23 Sep 2014 16:32
September 7-19, 2014
Lifta, West Bank, Palestine
The last remaining deserted, pre-1948 Palestinian village in Israel is now facing possible destruction. Located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the village of Lifta is now an empty collection of old stone houses falling into neglect. For the past 20 years, the Israeli government has been pushing to destroy the remaining buildings to make room for new luxury homes, hotels, a shopping mall, and a recreation park. The courts have rejected governmental requests to build, but the construction of a new railway line running through the village has many thinking that the end is near. In the meantime, local Israeli Jews use Lifta as a picnic spot and swim in its ancient spring. For the few surviving Palestinians who were born in Lifta, visiting their former village brings about a mix of emotions: nostalgia for an idyllic childhood spent amongst the olive groves, and bitterness at the destruction and appropriation of their home and heritage.
Lifta's inhabitants were systematically expelled by Israeli forces between 1947 and 1948. After the residents were expelled, Jewish immigrants, mostly from Yemen, moved into the empty homes. After the 6-Day War in 1967, the Israeli government offered the Jewish residents of Lifta new homes in Jerusalem. The residents happily accepted the offer and blew up the roofs of Lifta's houses before they left to ensure that no one would return to the village.
The Palestinian villages inside present day Israel which were deserted in 1948 have been largely erased from the map. While Israel still retains around 1 million Palestinian residents, many fear that the destruction of Lifta would erase, once and for all, the memory of those Palestinians who once inhabited much of present day Israel, but lost their homes when the state was created.