The last deserted pre-1948 Palestinian village in Israel is facing possible destruction. Located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the village of Lifta is an empty collection of old stone houses that have fallen into neglect. For the past 20 years, the Israeli government has pushed to destroy the remaining buildings to make room for new luxury homes, hotels, a shopping mall and a recreation park. The courts have rejected governmental requests to build, but the construction of a new railway line through the village has many thinking the end is near.
In the meantime, local Israeli Jews use Lifta as a picnic spot and swim in its ancient spring. For the few surviving Palestinians who were born in Lifta, visiting their former village brings a mix of emotions: nostalgia for an idyllic childhood spent amongst the olive groves, and bitterness at the destruction and appropriation of their homes and heritage.
Lifta’s inhabitants were systematically expelled by Israeli forces between 1947 and 1948. Afterwards, Jewish immigrants, mostly from Yemen, moved into the empty homes. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israeli government offered the Jewish residents of Lifta new homes in Jerusalem; they happily accepted, and blew up the roofs of Lifta’s houses before leaving to ensure no-one would return.
The Palestinian villages inside present-day Israel, deserted in 1948, have largely disappeared from the map. While Israel still retains around one million Palestinian residents, many fear the destruction of Lifta would erase, once and for all, the memory of those Palestinians who lost their homes when the state of Israel was created.