The Palestinian village of Battir is celebrating an Israeli court’s decision to freeze the construction of the separation barrier. Battir is located south of Jerusalem, close to the 1948 Green Line and to an old Ottoman railway. The local landscape includes terraces and irrigation channels dating to the Roman Period, trees that are more than a thousand years old, and several other unique cultural and social elements. UNESCO included this natural and cultural heritage in its World Heritage List in 2014 after a submission from a group that included two members of Forensic Architecture.
The current case opposed the Israeli army’s plans to build the separation barrier through the valley in which the villages sits. Unexpectedly for the army lawyers (and perhaps the judges) the case was brought in the name of the right of the environment, of nature and of cultural heritage. Our contribution consisted in a digital model and animation representing the effect of the wall – as an iron fence and as a concrete structure – on the environment and showing that even the most “architecturally sustainable” and “less invasive” methods proposed by the army would provoke irreparable visual and environmental harm.
This strategy produced a rupture in the legal process concerning the wall, and in January 2015 Israel’s High Court froze the state plan to build the wall in Battir.