On the way into Jerusalem from the western direction one can see an abandoned Palestinian village on the hillside, left the way it was when it ceased to be inhabited in 1948. The name of the town is Lifta, and it has an interesting history. Lifta was one of the most affluent villages in the Jerusalem district prior to the founding of the state of Israel. During the war of 1948, the village reached an agreement with the Irgun to remain in place, and the people planned to stay and wait out the fighting, unlike many Palestinian communities who chose to flee to neighboring countries. However, Deir Yassin happened and rumors of a massacre spread to Lifta and, like dozens of other towns, the villagers panicked and, fearing their safety, fled to Jordan.
This story could apply to dozens of communities in Palestine, but Lifta is almost unique in that the village itself remains. In most cases, the homes were destroyed, incorporated into new Israeli cities, and many had Keren Kayemet forests planted over top of their ruins to hide any evidence of their very existence. But Lifta remains. It’s unclear why Israel chose to leave it in place and intact, but it is. It has become a weekend hangout and picnic spot for Jerusalem families, and many of the abandoned houses now house homeless junkies, or broke hippies.
I went there with my friends Ed, Rachael, and Aline. The insides of the houses were covered with graffiti, and old books pile in the corners.
Aline with the city rising behind her. Photo by Edword.
There is an underground spring that runs from a well to a pool at the entrance of the village. There is a long underground corridor and tunnel that you can walk in, that goes very deep inside.
I would have been scared to go in, had I not seen a three-year-old girl come out before we went in.
Palestineremembered.com has several photos of the village from before 1948, and you can see the emptiness of the surrounding hillsides.