Al Jazeera English has a great report by Nisreen El-Shamayleh on the efforts to save Lifta, the last almost intact Palestinian village whose residents were forced to leave their homes by Zionist forces in 1948. Today survivors from Lifta are struggling to preserve the village against an Israeli plan to convert it into a luxury Jews-only resort. Lifta lies just northwest of Jerusalem and also happens to be my mother’s birthplace. In the years immediately after the Nakba – the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1947-1948 – Israel systematically destroyed villages to erase evidence of their existence and prevent the return of refugees.
My father, who was born in the village of Battir, west of Bethlehem, wrote in 2008 about how the ethnically-cleansed village of al-Walaja, adjacent to Battir was destroyed just after the 1948 war:
Instead of hearing the ordinary sounds of al-Walaja, after the war, we watched with dismay as the Israeli army blew up the deserted houses, as it rushed to eliminate any trace of Palestinian existence. One after another, we would see a house disappear in a cloud of dust and seconds later we would hear the loud explosion. This went on until the entire village was destroyed. (Some of the destroyed town’s inhabitants built a new village across the valley from the original site and this new village bears the name “al-Walaja” today).
This was repeated all over Palestine. For some reason, Lifta has survived all these years. It survives not only as a reminder for Palestinians, but as a piece of world heritage. Now, as Palestinians mark the 63rd year since the Nakba began, Lifta is under threat.