Young adults hoping to become archeologists, architects and preservers of ancient artifacts gathered in Acre earlier this month for the first international conservation training program in Israel. The program, entitled "Saving the Stones," aims to open the gate for future conservators from all over the world, as well as provide a solution for the existing shortage of skilled personnel who have undergone practical training in conservation. Directed by the International Conservation Center in Acre, the program is a joint project of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the Old Acre Development Company and the Acre Municipality. It offers a practical internship in conservation, with the Old City of Acre itself serving as the classroom. Developed in cooperation with MASA, which is underwritten by the government and the Jewish Agency, "Saving the Stones" provides grants for young people the world over who come to experience Israel for periods ranging from a semester to a year. The five-month, English-language program offers two sessions per year. Participants join the IAA teams of conservators, architects and archeologists working in Acre and gain experience in ancient masonry work and other ancient building materials. They are exposed to all conservation procedures - historic documentation, survey, treatment, planning and conservation. One day a week is dedicated to touring ongoing excavations, getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the archeological activity and meeting with professionals who are prominent in the field. In addition, the interns promise to participate in community activity. They devote time every week to doing conservation work with local Arab and Jewish schoolchildren. Shelley-Anne Peleg, director of the International Conservation Center in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, called the program "ground-breaking and extraordinary." "The interns experience the entire process involved in the conservation of historic buildings or archeological monuments, combined with community work and living in the heart of the city," Peleg said. "The program allows the intern to try his hand at many of the diverse areas that conservation work encompasses, such as fresco treatment, building conservation using materials and techniques similar to the original materials and methods that were utilized in antiquity, [and] experience in preparing development plans."