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[[image:Template:Location map Mandatory Palestine|200px|Lifta is located in Template:Location map Mandatory Palestine]]
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Lifta 047
Abandoned homes on the hillside
Arabic لفتا
Also Spelled Lefta
District 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
Population 2,958 (1948[1])
Area 8,743 dunums

8.7 km²

Date of depopulation January 1948[2]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Jewish forces
Current localities Western suburb of Jerusalem

Lifta (Arabic: لفتا‎; Hebrew: מי נפתוחMei Niftoach, lit. spring of the corridor) was an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem depopulated in 1948. It is believed to have existed since Biblical times. The village and spring for which it is named are now a park on the hillside between the western entrance to Jerusalem and the Romema neighbourhood.


Lifta 049

Street in Lifta

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. [3][4] The Romans and Byzantines called it Nephtho, and the Crusaders referred to it as Clepsta.

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 a number of crops, including wheat, barley, olives, and fruit, as well as on orchards and vineyards.[5]

In 1834, there was a battle in which the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha and his army defeated local rebels, led by al-Shaykh Qasim al-Ahmad, a prominent local ruler. However, the Qasim al-Ahmad family remained powerful for years after this battle. They 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.[6]

In the late nineteenth century, Lifta was described as situated on the side of a steep hill, with a spring and rock-cut tombs to the south.[7]

In 1917 the villagers received the British forces with white flags and, as a symbolic gesture, the keys to the village. [8]

In mid-1940, Lifta was predominantly Muslim, with a population of 2,550. 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. [9]


Lifta in relation to Jerusalem in the 1870s

In the 1948 war, one of the goals of the Haganah was securing the western exit of the city. Towards this end, Arabs were evicted 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. [9] The next day, a grenade was thrown at a Jewish bus. According to Palestinian historian 'Arif al-'Arif, a coffeehouse in Lifta was attacked by members of the Stern Gang, killing six and wounding seven. [9] 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. [10]



Lifta pool, 2007

Lifta was known to be among the wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem area, and their embroiderers were reported to be among the most artistic.[3] 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.[11] The married women of Lifta used the distinctive conical shaṭweh head-dress [4], embellished with their bride-money. Beside being used in Bethlehem, it was only used in Lifta, Ain Karm, Beit Jala and Beit Sahur.[12]

People with notable ties to Lifta include Ali Hasan Abunimah. His mother was from Lifta.[13]

See also


  1. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics also gives village area
  2. Morris, 2006, p. xviii, town #363.
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter and Kamal Abdulfattah (1977), Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 115. Quoted in Khalidi (1992), p. 301
  6. Khalidi (1992), p. 301
  7. Conder, Claude Reignier and H.H. Kitchener: The Survey of Western Palestine. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.(1881) III:18. Quoted in Khalidi (1992), p. 301
  8. Gilbert, 157-168
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2
  10. Unofficial monument to a decisive time in history
  11. Stillman, p. 42, 44 (ill.)
  12. Stillman p.37
  13. Ali Abunimah: Commentator and author


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