Antiquities and Archaeology Conservation Israel

West Bank barrier could split 4,000-year-old farming village

Advocates hope Battir’s addition to list of endangered heritage sites will highlight its importance ahead of Supreme Court hearing

The ancient irrigated terraces of Battir were added to the World Monuments Fund list of endangered heritage sites earlier this month

Israel’s Supreme Court is due to consider whether the route of a West Bank separation barrier will run through a 4,000-year-old farming village near Bethlehem. Conservationists and activists are hoping the ancient irrigated terraces of Battir will be saved since the World Monuments Fund added the site to its endangered list earlier this month.

Israel began planning the new separation barrier in 2002 after a wave of suicide bombings, but many locals, conservationists and advocates say that most of the route runs through, and not around, Palestinian farmland and personal property.

Palestinians from Battir’s local council joined concerned Jewish neighbours and the non-governmental organisation Friends of Earth Middle East to fight for an interim injunction against the proposed route through Battir. Even Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority opposed the plan. In a landmark ruling last year, the High Court ordered the Israeli Army to reroute the barrier.

A Supreme Court hearing is due to take place on 10 December to consider the army’s latest suggested route, but locals and advocates are concerned this could still harm cultural heritage and impose hardship on the community. They hope that Battir’s importance will be better understood, now that it has been named an endangered site.

The court must balance security needs with the protection of world heritage, says Gidon Bromberg, the head of Friends of Earth Middle East.

The World Monuments Fund is the second international body to recognise Battir’s historical and cultural value. In 2011, Battir won a Unesco prize for its preservation of ancient agricultural terraces and canals, dating to the Byzantine era and still used daily by farmers there.

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Comments

15 Nov 13
17:43 CET

JULIE COPELAND, MYTILINI

Yet another appalling demonstration of the Israelis' brutal lack of respect & appreciation of a history, culture & an ancient way of life not their own. Bring back the Philistines!

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