Why the Ruins of a Little Village Called Lifta Still Matter, by Kenn Orphan

ליפתא | Lifta

Image by RonAlmog via Flickr

by Kenn Orphan
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Halifax, Nova Scotia
July 29, 2021

In the Middle East stand the ruins of an ancient settlement known as Lifta. Archeological digs have traced its’ origins as far back as the Iron Age. It contains the remains of a court-yard home from the Crusader period at its centre and the ruins of several other beautiful homes, and once housed a vibrant and culturally rich community.

In the first half of the 20th century it had a modern clinic, two coffee houses, schools, a mosque. Lifta was also well known for its fine embroidery. All of that changed in 1948 when the residents of this village were ethnically cleansed. It remains one of the only surviving testaments of that tragic era. But this, too, may change in a very short time.

Following the Nakba, or Catastrophe, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were violently expelled from their ancestral lands. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were razed to the ground in what is now known as Israel. Many had forests planted over them, with trees that are not indigenous to the region and that are susceptible to wildfires, especially thanks to climate change. Many others were taken over by Jewish Israelis with the support of Israeli law. But, in violation of international law, the former residents of these villages are not permitted to return. Many of the families still have the keys to the homes that were stolen from them.

In the 1980s, Israel designated Lifta as a nature reserve, and for decades it as been used by Israelis for recreation. An ancient pool fed by a natural spring became a popular swimming hole. But now the ruins of this ancient village are on the brink of being razed once and for all to make way for luxury villas, a shopping mall and a hotel. The UN had listed Lifta as a potential World Heritage Site, but since Israel left UNESCO in 2019, it is no longer interested in that highly desired heritage designation, especially if it may enshrine a piece of Palestinian history or reveal the crimes that emptied that village decades ago.

Lifta is important because it represented a visual example of the Nakba to Palestinians and Israelis alike. As Israel becomes more entrenched in its apartheid policies, it is symbolic of the lengths colonial settler ideology will go to erase history. And it isn’t just history we are talking about. At this very moment, Palestinian residents of the neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are being forcibly expelled from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers and a biblical theme park. These struggles are what make the ruins of Lifta iconic.

Throughout history, colonial settler projects frequently targeted indigenous houses, burial sites, temples, villages and cities for demolition. The Spanish razed the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and replaced it with Mexico City. The Americans carved the faces of four white men, known for their role in slavery and in Manifest Destiny, into the rockface of Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (Six Grandfathers), one of the most sacred places to the Lakota in the Black Hills. Australian mining company Rio Tinto just recently destroyed a sacred Aboriginal site that was a 46,000-year-old rock shelter at Juukan Gorge.

Perhaps the destruction of Lifta is not on the same scale, but it bares striking similarities. This is of a piece with Israel’s ongoing attempt to erase Palestinian heritage, culture and history. And it enables the Israeli apartheid system to proceed with further demolitions and erasures, while pretending it isn’t destroying anything at all. Lifta still matters because it is a reminder that the Nakba never really ended.


Kenn Orphan is a writer, artist, antiwar and anti-capitalist activist, hospice social worker and radical nature lover living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and his blog you can do so via PayPal. He may be contacted at KennOrphan.com.

Previously published on Kenn Orphan, July 27, 2021

[DS added the video.]

Help Us Save LIFTA!

Save Lifta on Feb 18, 2020

This short video describes the current situation of Lifta, A village located in Jerusalem.

See also:

New Petition to save Lifta

Saving Lifta: The last Palestinian village standing, by Alessandra Bajec (+ photos)

Podcast Ep 41: The village of Lifta and the expulsion of the Palestinians

From the archives:

Defending the Shame of Apartheid, by Kenn Orphan

Abby Martin and Miko Peled: Disturbing Truth About Israel’s New Government

Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthall and Dan Cohen: Killing Gaza: A New Documentary on Palestinians Under Siege

Larry Wilkerson: The US Should End Support For Israel and Saudi Arabia

The Spotlight on Israeli Apartheid Must Not Fade, by Kenn Orphan

Chris Hedges: Why American Liberals Refuse To Speak Out About The Crimes The Israeli Apartheid State Carries Out

Apartheid Does Not Have the Right To Defend Itself, Or To Exist, by Jim Kavanagh

There is No Getting Around It: This Is Apartheid, by Kenn Orphan

Enough is Enough: It is Time for Apartheid to End, by Kenn Orphan

2 thoughts on “Why the Ruins of a Little Village Called Lifta Still Matter, by Kenn Orphan

  1. Pingback: Chris Hedges: The Fictitious Ideas of Empire and Western Civilization – Dandelion Salad

  2. Imagine the apoplectic outrage if something like this was perpetrated on Arlington cemetery, or any one of the thousands of Christian edifices around the world, or a quaint little village in the Swiss alps?
    We’d never hear the end of it.
    War would be declared.
    And humanity would continue its tragic, pathetic decline.

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