Laura van Rij (LR):What is your connection to Lifta?
Mohammed Abu Leil (ML): I was born in Lifta,I was six or seven when the battle began. I only did the first class in the school in Lifta. The children from most of the villages around Lifta send their children to our school. We have the same traditions as in other villages, but Liftawi´s are known to be highly educated, interested in education.We lived next to Jewish people. I remember Yaakov used to come to us with his motorcycle to get milk from my uncle. I remember Jewish people from Aleppo coming; they lived in my uncles house, on the second floor. The Jews spoke Arabic fluently. We lived peacefully. My uncle’s house was in Romema, near the Jerusalem Post. Last year they demolished it and build a big building there, with five floors.
LR: Do you remember 1948?
ML: In 1948 we already lived in this house (his house on Mount Scopus). One of our relatives went to America and when he came back he advised us to leave Lifta and build here, where the climate is better. We came here in the thirties.
LR: Did your family take things with them from Lifta when they moved?
ML: I remember that one of my relatives buried many plates from China in front of his home. He thought we would be able to go back after the war. He managed to take them out afterwards; there was no one in the house yet. Most people thought that they would return to their houses after a week, so they left everything there. They took only the key, they are still waiting with that key. In the beginning people tried to return, but it was designated a military zone, no one was allowed to enter. One returned, he was shot, the second was captured and the third was brought back by the UN.
LR: Do you go back to Lifta often?
ML: Sometimes we go to Lifta with the family to have lunch there, looking at our collapsing homes. My grandfather was buried there, his house is there, his sheep ate the grass there.Nowadays I go every week, because a lot of relatives from abroad come that want to see the village, to remember it. Next time will probably be this Saturday. One of my friends is coming and wants to go there, to remember, to see. Most of my friends are from Lifta.
LR: Did you ever talk to people living on Lifta´s land right now?
ML: I met one of the orthodox Jews at the pool. It is the worst dirty pool because no one is taking care of it. And they swim there! I remember when I was seven years old, the pool was so clear, like a mirror. The women would bring that water to their families. No one is taking care of the well now, and they are not taking care of the trees. That is why there is no good fruit anymore. And the cemetery…in May we went there with big busses to clean the graves. We clean the cemetery, but no one can live for even one day in his home.
LR: What would you like to happen to the village?
ML: We hope they don´t demolish the village, that would be very merciful from God. It´s a paradise here.I´m afraid for my grandfather’s grave, I´m afraid that there will be a dancing club on his grave.I can´t forget Lifta, when they demolish it, let me be buried in my home.
The interview is for the project "It's all about people - Narratives from Lifta" done by Laura van Rij as part of her M.A. in public history at The University of Amsterdam.
Interview location: Mohammed´s house, Jerusalem.
June 28, 2013.