Aerial view of houses on a slope at abandoned Palestinian Village Lifta. Has no parallel anywhere i Olivier Fittusi

Abandoned Palestinian Village in Jerusalem Named One of 25 Endangered World Monuments

The World Monuments Fund, which publishes its list every two years, was among voices blocking the building of a luxury real estate project at the site

The abandoned village of Lifta — one of the few intact abandoned Palestinian villages in Israel — has been named by the World Monuments Fund as one of 25 at-risk sites around the world.

According to the New York-based nonprofit group, Lifta has no parallel anywhere in the Middle East. The village, on a slope at the entrance to Jerusalem, is one of the few abandoned Palestinian villages to be frozen in time; most of the rest were either demolished or repopulated by Jewish residents.

In recent years, real estate developers sought to build a luxury neighborhood at the village — plans that the World Monuments Fund urged officials to reject.

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The site also appears on UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites, but following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order for Israel to prepare to withdraw from UNESCO, Israel is not expected to push for the village to make the World Heritage Site list, putting its future in danger.

Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi

Another site on the World Monuments Fund’s list is the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt — one of two remaining synagogues in a city that once had 12. The roof of the synagogue, which can hold 700 people, has collapsed. Water now seeps into the walls and floors, endangering the entire structure.

Egypt’s antiquities authority recently approved a budget of 40 million Egyptian pounds ($2.3 million) to repair the building. The synagogue is one of the last remnants of the city’s ancient Jewish community, which once numbered 40,000 and today is made up of just a few elderly people.

The sites on the World Heritage Fund's list, published every two years, are divided into categories; the first covers ancient sites that have become battlegrounds. These include the main market in Aleppo, Syria, the Al-Hadba minaret of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq, that was destroyed by the Islamic State, and the ancient Yemenite city of Taiz.

Other endangered sites have been afflicted by natural disasters like the Caribbean islands struck by hurricanes and the Italian town Amatrice that was racked by an earthquake last year.

The World Monuments Fund also mentions sites in Montgomery, Alabama, linked to the civil rights movement. While some of the city’s historic buildings have been turned into museums, others have been neglected or wiped out by massive urban development.

Sites affected by climate change include a pier in Blackpool, England, which was damaged by the rising sea.  

Also on the list are modern sites such as buildings built in New Delhi after World War II, and the Sirius Building in Sydney. The latter is an icon of Brutalist architecture from the 1970s whose preservation is a subject of heated debate in Australia. Rural areas on the at-risk list include Tebaida Leonesa in Spain. 

Roland Unger/World Monuments Fund
Philip Logan, AIA, AP LEED/World
Glenn Harper/World Monuments Fund
Noriyuki Kawanishi/World Monuments Fund
Escuela del Patrimonio Cultural/World Monuments Fund
The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images/ World Monuments Fund

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