$2,000,000,000 (two bil­lion dol­lars) needed

For the restora­tion and con­ser­va­tion project of Jerusalem’s historic neighborho­ods: Mea Shearim, Beit Yis­rael, Geula, Bukha­ran

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - SPOTLIGHT -

Hello, My name is Elchanan Es­terovich, 38, a haredi res­i­dent of Jerusalem since 1996. About a year ago, in July 2018, I founded the Stones of Zion As­so­ci­a­tion. In its full name,Stones of ZionAs­so­ci­a­tion –Preser­va­tion, Re­con­struc­tion and Res­cue of An­cient Houses from De­struc­tion, this is a unique or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to saving and restor­ing the an­cient historic area of the Me a She a rim, Be it Y is­rael, G eula( Mek or Baruch) and the Bukharim neighborho­ods, built at the end of the 19th cen­tury out­side the walls of Old Jerusalem, and which con­sti­tuted the Àrst Jewish neighborho­ods out­side the walls. The as­so­ci­a­tion was es­tab­lished after many years of pain and sor­row in which many an­cient build­ings of historic im­por­tance were de­stroyed by con­trac­tors and prop­erty own­ers for the pur­pose of mak­ing real es­tate gains, and in light of the fact that in con­trast to historic build­ings built up to the year 1 00, which are deÀned as “arche­ol­ogy” and are pro­tected by the laws of the State of Is­rael, the historic ar­chi­tec­ture built after this year is al­most com­pletely un­pro­tected, and the sub­ject of ar­chi­tec­tural preser­va­tion is sub­ject to the de­ci­sions of elected ofÀ­cials in the Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and has no statu­tory sta­tus what­so­ever. Since the preser­va­tion of build­ings is a clearly noneco­nomic model that is not an­chored in the law and is not manda­tory, the en­tire area suf­fers from se­vere ne­glect on the one hand, and on the other, con­struc­tion and real es­tate projects that never cease for a mo­ment, which ir­re­versibly dam­ages historic build­ings.The historic build­ings are per­ceived as a nui­sance and a bur­den.The law does not pro­tect them, and the eas­i­est so­lu­tion is to de­mol­ish, build new sto­ries on top of them, make do with a ridicu­lous “preser­va­tion” of one or two fronts and make a quick proÀt. Many historic build­ings in Jerusalem are in con­stant dan­ger of de­mo­li­tion or hav­ing ad­di­tions built on top of them, while se­verely harm­ing and not meet­ing ac­cepted con­ser­va­tion stan­dards since Jerusalem has no con­ser­va­tion plan and no preser­va­tion pol­icy and there is no obli­ga­tion to carry out strict preser­va­tion of historic as­sets that are pri­vately owned. Rather it is only the fa­cades of the build­ing that are par­tially pre­served, with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity giv­ing permission to de­mol­ish the roof and all the in­te­rior. Of course, a historic struc­ture that un­der­went such ab­surd“preser­va­tion” seems more like a kind of faint mem­ory, and its condition only indicates that once there was an im­por­tant historic struc­ture here.And many times it does not even have that, be­cause the con­trac­tor has al­ready de­stroyed ev­ery­thing. In ad­di­tion, in the State of Is­rael, no con­trac­tor has been thrown into prison for the de­struc­tion of historic ar­chi­tec­ture, and so with no de­ter­rence, many an­cient build­ings were com­pletely de­stroyed. Out­wardly, the Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity puts on a show that the is­sue of ar­chi­tec­tural preser­va­tion is im­por­tant to them and is treated ap­pro­pri­ately, but the re­al­ity on the ground is very dif­fer­ent from that shown on the Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity web­site, and the historic build­ings are be­ing de­stroyed and are be­ing lost.What has not yet been de­stroyed or dam­aged or has disappeare­d, stands ne­glected and crum­bling be­cause no one has the money or the will to pre­serve it.

Be­cause they are mainly nar­row al­leys and small old houses that are not in­tended to be made larger, the re­sults of con­struc­tion in the re­gion are par­tic­u­larly ugly, pop­u­la­tion den­sity is in­creas­ing, qual­ity of life is im­paired and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, and ne­glect and dirt are tak­ing over the streets and nar­row al­leys of historic neighborho­ods. The Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity pre­ferred and con­tin­ues to pre­fer to­day busi­ness in­ter­ests and money, and has never taken a strict preser­va­tion pol­icy and no steps have been taken to en­sure that this an­cient and sen­si­tive area does not turn into a crowded jun­gle of real es­tate moguls and con­trac­tors who will de­stroy it and leave only memories. There is a cer­tain com­fort in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, with many en­trepreneur­s buy­ing roofs of historic build­ings to build ad­di­tional Áoors, wait­ing for build­ing per­mits and per­mits from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, a process that takes a year and a half to two years. There are en­trepreneur­s who have per­mits but they do not yet have the means to start build­ing,or they are only in­ter­ested in sell­ing their rights to the high­est bid­der. But the clock is tick­ing, and in or­der to save those build­ings you need money im­me­di­ately and quickly, so that the en­trepreneur­s will leave the place and give up their plans. There are a num­ber of cases in which the sit­u­a­tion is even worse - the de­vel­op­ers have just be­gun to build and have dam­aged the in­side of the build­ing.There, too, you can stop ev­ery­thing im­me­di­ately and save the build­ing with money, but there is of course less time.

Since this is a huge project and the thou­sands of his­tor­i­cal build­ings that the Stones of Zion or­ga­ni­za­tion in­tends to pre­serve, save from de­struc­tion and re­ha­bil­i­tate, with the to­tal cost ex­ceed­ing two bil­lion dol­lars, Stones of Zion is turn­ing to any rel­e­vant pri­vate or pub­lic body, char­i­ta­ble and phil­an­thropic foun­da­tions to fund-raise the amount.

If no sig­niÀ­cant amount of money is raised in the near fu­ture with which we can pur­chase and save these houses, they will be de­stroyed or dam­aged over the next few weeks and months, and many more struc­tures will con­tinue to be de­stroyed and dam­aged in the near fu­ture. This re­gret­table fact can be made clear by any Jerusalem con­ser­va­tion ar­chi­tect who works in co­or­di­na­tion with the Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s con­ser­va­tion depart­ment and is fa­mil­iar with the bleak sit­u­a­tion of the historic neighborho­ods in Jerusalem, which are turn­ing into con­struc­tion sites with­out min­i­mal plan­ning logic. The Stones of Zion or­ga­ni­za­tion is cur­rently in need of $300 mil­lion at an ini­tial stage in or­der to save more than 100 homes that are in im­me­di­ate dan­ger (con­struc­tion in the area has al­ready be­gun), and where the risk of de­mo­li­tion is im­mi­nent (con­struc­tion may be­gin at any mo­ment). As stated, the cost of the project to save the neighborho­ods and the en­tire historic area is es­ti­mated by vet­eran preser­va­tion ar­chi­tects op­er­at­ing in Jerusalem who are fa­mil­iar with the area in ques­tion and by real es­tate pro­fes­sion­als at $2,000,000,000. Any do­na­tion will be wel­come.

Start­ing from $1,000,000 you can save a sin­gle historic prop­erty. Please help us save this piece of his­tory, in a last-minute ef­fort, just be­fore it dis­ap­pears. I would be grate­ful if you would lend a hand to the ac­tiv­i­ties of Stones of Zion.

‡ Work­ing closely with Àrst-class pro­fes­sional preser­va­tion ar­chi­tects. ‡ A de­tailed Ànan­cial re­port on each as­set and prop­erty that is saved due to your con­tri­bu­tion.

Sin­cerely, El­hanan Es­terovich, CEO and Founder

For an ex­plana­tory pre­sen­ta­tion with de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the project, please search on Face­book: Stones of Zion To view the page of the project, which con­tains some of the pic­tures of the houses des­ig­nated for preser­va­tion: https://www.in­sta­gram.com/stones_of_zion/

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