This is a large district, stretching over the entire Negev, from the line between Ashdod-Kfar Menahem-Kibbutz Beit Guvrin down to Eilat. The district has 14 regional councils, four main cities – Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva and Eilat, and 9 relatively younger towns – Kiryat Malachi, Kiryal Gat, Sderot, Netivot, Ofakim, Rahat, Yeruham, Dimona and Arad.
The district conducts a variety of activities, both in educating about building heritage and in rehabilitating and conservation sites, buildings and compounds.
Conservation committees have been set up in accordance with the fourth amendment to the Planning and Construction Law in most of the towns and local councils, surveys have been conducted and statutory conservation registers compiled.
In some of the regional councils, conservation committees have not yet been established and statutory conservation registers are non-existent as yet.
The district office is in Beer Sheva, in the Beit Yatziv compound in the Old City. Michal Cohen also works in the office, acting as liaison between the supporters and volunteers and The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel.
The office initiates a yearly programme of educational activities (parlour meetings etc.), study days about heritage buildings, and maintains contact with municipal and district planning departments. Representatives of The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel sit on the various conservation committees and local committees.
The district office maintains ongoing contact with representatives of the Interior Ministry’s southern district planning office and with planners in the process of submitting plans, and is always on the ready to deal with warnings about damage to a heritage site.
Conservation supporters scattered among the different communities help to organise activities and supervise sites in the regional councils, and lend a loyal helping hand to the SPIHS staff.
Public conservation committees operate in Beer Sheva and Ashkelon. These active volunteers have been instrumental in preventing violations of construction laws and steps that may have led to irreversible harm to heritage conservation.
In Beer Sheva, the public committee is divided into sub-committees that discuss and issue conservation the local planning committee, keep a watchful eye out for illegal construction in the Old City and arrange educational activities to inculcate conservation values.
Beer Sheva and Ashkelon have the most significant concentration of heritage buildings. The conservation committees in these cities promote the branding of heritage buildings.
In Beer Sheva, some of the city’s architectural conservation is incorporated into the Housing Ministry’s urban development plans.
In Ashkelon, at “Migdal”, there is a chronological integration of heritage sites, whereby Israel Antiquities Authority sites also serve as building heritage sites of the modern era.
The tasks that face the district at present: to facilitate the functioning of conservation committees in the rural sector, compile conservation registers, identify endangered heritage buildings, and combat authorities that push for rapid development at the expense of conservation.
Director, Southern District