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Palestinians Commemorate Land Day on ...
Wadi Fukin
By Rich Wiles
01 Apr 2015

Palestinians from across the West Bank and Israel gathered in confiscated Palestinian villages, on both side of the 1967 Greenline, to commemorate Land Day. Land Day is seen as a day of resistance action in defense of Palestinian land. Annual Land Day events are held by Palestinian communities within the State of Israel, in the occupied territories, and in the Palestinian diaspora.

 

Land Day events in 2015 included a 'return march' by the community-in-exile of Lifta, many of whom today remain only a kilometer or two from their original homes. Today there remains a small but very active community-in-exile of Lifta's refugees in East Jerusalem, and it was this group, under the banner of their community grassroots organisation 'Sons of Lifta' who spent Land Day inside their home village. Although many of the village's houses remain intact and the refugees live only a ten minute journey away, they are denied their rights to return to live in the vilage by the State of Israel.

 

Land day first started on March 30,1976, when mass demonstrations broke out among Palestinian communities in the State of Israel in protest at an Israeli state plan to confiscate 20,000 dunums (2,000 hectares) of land around the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin and Arraba in the Galilee. This was one of the first examples of mass coordinated action being carried out by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Protests were held from the Galilee in the north all the way to the Negev (known as the 'Naqab' to Palestinians) in the south. Over the course of the day 6 Palestinians were shot dead and more than 100 were injured. Ever since these events, Palestinians have commemorated March 30th as 'Land Day', or 'Yom al-Ard' in Arabic.

 

In Another Land Day event, activists in the village of Wadi Fukin in the West Bank attempted to plant 350 olive tree saplings on land that is threatened with expropriation by the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Sur Hadassah. All Israeli settlements within the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are illegal under international law. Before more than a handful of trees could be planted in Wadi Fukin, Israeli soldiers rained clouds or tear gas on to the activists bringing the Land Day event to an abrupt halt. For Palestinians, Land Day is an important annual event which brings together many thousands of Palestinians across historic Palestine in the defence of Palestinian land.

 

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Land Day
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
27 Mar 2015

Yakoub Odeh is one of Lifta's Nakba survivors and also the head of 'Sons of Lifta' - a community group that was established by the refugees in defense of their village and their right to return to live in the village: "We are here to remember, we are here to learn and we are here to say we will never give up (our struggle for return)." Yakoub Odeh and Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 7
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

The refugees ended their Land Day action with Friday prayers at the edge of Lifta's spring under the watchful eyes of Israeli security forces and Jewish orthodox youth from the nearby settlements.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 8
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

A Jewish youth from a nearby settlement talks to Palestinians commemorating land day in the village of Lifta.

Although the village centre of Lifta and its houses remain unoccupied, large areas of the village's wider lands were expropriated for settlement expansion. Orthodox youth from these settlements regularly visit Lifta to bath in its spring

Palestinian refugees and Jewish orthodox youth, Lifta, West Jerusalem, March 27 2015.

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Land Day 9
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta's mosque is also still standing today and offers sweeping views across the western slopes of the village from its arched windows.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel, March 27 2015.

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Land Day 10
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Cleaning and restoration work in the village cemetery has become a focal point for many events held by the community-in-exile when they visit Lifta. The refugees' ancestors remain buried at the site to this day. There are now estimated to be more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and displaced people.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 11
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Nader Liftawi was born a refugee in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem in 1970 and was brought to the village regularly by his father from an early age.

"I have brought my children here since they were young. I come at least once every month to check the houses, clean the graves and smell the air. This is everything to us," explained Nader.

Nader Liftawi, Palestinian refugee form Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 13
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta was forcibly depopulated in early 1948 by Zionist militias, well before the official establishment of the State of Israel. Some Nakba survivors say that they were told to leave temporarily and would later be allowed to return.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 14
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Yakoub Odeh is one of Lifta's Nakba survivors and also the head of 'Sons of Lifta' - a community group that was established by the refugees in defense of their village and their right to return to live in the village: "We are here to remember, we are here to learn and we are here to say we will never give up (our struggle for return)."

Yakoub Odeh and Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 15
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Lifta is unique amongst the Palestinian villages that were depopulated during the Nakba in that the majority of its houses remain structurally intact and are not occupied by Israelis today.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta. Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 22
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

The refugees hung signs in various locations around Lifta reaffirming the history and Palestinian identity of the village.
Palestinian refugees from Lifta, Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 16
Lifta
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

After a journet of only 10 minutes the refugees arrived back in the village from which they were forcibly displaced in early 1948 by Zionist militias.
Palestinian refugees from Lifta, Lifta, West Jerusalem, Israel. March 27 2015.

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Land Day 17
East Jerusalem
By Rich Wiles
26 Mar 2015

Palestinian refugees boarded buses in the East Jerusaelm neighbourhood of French Hill to make the short journey across the Green Line to their home village of Lifta to commemorate Land Day.

Palestinian refugees from Lifta, March 27 2015, French Hill, East Jerusalem, Palestine.

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Erasing Palestine: Historic Village N...
Lifta
By Vinciane Jacquet
23 Sep 2014

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.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
17 Sep 2014

September, 18, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Construction of a new project has already begun at the bottom of the village. Officially, authorization has not been given by the courts to demolish the village. However, it has been said that the construction is part of a new railway line between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. Some say that the new railway will not affect Lifta, while others are not so sure.

The Israeli government has been battling with the courts to destroy the village for the past 20 years in order to make way for new luxury hotels, housing units, a shopping mall, a museum and a recreation park.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
17 Sep 2014

September, 18, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Yacoub Odeh lived with his family in Lifta. His home is still there. The roof of his home was completely blown up by the Israeli Army in 1969, and the remains of the house are visible in the background, immediately to Yacoub's right.

