Battir in the West Bank

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean

© flickr.com - Labour Palestine/cc-by-2.0

© flickr.com – Labour Palestine/cc-by-2.0

Battir is a Palestinian village in the West Bank, 6.4 km west of Bethlehem, and southwest of Jerusalem. It was inhabited during the Byzantine and Islamic periods, and in the Ottoman and British Mandate censuses its population was recorded as primarily Muslim. In former times, the city lay along the route from Jerusalem to Bayt Jibrin. Battir is situated just above the modern route of the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, which served as the armistice line between Israel and Jordan from 1949 until the Six-Day War, when it was occupied by Israel. In 2007, Battir had a population of about 4,000. In 2014, Battir was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as Land of Olives and Vines — Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir.

Battir has a unique irrigation system that utilizes man-made terraces and a system of manually diverting water via sluice gates. The Roman-era network is still in use, fed by seven springs which have provided fresh water for 2,000 years. The irrigation system runs through a steep valley near the Green Line where a section of the Ottoman-era Hejaz Railway was laid. Battir’s eight main clans take turns each day to water the village’s crops. Hence a local saying that in Battir “a week lasts eight days, not seven.” According to anthropologist Giovanni Sontana of UNESCO, “There are few, if any, places left in the immediate region where such a traditional method of agriculture remains, not only intact, but as a functioning part of the village.”

© Idobi/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - Labour Palestine/cc-by-2.0
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© flickr.com - Labour Palestine/cc-by-2.0
In 2007, the village of Battir sued the Israeli Defense Ministry to try to force them to change the planned route of the Israeli West Bank barrier which would cut through part of Battir’s 2,000-year-old irrigation system, which is still in use. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), which approved the fence’s original route in 2005, changed its mind and wrote in a 13-page policy paper that Battir’s terraces were also an Israeli heritage site and should be carefully safeguarded, stating that agricultural terraces around Battir attesting to millennia-old methods of farming in the region will be irreversibly harmed by the fence, no matter how narrow its route. It was the first time an Israeli government agency expressed opposition to the construction of a segment of the fence. This affidavit was one of four expert opinions that contended the fence would decimate the unique farming system, and in early May 2013, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the Defense Ministry must explain “why should the route of the separation barrier in the Battir village area not be nullified or changed, and alternately why should the barrier not be reconfigured.” The Defense Ministry has to submit a new plan for securing the border that will not destroy Battir by July 2, 2013. A separate petition against the separation barrier has also been filed by the nearby illegal Israeli settlement Beitar Illit, fearing that it would prevent them from expanding their illegal activities.

In 2011 UNESCO awarded Battir a $15,000 prize for “Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes” due to its care for its ancient terraces and irrigation system. In May 2012, the Palestinian National Authority sent a delegation to UNESCO headquarters in Paris to discuss the possibility of adding Battir to its World Heritage List. The PNA’s deputy minister of tourism, Hamadan Taha, said that the organization wants to “maintain it as a Palestinian and humanitarian heritage,” making special note of its historic terraces and irrigation systems. the nomination of Battir was blocked at the last minute because the formal submission was too late. In a document concerning the damage the separation barrier would do to the area, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) noted “The struggle of our neighbors to name the area a World Heritage Site places us in an embarrassing position, and we should work together with them to protect the landscape.” In January 2015, according to the village mayor Akram Badir, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the IDF request to build the separation barrier through the village.

Read more on WelcomeToPalestine.com – Battir, UNESCO.org – Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir and Wikipedia Battir (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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