Our site is a unique nature reserve with significant scientific, architectural and aesthetic qualities laid out on a stretch of land in the Zalatimo Estate on a hill in Ein Qiniya on the outskirts of Ramallah. The site has two historical houses, the first was built during the late Ottoman period, and the second dates from the British Mandate era. The site also includes Maqam Abu El-Ainain, a holy shrine from the Ayyubid period, a fresh water spring and stunning wildlife.
The two historic houses are the architectural centerpieces of our site. The late Ottoman house is one of the very few houses of that period to have moved away from the dense fabric of the village center towards the secluded wild hillside that could only be reached by a single horse or donkey (rather than a carriage or an automobile). The other house, built during the British Mandate era in 1932, is unique as the only example of British mandate era architecture in Ein Qiniya. The houses suffer from measurable physical deterioration that would be irreversible if left unrestored. The restoration of the first house had been initiated in autumn 2018 after the needed research and surveys were prepared. The restoration of the house is supported by the A. M. Qattan Foundation through the VAFF Grant funded by Sweden.
The spring is the last above-ground artisan spring in the area, allowing animals such as sheep, goats, wild boar, frogs and birds, insects such as bees and wild plants to benefit from the fresh spring water all year round. The site contains miles of beautiful drystack stone walls. These terraces are an important part of the cultural landscape, having been used for water retention and soil building for thousands of years. As part of their restoration, we are studying their scientific importance in regulating temperature by acting as heat-sinks. In addition, the site has a range of flora and fauna, encompassing as it does olive orchards and terraced farms, including rare trees such as the endangered Arbutus Andrachne.
Maqam Abu El-Ainain is a holy shrine located on one dunum within the site belonging to the Islamic waqf, and consisting of one room that is partially built in a cave and another room built as an iwan, a vaulted room with three walls and one side completely open. The site has been known for pious visitations or pilgrimages to the tomb or shrine by the local community.
The Zalatimo Family
The Zalatimo family bought the houses in 1937 and lived on the site and farmed the surrounding lands until 1967. Ibrahim Zalatimo (Abu Mohammad) and his son Mohammad (Abu Nizar) bought the upper house together while Mohammed bought the lower house on his own. The family had a great attachment to the land to the extent that members of the family who had work in Jerusalem commuted back and forth on a daily basis. For example, Mohammed Zalatimo (Abu Nizar) lived on the land while working as a teacher and headmaster at the Al-Bakriah School in Jerusalem. In addition to this, family members and friends would gather from Damascus, Amman, Jerusalem and Lud to reside on the land for three months every year during the summer.
The Zalatimo family members and friends from Jerusalem, Lud, Damascus and Jordan lived on the site for several months during the Nakba in 1948. After 1967, the family were prohibited from living on the site and were restricted to day visits by the Israeli Occupation Forces. The two buildings have since been abandoned, resulting in physical degradation, vandalism, and the loss of what once was the center of a thriving agricultural community.
One of Palestine’s leading art educators, Daoud Zalatimo, Ibrahim Zalatimo’s son, lived on the site for several years, and a number of his works were inspired from there. Born in 1906 in Jerusalem, Daoud Zalatimo’s work inspired some of Palestine’s most prominent artists such as Ismail Shamout. After receiving his education in Dar al Mu’allimeen in Jerusalem, and several other schools in Haifa and the United Kingdom, he became an influential resource on artistry skills such as woodworking, oil painting, metal work, as well as leather work and other crafts.
Shammout described Daoud Zalatimo’s work as a teacher and avid practitioner of art: “Zalatimo was a realistic documentarian artist. His oil paintings documented historical events and persons such as Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, Salah Eddin Al-Ayoubi, Tarek Ben Ziad, and others. He also pictured the Palestinian landscape using oil, water colors, and pastels.” During his lifetime, he gifted his work to friends and family and it has never been exhibited in public institutions. He passed away in Jerusalem in 2001.
Prior to 1937, the site was owned by Ishaq Salim Al-Labban Al-Dusuqi, from Jerusalem. He lived on the site and farmed the land with his wife and daughters. In 1932, he built the lower house (British Mandate Era House) for his married daughters. After his daughters moved out, it became difficult for Isḥāq Al-Dusuqi to live on the site and take care of the land. He sold the land to the Zalatimo family in 1937.