices: G. Kartas – S. Grueg and S. Ahronson, as part of the “local space planning of Jerusalem”. The plan was submitted on June 28, 2004, and according to its title refers to “The Spring of National”. The plan, submitted to the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee in 2004, was approved by a regional committee.
In 2005, objections to the Plan were raised by several groups, including Bimkom (alternative center for Israeli planning) and the representatives of the regional committee of the organization and construction for the Al Quds-Jerusalem area.
In January 2011, the Israel Lands Authority published a tender for 212 luxury apartment villas and a hotel to be built in Lifta. The published tender means gave contractors until March 6 to submit their bids for the project, which has already been approved by the Interior Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. The project was designed by the Ehud Tayar Engineering Firm.
In March 2011, a judge issued a restraining order so the plan to destroy Lifta is on hold for the meantime. Now the struggle to prevent the destruction of the village moves to the public sphere.
• The original Palestinian inhabitants of Lifta, their memories of the village, their exile and longing to return to Lifta are not mentioned, or even considered by the Municipality Master Plan.
• Lifta captures the moment of destruction of Palestinian life in 1948. Its 3,000 original inhabitants fled – mostly to East Jerusalem and to the Ramallah area. However, unlike many of the 530 Palestinian villages and towns conquered and bulldozed during the war of 1947/48, a few of Lifta’s houses remain almost intact, yet deserted and declared ‘officially’ resettled.
• These set of circumstances have placed Lifta in a unique position: its original inhabitants are still around, living in the OPT and the Chicago area with a desire that the injustices done in 1948 be acknowledged and repaired.
• In Israel, renovation projects are frequently used to build a national narrative, ignoring the deep contradictions between planning and human rights that inevitably arise out of such initiatives.
• With Lifta, we have a place where a new national transformation results in the erasure of another’ people’s memory as evidenced in the new Masterplan.
• Lifta is a tangible embodiment of the larger context of events in the region during 1947/48. Lifta can be a vital place for contemplating and understanding the concept of historical continuity.
• Lifta’s heritage is a story of a multicultural society, embracing a strong sense of an ethnically and religiously diverse community of Muslims, Jews and Christians which encapsulated a healthy civil equality amongst its inhabitants and the neighbouring communities. If Lifta were to be rejuvenated with due care to preserving its memory, it could offer a unique opportunity for the start of a new dialogue towards a conciliatory outcome.
This petition aims to save Lifta through the World Monuments Fund , amongst others, and to draw attention to this site which has been threatened by neglect, vandalism and forced occupation by extremist settlers.