BATTIR AND SURROUNDINGS, PALESTINE
- Keywords: Palestine, Cultural Landscape, Battir, Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape, olives, agriculture.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
The Cultural Landscape of Battir and its surroundings is in the Tentative List of UNESCO (named: “Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape (as a pilot site of the serial nomination “Palestine: Land of olives and vines”), date of submission: 25/05/2012, criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(v), category: cultural, ref.: 5748.
- Tentative List of UNESCO
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
The Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape is the first site of a key serial feature within the larger Palestinian Central Highlands cultural landscape, which characterizes the Central West Bank. The Central Highlands, with an area of nearly 3,500 square kilometres stretching from Nablus in the north to Hebron in the south, is defined as one of the five Palestinian “agroecological zones” by its location, rainfall and altitude. Within the property are kilometers of hand-built terrace walls, necessary to hold the shallow soils on steep, stony slopes, vegetables once grew on these terraces, now they provide the slopes for row of olives. Olives also grow in groves. This visually spectacular landscape also contains many other elements: a prehistoric hilltop, fortifications, roman graves, villages of ancient origin, fields of many different type and date, irrigation system and the features that made the landscape work for people struggling to gain a livelihood from it. Old tracks, contemporary with the fields, wind between them, among the fields and terraces are stone-houses, watchtowers, clearance cairns (rujoum) and steps and ramps between the terraces. Overall, these things form a cultural landscape of considerable scientific interest and beauty. Especially is this so in a Palestinian context where extents of such quality landscape have become quite rare under the pressures of modem development. This nomination refers to the concept of “Cultural Landscape” as a whole, including within the property the open landscape, characterized by extensive terracing, water springs, ancient irrigation systems, archaeological sites and an historic core. Battir is choosen as the central point of this Cultural Landscape. Buffer zone is surrounding the proposed World Heritage property except those areas adjacent to the Armistice Line. The property is nominated as belonging to the second category of cultural landscapes, notably the organically evolved landscape. According to the classification of the land units identified during the elaboration of the “Battir Cultural Landscape Conservation and Management Plan”, the different parts of the property fall into both sub-categories: – Relic (or fossil) landscape – Continuing landscape
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Battir, Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape.
- Current denomination Battir, Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape.
- Original denomination Battir, Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape.
- Popular denomination Battir, Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape.
- Address: Battir is a Palestinian village in Bethlehem Governorate located 6.4km (horizontaldistance) north-west of Bethlehem City. Battir is bordered by Be it Jala town and Al Walaja village to the east, Husan village to the west, Husan and Al Khader to the south, and the 1949 Armistice Line (the Green Line) to the north.
- Geographical coordinates: N31 42 59.17 E35 9 2.29
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: The nominated area (with Battir as a point of reference) is located in the central West Bank, circa 7 kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, west of the top of the ridge of the mountain range that runs north to south along the Mediterranean coast. It stretches from Beit Jala, west of Bethlehem (approximately 900 meters above sea level) to the Armistice Line, (approximately 500 meters above sea level), which divides Israel from the West Bank.
- Access and transport facilities: Taxis are considered the main means of transportation in Battir, as there are 20 taxies in the village, in addition to two buses. As for the road network in the village, there are a total of 9 km of paved roads, and 8 km of unpaved roads. However, the majority of paved roads in the village lacks the basic requirements of public safety, and needs rehabilitation.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Palestinian Government.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Palestinian Government.
- Public or private organizations working in the site: Since 1980, Battir has been governed by a village council which is currently administrated by nine members appointed by the Palestinian Authority. There are also Palestinian Localities Study Bethlehem Governorate.
