The Save Lifta Coalition submitted a petition via Adv. Dr. Sami Arshid, demanding the cancellation of the tender and Plan 6036 for the construction of a residential neighborhood in Lifta
“Construction of the neighborhood will erase an invaluable history and landscape”
The village of Lifta is on a UNESCO Tentative List of heritage sites ■ The plan to build 259 villas contradicts the Israel Antiquities Authority’s survey ■ The plan disregards the Palestinian residents of the village’s historical rights, and will destroy the landscape, spring, and village
Yesterday (Tuesday, August 3) Adv. Dr. Sami Arshid submitted a petition to the Jerusalem Administrative Court against the Israel Land Authority, demanding the cancellation of a tender for the planning and construction of 259 villas, commercial buildings, and a hotel in the abandoned village of Lifta, along with Construction Plan 6036.
The village, whose Palestinian residents were expelled in 1948, has never undergone modern development, preserving a history of hundreds of thousands of years, even having been added to a Tentative List of UNESCO heritage sites for conservation. For about two decades, the Israel Land Authority has been trying to promote the construction of a neighborhood of villas on site. Following a previous petition to the court against the approval of Plan 6036, which was approved in 2006, the court ruled that an archeological survey should be conducted on site. From 2014-2017, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted a survey of the site and determined that: “Due to the rarity of the last complete village in the Land of Israel it is necessary that any use of this complex, and its development, will preserve the elements that create its unique wholeness and minimize the changes resulting from adapting the site for contemporary needs.”
Adv. Dr. Arshid, who represents nonprofits and individuals working toward the conservation of Lifta, including residents of Jerusalem and refugees from the village of Lifta, petitioned the court to order the cessation of any marketing or the sale of plots in the village of Lifta, and oblige the Israel Land Authority to submit a new plan for the conservation of the village of Lifta, which will implement the survey findings and refer to the declaration of Lifta as a candidate for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Israel Antiquities Authority’s survey also clarifies that the olive presses, wine presses, underground systems, and uniquely wondrous buildings in Lifta, deserve to remain in, and accessible to, the public. Yet according to the tender, these sites are being marketed, and handed over to a private developer without any instructions or the development of mechanisms to effectively conserve and make them available to the public. This disregard for the importance of the site and findings located there, illustrates how the plan will cause damage and sorrow for generations, erasing an invaluable landscape and slice of history.
Additionally, according to the petition, marketing village land while dispossessing historical rights from its original inhabitants, is unreasonable. The plan was made without considering historic property rights that were never severed from the site.
The petition is also being filed against the Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Municipality, which are required to “stabilize the existing structures in the area of the abandoned village of Lifta in order to prevent the collapse of the structures or any part of them, professionally with architects, engineers, and conservation contractors, per current accepted standards in the world of conservation.”
The petition is accompanied by three professional opinions. Civil engineer, Amos Shiran, indicates that some of the roads planned in Plan 6036 are too close to existing structures and in some cases even pass “through” existing homes, warning that paving them may cause existing structures to collapse. Ecologist Dr. David Shohami explains in his opinion, how Lifta’s disconnection from the sequence of open areas surrounding the city (which allows for connectivity and the passage of plants and animals) will harm natural systems on site and in surrounding areas. An additional opinion signed by five of Israel’s leading architects and conservation planners, clarifies that the construction plan is inconsistent with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s instructions.
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