The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is joining the campaign to save the remaining houses of the Palestinian village Lifta, at the western entrance of modern Jerusalem. Lifta, the best-kept of hundreds of abandoned Palestinian villages, is about to be demolished in order to make way for a new Jewish neighborhood.
According to a report by the daily paper Maariv, Itzik Shviki, manager of Jerusalem district in the Society, has filed a motion to the Jerusalem municipality. “The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is demanding from the municipality of Jerusalem and from the Interior Ministry to create a [preservation] plan for upper Lifta,” Shviki told Maariv. “Most of the historical homes that are under the threat of demolition should be included in a comprehensive plan for preservation and development. And all current zoning plans should be stopped.”
Lifta is one of the few remaining Nakba villages, whose residents were deported or fled during the war of 1948. Israel has prevented the Palestinians who left their homes from returning to them, and when the war ended, it confiscated their lands and property.
Almost all of the hundreds of empty Palestinian villages were destroyed after the war and in subsequent decades. In Lifta, 55 of more than 400 hundred homes survived, together with the original cemetery, vineyards and a pool that collects rainwater. Because nobody lived in Lifta, it was left undeveloped. Except for the damage caused by time, tourists and homeless people who occupied some of the empty homes, parts of the village remain as they were left by the Palestinians who lived there more than 60 years ago, making it a unique historical site.
Recognizing the special value of Lifta led Israel to declare the village and its surroundings a natural reserve.
In 2004, a new zoning plan removed the special protection from Lifta. Plan No. 6036, approved in August 2006, designates the land for the construction of 268 housing units (an extremely small number, suggesting they are intended for a more affluent population), a hotel and commercial areas.
The new Lifta plan was approved by all the necessary planning authorities, but the sale of lots on the site was stopped after a court petition was filed by various organizations, including representatives of refugees from Lifta, Israeli-Palestinian civil society organizations and Rabbis for Human Rights. The motion is still being heard by the Jerusalem District Court.