The name Battir originates from the Phoenician word “Batara”, which means sever and slash as it does in Arabic Other narratives refer the name to Beit At tair (the house of a bird). Battir village dates back to the Roman and Canaanite eras, and the residents originate from Iraq and Yemen.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Rural
- Geography: High Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: Battir is located at an altitude of 761m above sea level with mean annual rainfall of 653mm. The average annual temperature is 16 ªC, and the average annual humidity is about 61 percent.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: Battir is a Palestinian village in Bethlehem Governorate located 6.4km (horizontal distance) north-west of Bethlehem City. Battir is bordered by Be it Jala town and Al Walaja village to the east, Husan village to the west, Husan and Al Khader to the south, and the 1949 Armistice Line. The zone is mountainous, rising up to 1,000 meters above sea level. It is mostly hilly and rocky, and soils are often shallow.
Land uses and economical activities:The economy in Battir is dependent mainly on the Israeli labor market, which absorbs 65 percent of the village workforce. The results of a field survey for the distribution of labor by economic activity in Battir are the following: Israeli Labor Market (65%), Government or Private Employees Sector (20%), Agriculture Sector (10%), Trade Sector (3%), Industry (2%). There are many economic and industrial activities in Battir, mainly: woodwork and agricultural production, ten different workshops (blacksmith, carpentry, and aluminum), four butcheries, one bakery, 10 different services st ores, and 25 grocery stores. As a result of the Israeli restrictions, the economic status of the population has severely declined, as many citizens have lost their jobs and have been forced to work in the service sector and to return to agricultural activities and farming their lands, as a last resort for getting a minimum income.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:Agriculture activities in Battir depend mostly on rainwater. As for irrigated fields they depend on water springs and domestic harvesting cisterns. Also, there are about 3 dunums of greenhouses in the village, planted with different types of vegetables, most importantly cucumber. There are three types of aromatic medical plants in the village, thyme, sage and mint, with a total area of 8 rain-fed dunums. Battir is known for olive harvesting as about 3,640 dunums are planted with olive trees. As for the field crops and forage in Battir, cereals, in particular wheat and barley are the most cultivated crops with an area of about 31 dunums. In addition to forage crops, such as bitter vetch and common vetch
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
Battir lies perhaps five miles west of Bethlehem as the crow flies, but access is circuitous. The road runs far above the village and to its south, then drops down a steep hill facing north and levels out at the village mosque, center of the village. Battir used to be known to all visitors to the Holy Land, but that was back in the days when people took the train to Jerusalem–and when the train stopped at Battir for passengers and water. Battir was then part of a unified Palestine, not just a West Bank village. Its proximity to Israel–the Green Line follows the railroad here–probably has made village life harder, rather than easier.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
In terms of religious establishments, there are four mosques in Battir: Sayed Ash Shuhada’ (Hamza) Mosque, Fatima Az Zahra’ Mosque, Az Zawiya Mosque, and Ein Jame’ Mosque.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
There are two archaeological sites in the village: Ein Al Balad and Ein Jame’, and a Romanian bathtub.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Agriculture, terraces.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the total population of Battir in 2007 was 3,967, of whom 1,992 are males and 1,975 are females. There are 798 households living in 981 housing units. The sex ratio of males to females in the village is 100.9:100, meaning that males constitute 50.2 percent of the population, and females constitute 49.8 percent of the population. The inhabitants of Battir village are composed of several families, mainly: ‘Uweina, Batma. Batha, Kttoush, Mashni, Abu ‘Ebeid Allah, Abu Ni’ma, and Mu’ammar.
- Languages and dialects: Arabic
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Traditional lifestyle mainly based in agricultural activities.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
The extensive terracing, water springs, ancient irrigation systems, archaeological sites, monasteries, and Battir historic core.
- Living heritage
Authenticity:Comparison with other similar properties (UNESCO): The cultural landscape of the Jerusalem Southern Terraces may be compared with other terraced landscape of the Mediterranean Region, such as "Cinque Terre" along the Tyrrhenian Coast in Liguria (Italy). Another site characterized by terracing, although presenting a different typology and geographical feature, is the "Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras" in the Philippines. In both World Heritage sites, in Italy and the Philippines, terracing is a prominent feature, exactly as is the protagonist of the Jerusalem Southern Terraced Landscape. A common trait of terraced landscapes is the risk factors to which they are exposed, which determine their fragility as creation of humankind deserving special attention and care.
Universality:Olive trees and vineyards are characteristic, and deeply symbolic, features in the Palestinian cultural landscape. While both of course grow elsewhere, separately and together they are highly representative of the identity and character of the Palestinian landscape throughout history and of the ways that people have worked the land. Hand-built terraces represent good examples of adapting to nature and making productive steep and uneven terrain. They are very clear testimonies of the continuous history of human settlement in the region over the past four thousands years. Furthermore, both plants feature strongly, in narrative and metaphor, in the Quran, in the Bible and in the teaching of Jesus in particular. The olive is of course a symbol of peace and would, therefore, be a particularly apposite tree to include in a nomination from Palestine. Med-O-Med agrees to the UNESCO criteria to define the site as a Cultural Landscape: ii) The Jerusalem Southern Terraced and Battir village Landscape exhibits an important interchange of human values over several millennia (circa 3000 B.0 to present) in the Central Highlands of Palestine, represented by the continuous inhabitation of the land and its cultivation systems which determined the characterization of this cultural landscape. The ancient but still in use hand-built terraces, which vary in morphology and typology, testifies of the human work, adaptation and creativity. iii) The cultural landscape of the Battir and its surroundings bears an exceptional testimony to the traditional agricultural knowledge and practices - still living that have shaped over thousands of years the agricultural landscape of Palestine. The nominated property shows a particularly preserved area within the region that symbolizes the peasant culture of Palestine and its authentic way of living. iv) The traditional systems of irrigated terraces within the nominated property are an outstanding example of technological ensemble, which today constitute an integral part of the cultural landscape. These methods illustrate significant stages in human history as the ancient system of canalizations, still in use, dates back to Roman times. These terraces are part of a wider system of dry-stone terraces that spreads over the entire territory of the nominated property, and encompass vernacular architectures, historic roads, caves and water springs, archaeological sites and features, old plantations of olives and other fruit trees, and other cultural and natural heritage. v) The Jerusalem Southern Terraces are an outstanding example of traditional land-use, which is representative of a millenary culture and human interaction with the environment. This human-made landscape has become vulnerable under the impact of socio-cultural and geo-political transformations that may determine irreversible damage. The agricultural practices that lie at the basis of this living landscape embody one of the oldest farming methods known to humankind and constitute an important source of livelihood for the local communities.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:The agricultural style and the way of interaction between humna-being and natural environment, the terracing, the olives groves, the irrigation system, come from the islamic tradition.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
The Cultural Landscape of Battir and its surroundings is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Palestine which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5748/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/t5748.html http://academia.edu/1630892/Archaeological_investigations_and_OSL_Dating_of_Terraces_The_Case_of_Ramat_Rahel_Israel http://vprofile.arij.org/bethlehem/pdfs/EN/Battir%20Village_fs_en.pdf http://vprofile.arij.org/bethlehem/pdfs/VP/Battir_vp_en.pdf -Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ). (2008 – 2009). Bethlehem,nPalestine: Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing unit. Database, 2009. -Ministry of Health – Central Public Health Laboratory. 2006. Ramallah, Palestine: Report of the analysis of water samples – Bethlehem Governorate,2006. -Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. 2009. Ramallah, Palestine: General Census of Population and Housing Censuses, 2007. -Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). 2007/2008. Bethlehem, Palestine: Directorate of Agriculture data. -Palestinian Water Authority. 2009. Ramallah, Palestine: Quantities of Water Supply in the West Bank Governorates, 2008. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy. -Uri Davidovich, U. et al. Archaeological investigations and OSL dating of terraces at Ramat Rahel, Israel. The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel,
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.