JERUSALEM (AFP) — Palestinian officials have filed an urgent request with UNESCO to receive World Heritage status for a West Bank village whose ancient terraces are under threat from the Israeli separation barrier.
The request to put the agricultural community of Battir on the UN cultural agency’s list of protected sites was filed earlier this month, a village official said on Sunday. “We applied 15 days ago and we heard today that they have accepted (to consider) our application,” said Mahmud Abu Arab, a member of Battir’s village council.
“They will send a delegation to check the area,” he told AFP, without saying when the visit would take place. Battir was added to UNESCO’s tentative list in 2012, and the UN body will vote on the application to upgrade its status in June. Battir, which straddles the Green Line just south of Jerusalem, is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system which is still used by the villagers for their crops. But the village has come under threat from Israeli plans to erect part of the West Bank separation barrier there, which experts say will irretrievably damage the water system.
The Palestinians won membership in UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition, including an emergency application for Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity which was approved in June the following year, despite Israeli objections. Battir residents are currently locked in a high-profile court battle to change the route of the barrier, which is being led by Friends of the Earth Middle East and supported by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority.