Israeli court grants reprieve to abandoned Palestinian village

February 7, 2012

A Jerusalem court has ruled against plans to build a luxury housing development on the remains of a Palestinian village abandoned in the 1948 war that followed the establishment of Israel.

The court battle was seen as a test case for preservation of Palestinian heritage in Israel, where remains of Arab villages whose residents either fled or were expelled in the fighting have largely vanished under modern buildings, parks and planted forests.

A court petition filed by former residents of Lifta and their descendants, joined by Israeli activists, argued that the ruins of the village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the most extensive remains of such a site from the pre-state era, should be preserved.

The petition cited opinions by preservation experts and architects who said the development plans did not meet local and international preservation standards.

A judge in the Jerusalem administrative court ruled Monday that an invitation for bids for construction at the site should be canceled, effectively nullifying the plans.

Sami Ershied, the lawyer who represented the petitioners, said that the court had “dealt courageously” with the case and had affirmed that the villagers’ “history and heritage deserve protection under the law.”

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