An apartment complex may be built at the entrance to the capital, at the site of
the abandoned Arab village of Lifta.
The Israel Lands Authority published
a tender for the complex earlier this month – for 212 luxury apartment villas
and a hotel.
The published tender means that contractors have until March
6 to submit their bids for the project, which has already been approved by the
Interior Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. The project was designed by
the Ehud Tayar Engineering Firm.
Tayar’s office did not respond to
repeated calls for comment about the project.
Both the Society for the
Protection of Nature in Israel and the Council for the Preservation of Historic
Sites are in favor of the development of Lifta. The council initially filed an
opposition to the project, arguing that the old stone houses needed to be
rehabilitated rather than destroyed. When their complaint was accepted and a
rehabilitation initiative was incorporated into the project, the council gave
its blessing, spokesman Isaac Schweky said.
“Now, we’re waiting for them
to build, because every day that goes by the buildings are being destroyed as
time takes its toll,” he said.
“[SPNI and our council] are green
organizations, but we’re not against development and preservation,” Schweky
“You can’t have no development, or no preservation. We don’t want
to be frozen in the current situation.”
He pointed out that since the
area became a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes, the houses have
deteriorated faster than ever. Some of the stones have been stolen, causing the
buildings to crumble.
The only way to save Lifta, he believes, is to
Lifta was abandoned by its residents in 1948, and is one of
the only such Arab villages that was not destroyed or inhabited by Jews after
The area is a well-known hiking destination, and a beautiful pool
in the middle of the village is popular with the residents of nearby
ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods as a mikve ritual bath, especially during the
Lifta was featured in the film Someone to Run With, based on the
David Grossman novel.
The complex will include 212 luxury villas, as well
as a hotel, and will preserve the existing traditional stone houses, the pool,
the gardens and an old Muslim cemetery.
Zochrot, a Tel Aviv-based NGO
whose aim is to promote awareness of the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe),
lamented the loss of the last Palestinian village left unchanged from before
“It’s going to be a terrible message for the Palestinians and the
world that basically we’re continuing what we started in ’48,” said Eitan
Bronstein, spokesman for the group.
Zochrot is partnering with other
organizations to try to scuttle the project before construction starts, by
offering tours of Lifta with former Arab residents of the village.