Past | thousands of years of continuous inhabitance
At the western entrance to Jerusalem lies Lifta, the well-preserved remains of a Palestinian village that began to be built, at the latest, in the 16th century. The village developed from and around a more ancient crusader medieval farm, which itself was a later incarnation of a monumental Hellenistic building still standing in the historical core of the village. Archeological and architectural remains attest to a continuity of settlement in Lifta, thousands of years old, and the site is identified with the biblical Mey Naftoah. During the Ottoman period, the village of Lifta was a major agricultural hinterland of Jerusalem and had an extensive array of olive presses and flour mills and a flourishing agricultural industry. Many Jerusalem neighborhoods, both Jewish and Arab, were built on lands purchased from the village at the end of the 19th century. In 1948, following Israel’s War of Independence, the village was abandoned and its inhabitants fled to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In the 1950s, Jewish families, new immigrants from Yemen and Kurdistan, were resettled in the village. These families were evacuated by the State of Israel in 2017, the last inhabitants of Lifta.
Present | from a unique cultural landscape to an elite-class villa neighbourhood ?
The village of Lifta is the only remnant to survive in such remarkable condition, of an architectural and agricultural culture that has been prevalent in the Middle East for thousands of years but was completely destroyed in 1948 (in Israel) or has undergone modernization and development, thus losing any ancient cultural-historical characteristic (in Israel and neighboring countries). It is the most complete and best preserved site in our area that reflects the development of agriculture, architecture and local culture, a living testimony to the landscape that has been common in Israel for thousands of years of history and is no more. Today, a natural and rich habitat for many plants and animals, some rare, protected and endangered, exists in the village, the agricultural terraces and the spring. The importance of Lifta is in preserving the entire complex – the human history, the houses, the agricultural system and nature that together form the cultural landscape of Lifta. Due to its uniqueness and importance, Lifta was recently added to the Israeli Tantative List of World Heritage Sites by the Israeli Committee for UNESCO in the Ministry of Education.
Lifta today is an important part of the open landscapes surrounding Jerusalem, and thanks to its central location at the entrance to the city, it is a particularly accessible green lung and a magnet for diverse populations in Jerusalem and for many travelers from Israel and around the world. The beauty of Lifta is a hallmark and an inseparable part of the entrance to Jerusalem, the city’s scenery and its charm.
In sharp contrast, construction plan 6036 is currently being vigorously promoted by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Land Authority. The plan is intended to destroy the cultural landscape of Lifta and build a small elite-class villa neighborhood, with roads, parking structures, huge retaining walls and extensive rock-cuttings on the mountainside. No modern construction is capable of coping with the difficult topography of the village and the need for infrastructure and roads without leaving a deep mark and injuring the mountain, as the builders and residents of the village have done exceptionally well for hundreds of years.
Future | building an alternative vision for Lifta
The Save Lifta Coalition has been operating since 2010 to stop plan 6036 and promote an alternative planning that will focus on preserving Lifta’s cultural landscape as a local and universal heritage site for future generations. In our vision, Lifta is a tourist and research site, an open-air museum of the built and natural Arab cultural heritage, where one can learn about the ancient ways of life that developed here in the Middle East over thousands of years of history. In our vision Lifta is a model for the search for paths to a shared life of peace, reconciliation and justice, in recognition of the mutual pain and on the basis of an in-depth acquaintance with the stories, the heritage and the glorious culture of the various communities for which Lifta is a home, a dream and a history.