World heritage at risk in the Palestinian village of Battir, Palestine

Battir listed as World Heritage Site in danger due to separation wall impacts that threaten ancient agricultural oil and vine terraces


The village of Battir confronts losing its international recognition as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in June 2014 due to policies of Israel in the West Bank. Six kilometers away from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, land of olives and vines, Battir’s ancient agricultural terraces are supported by a network of irrigation channels fed by underground sources. Tradition, heritage and sustainable soil use are words that go together during centuries in Battir, with a traditional system of distribution used by a number of families established in the land for centuries. However, the start of construction of the Annexation Wall that may isolate farmers from fields they have cultivated for centuries, led the UNESCO to include the property on the List of World Heritage sites in Danger after finding that the landscape had become vulnerable under the impact of socio-cultural and geo-political transformations that could bring irreversible damage to its authenticity and integrity.

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Basic Data
NameWorld heritage at risk in the Palestinian village of Battir, Palestine
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesOlives
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population4500
Start Date01/01/2002
International and Financial InstitutionsUNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from France
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersUNESCO
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseLand demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Fostering a culture of peace
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The recognition of UNESCO of Battir as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Danger, and how this case raised awareness in the international community of how the environment would be negatively impacted by construction of the Wall in the area, together with the decision of the Israel’s High Court ruled to freeze state plans to build part of Israel’s “Separation” Wall that would have split Battir, can be considered a success for Battir and Palestinian claims against the wall and its environmental impacts.
Sources and Materials

The Environmental Impacts Assessment of The Israeli Segregation Plan on Battir Village

Jad Isaac, Walid Halayqa, Jane Hilal, Anwar QubajaManal El-Butmah & Nael Jubran

Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ)
[click to view]


Battir: a win for all Palestinians
[click to view]

Media Links

UNESCO: Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir
[click to view]

Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines - Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir, inscribed on World Heritage List and on List of World Heritage in Danger
[click to view]

Other Documents

[click to view]

Battir 2
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJesus Marcos Gamero. Environmental Justice in Palestine Project. AlHaq / Heinrich Boll, [email protected]
Last update31/03/2017