Lifta, a beautiful ancient village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, has a long and colorful history. From its prosperous days as a thriving settlement to the brutal destruction in 1948, Lifta holds unforgettable memories. This article explores the historical journey of Lifta, from the past to the present, alongside efforts to preserve its cultural heritage.
Once known as a fortress on the road to the entrance of Jerusalem in the 13th century BCE, Lifta underwent several name changes over the centuries. By 1596, Lifta was documented as a Muslim-inhabited village in Jerusalem. In 1845, the village experienced rapid growth, boasting 50 buildings and a population of 600.
Lifta’s population was diverse, including Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The village’s buildings were constructed with influences from Roman and Ottoman architectural styles. Stone houses with small domes on their roofs adorned Lifta’s landscape, creating a picturesque scene from the past.
On December 27, 1947, Lifta witnessed tension as Zionist paramilitaries, known as Gang Stren or Lehi forces, attacked a coffee shop, resulting in six deaths and seven injuries. The Haganah, another Zionist paramilitary group, engaged in a series of attacks in January 1948, forcing 3,000 residents to flee. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, forever altering the village’s face.
Following their displacement, Lifta’s inhabitants were not permitted to return. The Israeli government rebuilt the village for Jewish immigrants, while the Liftawis were forced to reside in surrounding areas. The Knesset, Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, Supreme Court, and the central bus station now stand on the land once occupied by Lifta’s residents.
In 2006, new development plans emerged, including a Jewish museum, a luxury hotel, a shopping center, and upscale housing. Although Israel’s antiquities authority initially approved the plan in 2009, preservation efforts by a coalition of organizations brought the plan to court. The court canceled the proposal and ordered further surveys of the Lifta area.
In 2018, Lifta successfully registered as a cultural site with the World Monument Fund, garnering international attention. After an in-depth survey by the Israel Land Authority, Lifta was deemed worthy of preservation. However, in June 2021, redevelopment plans resurfaced, creating new concerns.
Lifta is a silent witness to the enduring conflict in the Middle East. From glory to destruction, from expulsion to preservation efforts, Lifta reflects the complexity of Palestinian history and the endeavor to safeguard its cultural heritage. Today, Lifta’s fate rests on the decisions and actions of stakeholders and the international community. Whether Lifta remains a living heritage or becomes a memory in the history books, only time will provide the answer.