The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, which was founded in 1984, hired the engineer Ya’akov Shefer in order to plan the conservation and preservation projects. In 1989 he was replaced by Lev Mendelblat, who was in charge of many conservation projects in the Soviet Union, and was also the head of the Society’s Department of Engineering and Planning, which was founded in 1992. This department relied and still relies on many professionals – architects and engineers – who came to Israel from the Soviet Union during the large Aliyah of the early 90’s. They went through a one year professional training, and were integrated into the Society in two teams – one was stationed in Mikveh Israel and the other in Sejera and was later transferred to the Historical Nahalal Police Station after the preservation and restoration work on the site was finished.
One of the people who joined the department in 1992 under Mendelblat was Anatoli Bergman, who became the chief architect of the department where he still works today. Many different projects, which I will add more about promptly, were completed under his supervision.
Mendelblat succesfuly managed the Engineering and Planning Department from the day it was founded until 2008, when he was replaced by yours truly, Aharon Levitan. I have worked in restoration of historical sites for the Nature and Parks Authority for over 20 years, so moving to the Department of Engineering and Planning at The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel was natural for me.
The department’s role is to address the needs of any organization that wished to preserve heritage sites in Israel. Each project begins with two stages: an engineering review of the structure, and later its documentation.
What is an engineering review? It is actually an examination of the property’s history: when it was built, its physical condition, its characteristic architectural style, structural details such as fronts, flooring, ceilings, etc.
After the review comes the documentation. Here there is a greater resolution of details, and noting of all the data relevant to the property: zoning planes (TABA), construction permits, recorder of deeds documents (TABU), construction stages, modifications done to the building over time, architectural description, and information about any detail down to the finish level – from the type of doorknob to the windows design. Most importantly, the buildings measurements are taken, and a recommendation is given for the building’s treatment and its urgency.
The next stage is the practical one: preparation of the structure’s restoration plan and its execution. If the required funding is available, expansion work is also carried out – additions that were not necessarily part of the original structure but allow for better accessibility and use of the structure, such as a visitor center, for example.
One of the most important projects of the Department of Engineering and Planning is making heritage sites accessible to all people with disabilities. This project was started in 2010 with the assistance of the fund for development of services for the handicapped at the National Insurance Institute.
The department has carried out dozens of different projects of planning, conservation and restoration: the Liberman House in Naharia, Metzudat Koach, Yellin House at Motza, the Minkov Citrus Orchard, Ayalon Institute, Nahalal Police Station, Kinneret Courtyard, The Valley Train at Kfar Yehoshua, Atlit Detainee Camp, the historical worker’s shack at Sdom, the Baron’s farm house at Mazkeret Batya, Henkin house at Givat Olga, the Hamam house in Yavniel, Ben Gurion’s shack at Sde Boker, Ben Tzvi’s shack at Bet Keshet, The Palace at Nitzanim, Mitzpe Revivim, Mikveh Israel, and many others. And this is not the end, of course. There is plenty of challenging work ahead of us.
With best regards,
Aharon Levitan, head of the Department of Engineering and Planning at The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel