OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: 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 U.N. cultural agency’s list of protected sites was filed earlier this month, a village official said 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.”
Battir was added to UNESCO’s tentative list in 2012, and the U.N. body will vote on the application to upgrade its status in June.
Straddling the Green Line just south of Jerusalem, Battir is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system, which villagers still use for their crops.
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 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.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2014, on page 16.