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Lifta 047.jpg
Depopulated homes on the hillside
Lifta is located in Mandatory Palestine
Arabic لفتا
Name meaning Lifta, personal name[1]
Also spelled Lefta
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Coordinates 31°47′43″N 35°11′47″E / 31.79528°N 35.19639°E / 31.79528; 35.19639Coordinates: 31°47′43″N 35°11′47″E / 31.79528°N 35.19639°E / 31.79528; 35.19639
Palestine grid 168/133
Population 2,958 (1948[2])
Area 8,743 dunams
8.7 km²
Date of depopulation January 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Western suburb of Jerusalem
Lifta in relation to Jerusalem in the 1870s

Lifta (Arabic: لفتا‎; Hebrew: מי נפתוחMei Niftoach, lit. spring of the corridor) was a Palestinian Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The population was driven out during the Arab-Jewish hostilities of 1947/48 and the efforts to relieve the Siege of Jerusalem (1948). The village, which is mainly intact, is located on a hillside between the western entrance to Jerusalem and the Romema neighbourhood. In 2012, plans to rebuild the village as an upscale neighborhood were rejected by the Jerusalem District Court.[4]


The site has been populated since ancient times; Nephtoah (Hebrew: נפתח) is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a border between the Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It was the northernmost demarcation point of the territory of the Tribe of Judah.[5][6] The Romans and Byzantines called it Nephtho, and the Crusaders referred to it as Clepsta.[7] The remains of a court-yard home from the Crusader period remains in the centre of the village.[8]

Ottoman era[edit]

In 1596, Lifta was a village in the Ottoman Empire, nahiya (subdistrict) of Jerusalem under the liwa' (district) of Jerusalem, and it had a population of 396. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives, fruit orchards and vineyards.[9]

In 1834, a battle took place here, during the revolt of that year. The Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha and his army fought and defeated local rebels, led by Shaykh Qasim al-Ahmad, a prominent local ruler. However, the Qasim al-Ahmad family remained powerful and ruled the region southwest of Nablus from their fortified villages of Deir Istiya and Bayt Wazan some 40 kilometers (25 mi) due north of Lifta.[10]

In 1863 Victor Guérin described Lifta as being surrounded by gardens of lemon-trees, oranges, figs, pomegranates, alms and apricots.[11] An Ottoman village list of about 1870 indicated 117 houses and a population of 395, though the population count included men only.[12] The Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine in 1883 described it as a village on the side of a steep hill, with a spring and rock-cut tombs to the south.[13]

British Mandate era[edit]

In 1917, Lifta surrendered to the British forces with white flags and, as a symbolic gesture, the keys to the village.[14]

In the 1922 census of Palestine, Lifta had a population 1,451, all Muslims,[15] increasing in the 1931 census (when Lifta was counted with "Shneller´s Quarter"), to 1,893; 1,844 Muslims, 35 Jews and 14 Christians, in a total of 410 houses.[16]

In 1945 the population of Lifta was 2,250, all Arabs, and the total land area was 8,743 dunams, according to an official land and population survey.[17] 3,248 dunams were for cereals,[18] while 324 dunams were built-up (urban) land.[19]

The village had a mosque, a shrine for Shaykh Badr (a local sage), two coffee houses, a social club, and a few shops. It also had an elementary school, one for boys and one for girls. The farmers of Lifta marketed their produce in Jerusalem markets and took advantage of the city's services.[20]

1948, and after[edit]

In the 1948 war, one of the goals of the Haganah was securing the western exit of the city. Towards this end, Arabs fled from villages at the entrance to Jerusalem, among them Lifta. In 1947, the Haganah shot a Lifta resident who informed Arab forces about the departure of Jewish convoys to Tel Aviv.[20] According to historian 'Arif al-'Arif, a coffeehouse in Lifta was attacked by members of the Lehi, killing six people and wounding seven others.[20][21] After the attack, most of the inhabitants fled, but the village remained largely intact. Some 55 original stone houses are still standing but the village has never been repopulated.[22]

View of Lifta, 2011

In 2011, plans were announced to demolish the village and build a luxury development consisting of 212 luxury housing units and a hotel.[23] Former residents brought a legal petition to preserve the village as a historic site.[24] Lifta is the last remaining Arab village that was depopulated to have not been either completely destroyed or re-inhabited.[23] By 2011, three books about the Palestinian village history had been published.[25]


Lifta was known to be among the wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem area, and their embroiderers were reported to be among the most artistic.[26] Thob Ghabani bridal dresses were very popular in Lifta and in Malha. These dresses were made of ghabani, a natural cotton covered with gold color silk floral embroidery produced in Aleppo, and were much more narrow than other dresses and with sleeves which were not as wide as normal. The sides, sleeves and chest panel of the dress were all adorned with silk insets. These dresses were normally ordered from Bethlehem by the future bride.[27] The married women of Lifta used the distinctive conical shaṭweh head-dress [1], embellished with their bride-money. Beside being used in Bethlehem, it was only used in Lifta, Ain Karm, Beit Jala and Beit Sahur.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 322
  2. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics also gives village area
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #363
  4. ^ Court rules against demolition of empty Lifta homes
  5. ^ MikraNet,; accessed 2 September 2015.
  6. ^ Nephtoah Bible Dictionary
  7. ^ Heritage conservation in Israel: Lifta
  8. ^ Pringle, 1997, p. 66
  9. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 115. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 301
  10. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 301
  11. ^ Guérin, 1868, pp. 252-256
  12. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 157
  13. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, III:18. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 301
  14. ^ Gilbert, 1936, pp. 157-68
  15. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  16. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 41
  17. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 57
  18. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 103
  19. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 153
  20. ^ a b c Rami Nashashibi (June 1996). "Litfa". Destroyed Palestinian Villages. Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society, Birzeit University. Archived from the original on 19 July 2003. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  21. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 119-121
  22. ^ Esther Zandberg,Unofficial monument to a decisive time in history,, 25 November 2004; accessed 2 September 2015.
  23. ^ a b "Israel moves to turn deserted Palestinian village into luxury housing project",, 21 January 2011.
  24. ^ Knell, Yolande (30 May 2011). "Legal battle over an abandoned Palestinian village". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Davis, 2011, p. 30
  26. ^ Woven legacy, woven language, Saudi Aramco World, Volume 42, Number 1.
  27. ^ Stillman, 1979, pp. 42, 44 (ill.)
  28. ^ Stillman, 1979, p. 37


External links[edit]