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PHOTOS: Visiting the last standing Nakba village of Lifta

Lifta is one of the few remaining Nakba villages, whose residents were deported or fled during and before 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 land and property. This week, Activestills documented Palestinian women visiting the site along with the usual religious Jewish-Israeli hikers and tourists.

Photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

The Bridge of Strings, or Chords Bridge, is seen through the window a house in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The Bridge of Strings, or Chords Bridge, is seen through the window a house in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

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 of rain and spring water.

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.

A tour group of Palestinian young women from Sakhnin, Israel, and a group of Jewish boys visit the spring in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A tour group of Palestinian young women from Sakhnin, Israel, and a group of Jewish boys visit the spring in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Recognizing the special value of Lifta, Israel declared the village and its surroundings a natural reserve.

In 2012, an Israeli court delayed a plan to build luxury homes on the site.

At the time, attorney Sami Ershied told the court, on behalf of the village’s former residents:

“Given that Lifta is an abandoned village and its original owners live as refugees only a few hundred meters away, no construction should be done there, certainly not construction that will destroy the village and totally divest the original residents of their rights,” the appellants argued.

A group of Jewish boys visit the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A group of Jewish boys visit the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

 

The ruins of a house remain standing in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The ruins of a house remain standing in the depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta, located on the edge of West Jerusalem, Israel, March 4, 2014. During the Nakba, the residents of Lifta fled attacks by Zionist militias beginning in December 1947, resulting in the complete evacuation of the village by February 1948. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Related:
Court nixes building project, saves unique Nakba village
Stepping over the line by accident: Still possible, ever more disturbing

Correction:
A previous version of this article stated that an Israeli court had nixed plans to develop the site. In fact, the court only delayed the plans by canceling a tender. 

 

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    1. The 2012 972 article says

      “Judge Yigal Marzel canceled the construction of the project in Lifta on technical grounds, ruling that a complete survey by the archeological authority had to be completed prior to the execution of the zoning plan.

      “Israeli courts have very rarely ruled in favor of Palestinian refugees. In one of the only cases in which the court ruled to protect assets of refugees – the Ikrit and Biram ruling – the state never carried out the verdict.”

      Which is just a delay, not necessarily a cancellation of the development project as a whole. The developers may try again upon completely the archaeological study.

      The photos got me thinking about the Nazi camps preserved by Germany as reminders. Regardless of one’s position on the events of 47-8, could not these remains stand as a reminder of that history? Of course, such preservation would bar the descendants and so may well be unwanted by them, if they want the land back for present life.

      Reply to Comment
      • “completion,” not “completely.” Google spelling correcter and my proof reading laziness.

        Reply to Comment
    2. danni ashe

      The first and last photos are beautiful. Nice idea, Greg. It would be valuable to preserve this scene for posterity, if that’s an option.
      And they say people left these homes because of what?

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        This is part of an article that was published in the Jerusalem Quarterly several years ago when a couple of the houses were still used by Kurdish Jews and a drugs rehabilitation centre, but it gives you the picture.

        “On 28 December 1947 a coffeehouse in Lifta was attacked by a group of the Stern Gang who used machine guns and grenades killing six of the patrons and wounding seven.9 From December 1947 through January 1948, the residents of Lifta fled their village in the wake of actions by the Jewish forces, which included threats, house demolitions and raids intended to cause the evacuation of the Lifta residents.

        After the war, the residents of Lifta were not permitted to return to their village. Today, they and their descendants live in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in Jordan and in other countries. Many of them still feel deep ties to their village, and many of those who are able to get to the village visit it frequently, tend to the area, and teach their children about its past.

        Once all the Palestinian residents were out of Lifta, the State of Israel expropriated all the village lands and assets, as it did in other Palestinian villages whose owners
        became refugees after the 1948 war. Moreover, when Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 war, many of the Lifta refugees were living in the newly occupied areas. Some, who resided in East Jerusalem in 1967, were now residents of Israel. Others fell under the Israeli military governor, because they lived in cities or refugee camps in the West Bank. Despite this development, Israel forbade the Lifta refugees from returning to their homes or demanding that rights to their homes and assets be restored to them.

        Between 1948 and 1953, the Jewish Agency settled Jewish immigrants from Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan in Lifta. Some of these Jewish residents left during the 1960s in exchange for monetary compensation. Thirteen of these Jewish families still live on the outskirts of the village today.”

        http://www.jerusalemquarterly.org/images/ArticlesPdf/JQ%2054_Lifta%20and%20the%20Regime.pdf

        Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Beautiful Lifta crumbles and more and more parts of it are being bulldozed for a railway tunnel or other infrastructure projects for the rest of Jerusalem. This comes under the heading “maintaining the status quo” too, I suppose. But make no mistake, with each day that passes, there’s less and less of Lifta.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Tomer

      Gee, I look forward for these activists writing an article on the ethnically-cleansed Jewish villages in Morrocco, Algeria, Lobya, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq etc.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        They aren’t in Israel, are therefore not our responsibility.

        You’d need to look into articles written in the countries you cite.
        Not difficult, there are lots. Here’s a video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUom5cu6-Fk&feature=player_embedded

        So, Tomer. Have you ever taken a close look at Lifta? Thought about it a bit as you enter Jerusalem?

        Reply to Comment
    5. Tomer

      Well, I also look forward to these Leftists visiting the French Villages in Algeria and discussing about the mass return of the 1 million Colons & their descendants to their old houses.

      Reply to Comment