Lifta

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.

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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.

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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.

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Aline with the city rising behind her. Photo by Edword.

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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.

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I would have been scared to go in, had I not seen a three-year-old girl come out before we went in.

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Palestineremembered.com has several photos of the village from before 1948, and you can see the emptiness of the surrounding hillsides.

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~ by Josh on April 1, 2009.

One Response to “Lifta”

  1. Wikipedia’s take on Lifta and its depopulation:

    “In the 1948 war, one of the goals of the Haganah was securing the western exit of the city. Towards this end, Arabs were evicted from villages at the entrance to Jerusalem, among them Lifta. In 1947, the Haganah shot a Lifta resident who informed Arab forces about the departure of Jewish convoys to Tel Aviv. [10] The next day, a grenade was thrown at a Jewish bus. According to Palestinian historian ‘Arif al-‘Arif, a coffeehouse in Lifta was attacked by members of the Stern Gang, killing six and wounding seven. [11] After the attack, most of the inhabitants fled, but the village remained largely intact. Some 55 original stone houses are still standing but the village has never been repopulated. [12]”

    Few Arabs in 1948 left to other countries of their own free will. Most were either forcibly driven out or left when threatened, which of course is little different.

    Very nice blog by the way. Far more than “very nice,” actually.

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