Israeli Doc ‘The Ruins of Lifta’ Is a Vital Study of Loss and Memory


In her 2002 book The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym argues that nostalgia comes in two main forms: restorative, which focuses on the rebuilding of a lost home, whether literal, figurative or both; and reflective, which dwells in the experience of loss, memory and ruin. The Ruins of Lifta, a new documentary by Israeli Jewish directors Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky, explores both nostalgic tendencies, often putting them in conversation and conflict. The result — vital, complicated and flawed — is necessary viewing.

Lifta has already been ruined once, and is about to be ruined again. In 1948 the Israeli government exiled the village’s Palestinian residents, and today the village — the only one within Israeli borders never to have been either settled by Israelis or razed — is a proposed site for development of a planned upscale Israeli neighborhood. Will this home needing rebuilding instead be built over? Daum, motivated by the Holocaust survivors in his own family, feels a deep connection to the displacement of Palestinians during the Nakba. After he meets Yacoub Odeh, who was expelled from Lifta in 1948 and is leading the fight against the developers, the film begins to take shape.

Grounded in the art of listening, The Ruins of Lifta builds a powerful, personal, political conversation between Palestinians and Israelis looking to live differently. There are moments of tension and awkwardness, as in a reconciliatory conversation between Yacoub and Daum’s Holocaust survivor friend Dasha, but the discomfort is necessary. Rather than sitting in tragedy or working to undo history, the voices in this film are asking what comes after nostalgia — in the real, swiftly approaching future, which depends so much on the past.

The Ruins of Lifta

Directed by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky

First Run Features

Opens September 23, Lincoln Plaza Cinema