Some 500 residents of the partially destroyed Palestinian village of Lifta recently returned to their homes and lands on Friday May 16, commemorating the Nakba and vowing to return. Four generations of family members came as Lifta residents walked through their lands, danced, sang, visited with neighbours and enjoyed a beautiful day in their village.
Few villages captured the tragedy of the Nakba, the 1948 dispossession of the Palestinian people, – like the village of Lifta. Before that dramatic year, Lifta was known to be among the wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem area.
During the 1948 war, Israeli paramilitary militias launched a series of attacks on Lifta, including the burning of the Mukhtar’s (head of the village) home on 11 January, while two days later 20 houses close to the entrance of the area (Khalit Tarha) were blown up. As result of these attacks against the inhabitants of the village, women and children in particular were forced to flee the eastern part of the village from the attacking militias. Following the April 1948 massacre in the nearby village of Deir Yassin, the remaining inhabitants of Lifta were forced to leave.
Many of those who were evicted from their homes in 1948 found refuge with their families in the part of the village lying on the Arab side of the Armistice line of 1949 in what is now known as East Jerusalem. The expansion of the Jerusalem municipal boundaries following the 1967 war created a situation whereby Palestinian Jerusalemites were given permanent residency status and IDs allowing them to visit the ruins of their side of the village, but not to assert any claims of legal title over the land that is theirs by right. Many of the Lifta refugees went to Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank.