Panel votes to fund archeological sites in W. Bank, Golan

Committee approves NIS 91 million budget to renovate 16 heritage sites throughout country; Netanyahu: “The heritage project is one that we owe ourselves, our children and future generations."

herodian national park_311 (photo credit: (Flash90/Marc Israel Sellem))
herodian national park_311
(photo credit: (Flash90/Marc Israel Sellem))
Ministers on Tuesday approved NIS 91 million to renovate 16 archeological and heritage sites throughout the country, including one in the West Bank and another in the Golan Heights.
The sites are part of the National Heritage Plan, which was first approved in February of this year. At least another nine, out of a list of 150 cultural, archeological and historical sites, have already received funding.
The ministerial committee for the National Heritage Plan, which met in Jerusalem at the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute Tuesday, approved spending NIS 47.1m. in governmental funds and NIS 44m. from external sources, for a total of NIS 91.1m.
Palestinians and the international community criticized the National Heritage Plan when it was first unveiled for including West Bank biblical and historical Jewish sites such as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Tuesday’s list of 16 sites includes Herodian National Park located in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank. King Herod was buried at the archeological site, which also contains the ruins of one of his castles. Some NIS 16m. has been set aside for renovation work there.
Another NIS 14.2m. will be spent on a site in the Golan Heights known as Umm el-Kanatir or Rechavam’s Arches, which boasts the ruins of a sixth century synagogue.
Other sites on the list of 16 located throughout Israel include: Independence House in Tel Aviv, Tel Arad, Tel Lachish, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Gamla, the Addas Synagogue in Jerusalem, Belvoir Castle in the Galilee, El Senior Sephardic Synagogue in Tiberias, The Kinneret Courtyard, a stop on the former Hejaz train line, the Israel music heritage archive and the Israeli archive network. Funding was also approved for two projects, a bird watching program to promote biodiversity and an initiative involving four cities called “city revealed to the eye.”
The 16 sites received the maximum scores according to criteria set by the plan’s steering committee. The ministerial committee will continue to meet to release funding for other sites in the program.
On Tuesday, the ministerial committee met in the cabin at the Yad Ben-Zvi Insitute in Jerusalem, which had once been used by Israel’s second president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It was the first site to be renovated under the National Heritage Plan.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recalled how as a child he would see Ben-Zvi walking on the ground of his home when he played soccer in a nearby park.
He also spoke of the importance of the program in preserving sites such as this one.
“The heritage project is one that we owe ourselves, our children and future generations,” said Netanyahu at the start of the meeting.
“We are not here by chance. The story of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, the story of Zionism, the story of our cultural and historical heritage, and our unique link to this land, find expression in sites that were clear to me, and I am sure to my older friends as well, when we were children. To my regret, these same sites have become rundown, and therefore, we have decided to renovate them and thus restore them to the center of our cultural awareness,” he said.
Later in the day, the consultant for the project Eitan Tzafrir announced that he planned to leave his job as project adviser because its size and scope was more than he had bargained for.