October 4, 2022

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Plan of Turning Historic Arab Village into Luxury Housing Shelved

3 min read
MK

Close to the western exit from Jerusalem is the former Arab village of Lifta. There had been plans of turning the picturesque village into a boutique neighborhood to cater to the elite and rich.

However, the Israel Lands Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality have now agreed to ‘rethink’ their plans and have shelved them for now.

World heritage site

The village has already made the list of tentative World Heritage Sites of UNESCO because it offers a unique reflection of the traditional village life.

Therefore, Mayor Moshe Lion is not in favor of turning the village into anything else and wants to see it become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the 1948 War of Independence in Israel, the hamlet had been emptied completely and its occupants were not permitted to return.

It comes down a hillside and forms a valley. There has been historical debate over the matter of whether the villagers had fled, or had been forced out.

There had been hundreds of other Arab villages that had been abandoned and were eventually bulldozed after the war and then built over.

However, Lifta is one village that has remained untouched, as if it has been frozen in time.

The village

There are almost 75 stone homes in the village that are spread across the area and a number of them have been preserved remarkably, even if some of their roofs have caved in.

Jerusalemites particularly enjoy a spring-fed pool in the summer season. The Liftawis, who are the descendants of the villagers who had lived there originally, also make an annual return.

They do so in order to tell themselves and the world that they would eventually return to the village. Nir Barkat, who is now a Knesset member of the Likud party, had been previously mayor of the Jerusalem Municipality.

Under his leadership, the organization, along with the Israel Lands Authority, had wanted to develop the village and transform it into a hotel, luxury housing and an upscale business and commercial center.

Saving Lifta

However, the plans had received a great deal of opposition and a Coalition to Save Lifta had also been formed, which had united some diverse people.

This included former residents, along with their descendants, architects, Israeli academics and Society for the Protection of Nature’s members.

In addition, the Jewish residents of Lifta who had been recently expelled also joined the coalition. They had been living in the village since the 1950s, after the Jewish Agency settled them, but property rights had not been granted.

Construction of the village had been scheduled to begin years ago, but the coalition had been successful in convincing a court in 2012 to revoke the tender.

Moreover, the court had also been convinced to order the Israel Antiquities Authority to do a thorough survey of the village at the expense of the Israel Lands Authority.

The said survey had been conducted in December 2016. It emerged that the village had been one of the most important and biggest Arab villages of Jerusalem.

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