Friday, December 14, 2018

Al Mahattah tent demolished by Israeli military, despite UNESCO protection in Battir


By Naomi Kundera - July 09, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Battir] [UNESCO World Heritage Site] [demolition]

The Israeli military destroyed a well-known and important community space in the UNESCO-protected valley of Battir early morning on July 2.

Al Mahattah, owned and operated by Battir native Mohammed Abdullah, was a tented café, organic garden and community space.
 
A plethora of weddings, birthday parties, and summer activities such as movie and dance nights were held there over the past five years of its existence.
 
But the Mahattah tent was more than just another business for the people of Battir and its visitors.
 
“The importance of al Mahattah,” Hassan Muamer, UNESCO Representative for the municipality of Battir, explained to Palestine Monitor, “is not only a tent that gives some services or some drinks for people. Its existence has meaning.
 
“This land, it was neglected after 1948 and no one was using it. Israel had always instilled fear in anyone who would do anything in this land.
 
“This project is the first project that took action on the ground in total non-violent resilience.”
 
The city and valley of Battir was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2014. The ancient spring, aqueduct system, and the terraces integral preservation is what makes this area unique enough to receive UN protection.
 
Although al Mahattah was not technically located in what UNESCO classified as a “core” area, the spring water and aqueduct system that is protected flows through and distributes water to all the terraces in the area.
 
“We excluded it from the core zone of the protection because of political reasons as this area is between the ’67 and green line border… we didn’t want to go to a political conflict on border issues,” Muamer explained.
 
Mohammed Abdullah told Palestine Monitor that al Muhattah tent was on 300 square meters of his three dunams private property.
 
The Jerusalem municipality issued a demolition notice that Abdullah appealed in the Israeli court. It was rejected the same day, but Abdullah’s lawyer never gave him the notice.
 
Abdullah found out al Mahattah was being destroyed after it already began at five in the morning.
 
There is little hope for Abdullah to gain any retribution in a legal battle with the Israeli courts.
 
UNESCO has failed to visit al Mahattah or contact Abdullah or Muamer, despite the fact that there could be a case to issue their protection from the spring water that reaches Abdullah’s land.
 
But in Muamer’s opinion, he doesn’t care to wait to hear from UNESCO.
 
“We know these reactions might take months or years. And people already know the place and it’s already meaningful for us, so we want to start working on [rebuilding] it.”
 
In communal solidarity, World Cup matches are being projected in the demolition site and Battir residents have begun collecting small funds to rebuild al Mahattah.
 

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