A collective memory: Lifta (لفتا‎)

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Mr Ya’coub Odeh

The story of Mr Ya’coub Odeh, 74 (b.1940), a native of Lifta.

Notes taken 10 May 2014.

“They[1] came to Lifta. They burned the Mukhtar’s house[2]. Two days later they burned twenty houses. Everyone wanted to leave, but the Zionist gangs forced the Jews to stay and the Arabs to leave. The Zionist gangs controlled the main entrance to Lifta [Ya’coub points up the hill toward Jerusalem] – so they controlled the whole village. They blocked the road to Jerusalem.

I remember that time. They were shooting to stop people going to Jerusalem.

I remember we spent some days down in a house in the lower village. I remember my mother was making a fire for cooking. My brother came running and shouting, ‘Mama, the Jews, the Jews, shooting!’

I remember my father carrying my small sister on one shoulder and my brother on the other shoulder, down the valley away from the village. My father sent us in a truck. There were many families, many children.

We went to Abu Ghosh. At the entrance there we heard, ‘Don’t come in, you will die!’ Someone had been shot the previous day.

We went to Latrun, where there is now Canada Park standing on three villages – Imwas, Yalo, Deir Ayyub. We went to Imwas, then to Beituniya and to Ramallah. It was very cold, winter.

Lifta was one of the first villages cleansed, kicked out. We went knocking on doors, asking for food. Can you imagine you leaving your home? We had everything. We were like kings on our land. Now we were asking for food, for help.

Two months later Deir Yassin happened.[3] None of the families remained after the massacre.

After that we came back to the village, but it was empty, everything was burned. Since that time, we can’t return.

My father died one year after the ’67 War. He was sad that he had to ask for help after we left the village.

After that, I came with my uncles, aunts, to the village. They said, ‘Here was my house! Here was your house! Here was the mosque!’

I brought my mother back. She cried, ‘For what?! Here is my father, my mother, my brother. For what all this?!’

There was a Jewish man in one house. He invited us in – ‘I cannot give you coffee, tea, juice. I have only water. This is not a celebration. I did not do this. Where is Ahmed [Ya’coub’s father]?!’ My mother said my father was not here, ‘but here is his son.’ The Jewish man had gone to school with my father.

The Israelis were afraid we could come back to our village, so they broke the roofs of the houses so we couldn’t return.

Now Jews come from the world to live in our houses. I have the Israeli ID, and I cannot live in my house.”

 Mr Ya'coub Odeh, born 1940 in Lifta village, age 8 when forced to leave Lifta in February 1948. "You will go home and you will arrive happy. But I can't go to my home, to my grandfather in the graveyard. I will never forget, my world is here."

Mr Ya’coub Odeh, born 1940 in Lifta village, age 8 when forced to leave Lifta in February 1948. “You will go home and you will arrive happy. But I can’t go to my home, to my grandfather in the graveyard. I will never forget, my world is here.”

Steps to an empty home.

Steps to an empty home.

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The distinctive architecture of Lifta.

“Lifta is a Palestinian village located to the northwest of Jerusalem, divided by the 1949 Armistice green line leaving part of it in the West,  the other part in East Jerusalem. It has been inhabited for over 2000 years, long before the establishment of Israel.

As a result of the Nakba in 48 and the massacre in the nearby village of Deir Yassine, the remaining inhabitants were forced to leave seeking protection. Like in other parts of Palestine occupied in 48, the Israeli government considered Lifta and its remains as absentee property, while many of its property owners and residents live as close as 500 m away, in East Jerusalem.

Currently, the Jerusalem Municipality is proceeding with its plan to turn Lifta into a Jewish luxury residential commercial neighbourhood, deleting any presence of Palestinian cultural heritage. Today, to save Lifta, descendants with activists and friends are appealing to the Israeli Court against this violation and illegal act.”

Centre for Jerusalem Studies

"No one has the right to confiscate my home, remove my history, tell me not to return."

“No one has the right to confiscate my home, remove my history, tell me not to return.” – Mr. Odeh

Walking down into Lifta towards the spring.

Walking down into Lifta towards the spring.

Israeli children swim in the spring. "Now the Israelis call it 'Ein Neftoah', as if Lifta didn't exist before." - Mr. Odeh

Israeli children swim in the spring.
“Now the Israelis call it ‘Ein Neftoah’, as if Lifta didn’t exist before.” – Mr. Odeh

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“The community still comes on Land Day, Nakba Day, to clean the garden, the spring, the graveyard. This is opposite to what Ben-Gurion said that ‘the old people will die and forget.’ But the old people didn’t die. We are keeping their message in the young generations.” – Mr. Odeh

 

[1] ‘They” refers to the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary group that existed during the time of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948); the Haganah later became the core of the Israel Occupation Forces.

[2] On 11 January 1948, http://web.archive.org/web/20030719190040/http://alcor.concordia.ca/~pal/History/Villages/lif@vil.html

[3] The Deir Yassin massacre of over 100 Palestinian villagers by the Jewish Irgun and Lehi militia groups on 9-10 April 1948, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deir_Yassin_massacre

For more information on Lifta, visit the Lifta Society.

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