Ancient Irrigated Terraces of Battir

World Monuments Watch
Bethlehem Governorate, West Bank, Palestinian Territory

2014 World Monuments Watch

The 4,000-year-old irrigated terraces of Battir, located 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem, reflect an ancient route that ran from the coastal plains to the Judean Hills. The rural and agricultural setting is of great ecological and cultural significance. It includes olive trees, Roman gravesites, and an ancient irrigation system formed by the continual layering of stones to form terraces on a prehistoric hilltop setting. The site is remarkable for its shared use by both the Israeli and Palestinian communities that live along its borders. Coming together to advocate for the preservation of this remarkable cultural landscape, both communities have realized the value of working collectively to protect the site.

When the terraces of Battir were included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, they were threatened by numerous development plans including a proposed Separation Barrier that would effectively cleave the site. Resources to manage the property given the increasing pressures on the landscape were also lacking. A conservation management plan would help equip local institutions with the scientific, analytical, and practical tools necessary to conserve and safeguard their heritage. Inclusion on the Watch offered a vehicle to advocate for halting the plans that threatened the site in favor of enhanced dialogue.

Watch Day

Watch Day at the Ancient Irrigated Terraces of Battir took place in March 2015 and offered many different sporting opportunities, such as hiking, climbing, rappelling, and cycling. The activities highlighted the site's significance and celebrated its inscription as a World Heritage Site. Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the Watch Day at Battir.

Since the Watch

In January 2015, the High Court of Justice in Israel froze plans for the construction of the Separation Barrier. This concluded a three-year legal battle in response to petitions submitted by Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Village of Battir. The decision came after the government chose not to reauthorize the 2006 plan for a three-kilometer stretch of the barrier, and subsequently revealed that the plan was not a high security priority. These developments were applauded by local advocates. Meanwhile, in June 2014 the Battir landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee. The site had been presented for inscription on an emergency basis in February 2014.


Last updated: January 2017.

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