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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ruins of Lifta

Lifta is an abandoned Arab village at the northern edge of Jerusalem. It sits on the site of ancient settlements, but was a living village up until 1948. Since the founding of Israel, there has been a question what to do with the remaining architecture of Lifta, with plans ranging from preservation to bulldozing. In 1965 many abandoned Arab villages were bulldozed, but Lifta was not.
In 2005, the magazine Architecture of Israel reviewed the master plan of Kertesz-Groag Architects for Lifta. Though I won't go into the details of the generally negative review, I found two interesting points in the article, written by Ami Ran.
  • First, Ran writes that "One can still sense in it the way of life that was halted in the start of the last century." It occurs to me that this is part of the special magic of ruins. While reconstruction and preservation tries very hard to bring a site back to life, it often falls short of the magic that ruins possess. Somehow a site that is returned to a moment in time feels like a museum - somehow fake - while a ruin feels genuine and captures, or rather, retains the spirit of the past.
  • Secondly, Ran quotes Yochanan Mintzker as writing that three possibilities exist for Lifta: complete destruction, partial reuse, or preservation as is. Of these three, the last is the most preferable. However, as we have pointed out on a number of occasions, a fourth possibility is not preservation, but rather, letting the buildings continue in their current state without intervention. The case of Lifta is specifically susceptible to this treatment.


  1. I found this blog because of Simmel's text and loved it. I've been in Israel in 2013 and also in Lifta and was pleased to be able to visit some ruins in Israel in a way that I can't here in my home São Paulo -- unrestrictedly going in and outside the sites, looking at everything, taking pictures and even climbing and standing upon them. Besides Lifta, I visited the fort on Neve Ilan and the former british headquarter on the way between the villages of Kiriyat Yarim and Abu Ghosh.

    1. Thanks for your kind words! I'm happy that you've enjoyed our blog.