October 20, 2013 – Battir’s Ancient Irrigated Landscape Declared an Endangered Cultural Site on the World Monument Fund’s 2014 ‘Watch List’

Battir’s Ancient Irrigated Landscape Declared an Endangered Cultural Site on the World Monument Fund’s 2014 ‘Watch List’

October 20, 2013

Every two years, the ‘World Monument Fund‘ an international organization dedicated to the preservation of unique cultural sites, calls international attention to cultural heritage sites around the globe that are at risk. The 2014 list has identified Battir’s ancient irrigated terraced landscape as an endangered cultural site, because of plans to build the separation barrier through the middle of the Battir landscape.

Earlier this year, EcoPeace Middle East and the village council of Battir turned to the High Court of Justice in Israel and obtained an interim injunction to stop the separation barrier from proceeding to be built. In a precedent case the Nature and Parks Authority of Israel joined the objection to the barrier proposed by the Israeli military, in effect causing a split between government authorities in the same government. The Israeli military remains unconvinced as to the merit of the environmental claim and is determined to build the barrier, despite undisputed expert opinion given that the proposed barrier will destroy the heritage values of the site. The case returns to the High Court for final decision on December 10th.

The Mayor of the village of Battir, Mr. Akram Bader, pleased with the listing said, “these ancient irrigated terraces date back 4,000 years and represent a remarkable environmental heritage of tremendous ecological and cultural significance to all the people of the region and the world. This is a landscape produced by centuries of work, comprised of a billion stones being collected and piled one on top of another, generation after generation to enable traditional farming to take place, using spring water stored in small pools, channeled to the terraced fields by open canals. “

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace, explained; “the listing of Battir on the Watch List is a sign of recognition of the international interest in the site and concern to its possible demise. The legitimate needs of security must be balanced with the obligation to protect world heritage. Alternative security arrangements have been recommended, including by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, but these have been rejected by the military. The fate of this heritage site is now dependent on the decision of the High Court of Israel in December.”

Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, former Culture Programme Specialist in UNESCO Ramallah Office, added that “the World Monument Watch is Battir’s second recognition by international specialized bodies. On 24 May 2011, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, awarded Battir with the Melina Mercouri Prize, having an international jury assessed the value of this outstanding cultural landscape, the threats menacing it and the protective measures exerted by its inhabitants with the support of local and international actors. After the Watch List, and before the irreversible destruction of Battir’s ancient irrigated landscape, formal recognition as world heritage shall be given to this site, for the long-lasting benefit of Palestinians, Israelis and all Humanity alike”.

For more information, contact Gidon Bromberg; gidon@ecopeaceme.org; 0524532597

Click here for the poster from the World Monuments Fund – about Battir