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JIIS Bulletin - January 2011
Conserving Jerusalem's built heritage
Jerusalem as a historic center usually evokes adjectives like "ancient" and "biblical." But as well as the Old City, there is another "old Jerusalem" that emerged in the mid-19th century when crowded conditions and perhaps a sense of adventure drove people to move beyond the city walls and establish new neighborhoods. They built in an esoteric European style, they built with a Middle Eastern touch, they built the American Colony, the Greek Colony, the German Colony. Then founding communities moved out and new residents added their touch, so that Jerusalem became a multi-layered, multi-ethnic, multicultural city. How can we preserve this heritage? This question is addressed in two current JIIS projects – one will guide City Hall in a policy-setting effort, while the aim of the other is to document the sites and structures and preserve their details in a state-of-the-art database for all to see. 

When JIIS proposed the Conservation Policy for Jerusalem project, the Municipality embraced the idea. The project, which is supported by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, seeks to set clear parameters regarding the issue of conservation in the areas of the city that were built from 1856 to the end of the British Mandate – that is, until Israel's independence. Research team leader Israel Kimhi, a veteran urban planner in the city, says there are "too many historic buildings in danger [of collapse or demolition] and they should be preserved for the next generations." His team will write a "general planning guide of steps, tools and knowhow" that can be used by architects, contractors, planners and so on. "There are such special and different fabrics in the make-up of Jerusalem; each area deserves to keep its own character," he said. 

Kimhi is also leading the second project, which he refers to as a "Card Index" of sites slated for conservation. Two conservation lists were drawn up in the past – in 1964 and 1996; in fact, it was Kimhi who created them. It is now time for a serious update, he says, of the thousands of buildings that fall under the banner "to keep!" JIIS is one of five teams appointed by the Municipality to conduct the work on this project, which will ultimately yield a "comprehensive, up-to-date, computerized conservation list that will be accessible to professionals and the public alike." The Institute's team is concentrating on the neighborhoods of Mea She'arim, Zichron Moshe, Achva, Yegiya Kapayim and Musrara. 
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