$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
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/