The Saddest Village in Israel

Plans to build more than 250 luxury homes on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Lifta are coming to fruition. A tour among the homes of the stunning village with one of its last living refugees

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Yacoub Odeh. “We had been kings, and within an hour we became beggars. That’s how I joined the Palestinian national movement. All my life I have dreamed of returning.”
Yacoub Odeh. “We had been kings, and within an hour we became beggars. That’s how I joined the Palestinian national movement. All my life I have dreamed of returning.”Credit: Alex Levac

This is the saddest village in Israel and probably the most beautiful, too. There’s nothing else like it: a ghost village, many of whose homes are still standing, with a hole in the roof, courtesy of Israel, to prevent them for being reused. The 60 or so homes that remain, of two and sometimes three stories, are planted on the slope of the hill and blend masterfully into the natural landscape. Each floor of the buildings, fashioned from stone and graced with arches, tells the story of a different period and a different style of construction. Lifta is a rare architectural gem, a monument to what was once here in this country, mute testimony to a way of life that was abruptly cut off. A mosque, olive presses and a flour mill, remains of picturesque balconies, a tiled path leading to the spring, which was one the village’s throbbing heart and whose waters are now in use by yeshiva students and “hilltop youth” in the “between the times” vacation that follows Tisha B’Av.

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