“Jerusalem Stone - Eternal Cornerstone of Construction?” was the topic of a seminar held at JIIS earlier this year in conjunction with the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites and the Israel Association of United Architects. The seminar was held in the framework of research conducted at the Institute regarding preservation policy for Jerusalem, led by Israel Kimhi. Other participants included noted architect and Israel Prize laureate Ada Karmi-Melamede, who discussed the challenges of building with stone; Prof. Mike Turner, of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, who addressed “preservation values – material, tradition, and content – as applied to Jerusalem“; and architect Carlos Prus, chair of the Israel Association of United Architects, who talked about the “identity, ideology, and challenges of planning” with stone in the city.
Participants at the seminar discussed the need to set policy that would ensure that preservation is carefully overseen in Jerusalem and that the tradition of building with stone, which has actually been set in law several times of the last century, will continue. They also emphasized that there is a need to educate professionals – architects, builders and others – of the appropriate methods for building with stone.
In addition, a report on Preservation Policy for Jerusalem will be published this month, outlining “a strategy for the preservation of heritage sites, while at the same time ensuring urban development.” The report, a collective endeavor by a small group of professionals in the field of urban preservation, will offer decision makers alternative courses of action as well as sound policy recommendations in this area.
As Kimhi notes in the report, urban preservation encompasses all of the activities aimed at ensuring the continued existence of edifices that have tangible and non-tangible (e.g., cultural, historical, religious, aesthetic, scientific, national and architectural) value. "The preservation of cultural heritage in all [these] aspects has been recognized and accepted throughout the world as an issue that must be addressed and incorporated into planning and development processes.
“Preservation laws were first passed in this country during the period of the British Mandate. These include the Antiquities Law, which protects archeological sites built before 1700… Later, the newly founded State of Israel made it obligatory to preserve structures with architectural and historical value, through the 1965 Planning and Building Law. In time, amendments were added to this law, reinforcing it and giving it more power to maintain the rich local heritage. In this context it is worth recalling the words of the late Yigal Alon: when ‘a people does not preserve its past, its present is uncertain and its future unclear.’ The variation between one structure and another or between one site and another is expressed in architectural design, the texture of the neighborhood, the contours of the streets and city squares, the public and religious institutions, and their surrounding environment. All these elements combine to create for residents an affinity with their place of residence as well as serving as a major drawcard for visitors – and together they constitute cultural assets for today’s and future generations.”