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  1. Medias
  2. Lifta :The lost village by Julian Roe

Lifta :The lost village by Julian Roe

Publié par J.Roe

le 25/05/2016

0 commentaire

20120522 175306

Relation de l'auteur au lieu : -Amateur passionné


Tucked away on a hillside, on the outskirts of Jerusalem lies the village of Lifta. Abandoned in 1948 following the tensions between the Arab and Jewish communities, which saw Lifta and some 400 other villages and towns spread out in what is now the country of Israel left to natural and anthropological forces.

1948 was not the towns only event. Human and archeological remains have been found on the site dating back to the Iron age and since then, the village has seen various phases and marking points. The Rockafella foundation conducted a site survey in 2005 finding many remains dating back from 2000 BC however it was the Roman, Crusades, Ottoman and finally British colonial era that have left traces throughout the village such as the Crusaders court yard still present in what is considered the heart of the village.

During the Ottomon era, the village was under the control of the Ottoman empire who named and located it in the Niyhama district of Jerusalem. It was during this long era that saw the peasant revolt in 1828, mainly against Muhammed Ali’s modernization program which included a compulsory conscription of all men of fighting age in Palestine to join the Ottoman army, essentially a fifth of the population. This modernization also included a rise in taxes, something Palestine had not been subjected to as it had enjoyed many privileges under the Ottoman rule.

The peasant uprising ended in the battle that took place in Lifta, with peasants and some Bedouin tribes collaborating together on one side to fight an Egyptian army commanded by Ibrahim Pasham. The peasants lost the battle and Lifta with it, however Ibrahim Pasha remained a powerful figure in the region upholding villages just north of Lifta.

In 1917 the village surrendered to the British following the Sykes Picot agreement of 1916, where the Middle east was divided, leaving Palestine under British rule.

Finally in 1948 the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization (later to become the infamous Israeli defense force) secured the village because of its strategic importance. By this time, the village had already been abandoned, as the previous year had seen various attacks by Jewish rebel groups (terrorists) notably the Lehi, who fought against British rule, ultimately leading to the deaths of various Lifta residents. These attacks scared the population into leaving the town.

Smiley face

Today the land has become somewhat of a symbol of Palestinian struggle against the Israeli authority. Because of its location and the demographic population rise and therefore need for housing in the city of Jerusalem, the village that for the best part of 60 years, remained empty, today has been subject to development programs.

Notably in 2012, the Israeli planning authority gave permission to build luxury apartments on the land. The construction however never took place following various protests that was organized by the Lifta society, who managed to assemble various actors involved in the protection of the site, including Jewish and Palestinian descendants of the previous occupants of the village.

Their aim is to protect the village by classifying it as a UNESCO heritage site because of its cultural importance, however the Israeli planning permission authority has seen this as a threat because they believe the society is trying to put negative images of the 1948 siege of Jerusalem, something that is considered nearly illegal in Israel at least under the “Forgetting memory regime”. The society also wants to use the site as a place of unity representing peace between Israel and Palestine, something that can be done through the classification of the site because it would imply Israel accepting the Arab history in the area, something that Israeli authorities have tried to hide and wipe away.

Many houses have been occupied illegally by ultra orthodox Jews who like many other places in Israel have had some success in appropriating the land, however in this case the Israeli Urban planning authority issued notices to Jewish settlers in 2005, evicting the illegal settlers.

Unofficially, the village has been occupied by various squatters, artists and notoriously drug users. Some of this occupation can be seen in this photo, the interior of one of the houses, a photo I took in 2013.


Accessing the site is also sketchy, Orthodox Jews still frequent the village, notably the remaining baths as can be seen in this photo, who for the mostly part do not appreciate outsiders frequenting the village especially Arab Palestinians who once had relatives that owned some of the houses.

Urbanization of western Jerusalem will only increase in the future, and therefore putting the village at increased risk, it has been a subject of much debate, certainly in geography of what should be considered a heritage site, furthermore how we can protect such places in cities that require more and more room. It could also be a turning point in Israeli politics, certainly in terms of peace in the region, because recognition of a Palestinian past has been part of an Israeli policy to eradicate, however some changes have been made, minds have been opened, with an increasing left minded Jewish population that no longer wants war with its cousin and neighbour.


Lifta Society, Wikipedia, Photo’s taken by Julian Roe 2013, the Guardian for the bottom photo taken by Quique Kierszenbaum


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