He remembers a childhood of gardens, olive groves, and races with the other children to arrive first at school in the upper part of the village.

In 1967, he was arrested for "resistance" and spent 17 years in jail. The Israeli army destroyed his house as punishment.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
17 Sep 2014

September, 18, 2014
Lifta, Israel

View of the lower part of the village.

Lifta was an important strategic location for the Israelis because it was the western gate to Jerusalem. Israel started to expel Lifta's inhabitants in November 1947 by first threatening the inhabitants. The women and children fled, while the men remained. The village was then attacked by Israeli forces during the 1948 war and the rest of the men were either killed, arrested, or expelled.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
15 Sep 2014

September, 16, 2014
Lifta, Israel

The entrance of one of the two old schools in Lifta. Now, people come to the village to cool down and often use the schools to have a barbecue. The remnants of charcoal from a barbecue can be seen on the right.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
15 Sep 2014

September, 16, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Marina El-Ghoul is a Palestinian from Gaza. Her family fled when she was 2 and she has been raised in the United States. She is about to go to Gaza again for the fist time to work there as an emergency responser. When she heard about the story of Lifta, she came down to the village and posed for a photograph to support the right to return. Written arabic on the wall: "Lifta is ours. We will come back".

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
15 Sep 2014

September, 13, 2014
Lifta, Israel

A stone from the doorframe has been removed from one of Lifta's old houses. Regardless of the Israeli government's plan to demolish the village, Lifta is still endangered because people come to steal pieces of stone and floor tiles that are too expensive on the market.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
15 Sep 2014

September 16, 2014
Jerusalem, Israel

Jalal was born in Lifta. When he was 12, he had to leave the village with his family. He lived in the upper part of Lifta. His childhood home was demolished a long time ago to make room for an administrative building instead. He used to take his boys to Lifta, "to let them know it is their land". He says, "We have the right to be there. It is my land. It is not fair to bring other people from all over the world to my home. I want the right to return". The village of Lifta is situated in a rugged valley and is difficult to access. Therefore, Jalal cannot visit the village anymore.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
12 Sep 2014

September, 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Young Israelis bathing in the former spring of Lifta.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
12 Sep 2014

September, 13, 2014
Lifta, Israel

In 1959, Israel considered Lifta a "national reserve". Since 1967, the Israeli army has been using the village for military exercises because the environment and rough, hilly terrain are similar to Lebanon. This also contributes to the continuing damage done to the village.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
12 Sep 2014

September, 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

A verse from a poem by Palestnian poet Mahmoud Darwish graffitied on a wall inside one of the old homes in Lifta. The verse reads, "This land deserves life."

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
12 Sep 2014

September, 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

A legend says that in the 1970's, Israeli art students rushed to the village because they had heard that the government was about to give it houses away for a very cheap price in order to turn it into an artists colony. Each student chose a house and painted his or her name on the wall outside. Here then name 'Gershtein', is written in big black letters, along with the date the date (here 30.05.7), and the word 'taken' to the left of date. The national archives are not accessible regarding this issue, so it is impossible to find out if the story has some truth to it or not.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
12 Sep 2014

September, 13, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Partial view of Lifta from an old house surrounded by barbed wire. The municipal council of Jerusalem said the barbed wire is a safety precaution used to keep people from entering what is said to be the unstable structure of the house.

However, some Palestinians feel the barbed wire is used to keep people from visiting the old houses.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

The natural spring of the village is now a place where youth come to bath. Most of people who come to Lifta to enjoy the spring or the peaceful environment are Israeli. Here, a young Palestinian relaxes alone on the edge of the water.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September, 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

On a sign giving directions to the village, the Arabic writing of "Lifta" has scratched out of the sign.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

In one of the remaining houses of Lifta, a young Israeli woman comes to have a picnic. She knows nothing about the village's story. On the wall, written in Arabic is the slogan, "Lifta is ours, we will come back".

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

An Israeli family enjoys a picnic in Lifta. When asked, they do not know about the story of the village. Only the youngest daughter, who did not want to appear in the photograph, mentioned that it was a Palestinian village. She said that the Palestinian people had to leave in order to give their homes to Jewish people, and that they are now asking for the right to return. Baffled by the story the mother asked, "But why can't they return?".

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

In the village, "Palestine" written in Arabic on the leaf of a prickly pear tree.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

In 1948, Jewish people, mostly from Yemen, arrived in Lifta to live in the Palestinian village. After leaving their lives in the countries of origin, they were disappointed with what they found in Lifta; a small, remote village, with little infrastructure.

At the end of 1964, when they saw Asheknazi Jews (Jews of European descent) living in nice "luxury" houses, the Jews of Lifta protested. In 1965, the government provided them with housing in Jerusalem. They were so happy to leave the village that they blew up the roofs of every house to ensure nobody will ever return.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Ilan Shtayer is an Israeli Jew. He is a member of the association "Save Lifta" and fights for the preservation of the village. He is also a former fighter in the Israeli army and is now a member of "Combatants for Peace", an Israeli-Palestinian organization comprised of former Israeli soldiers who demand an end to the occupation of Palestinian land.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

Before 1948, the village of Lifta had 500 houses with about 3.000 inhabitants. Half of them were in the upper part of the village, the other half in the lower part, which still remains. The upper part has already been demolished. On the left, the center, and the right of the photograph, three old houses from the former upper part of Lifta are still visible.

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Erasing palestine- historic village n...
By Vinciane Jacquet
06 Sep 2014

September 7, 2014
Lifta, Israel

One of the four olive presses used by the Palestinian inhabitants of Lifta. The family probably lived on the second floor.