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Enlisting Resources for the Conservation of the Old City of Safed (January 14, 2009)

The Old City of Safed Steering Committee is headed by the District Planner, Architect Alex Shpul, and the City’s Mayor, Mr. Ilan Shohat

Architect S. Assif with D. Barshad and E. Stern of the IAA during the committee’s tour in Old Acre.
Last Thursday, January 8, 2009, the first meeting of the Old City of Safed steering committee was convened. Participating in the meeting were the mayor of Safed, Mr. Ilan Shohat, and senior representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Housing, Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Lands Administration, Ministry of Tourism and the Jewish National Fund.

This meeting took place subsequent to the first conference of its kind that was conducted in September 2008 at Safed College at the initiative of the Israel Antiquities Authority and with the participation of senior representatives from government ministries and other bodies. The conference dealt with the questions that arise pertaining to the preservation of Old Safed’s past alongside its development for the future and was credited as extremely successful by the residents of Safed, the city planners and many government offices. At the end of the conference the participants agreed that it is imperative to promote an administrative and planning process to salvage and develop the Old City in Safed and its historic-cultural heritage. It was also decided to set up a steering committee headed by Mr. Alex Shpul, an architect and the chief planner of the Northern District in the Ministry of Interior, with the participation of all the stakeholders that are relevant in the matter.

Safed mayor, Mr. I. Shohat, architect S. Assif and the rest of the members of the steering committee in Old Acre.
The first meeting of the steering committee dealt with outlining the ways of rehabilitating and preserving Old Safed, in addition to which it examined options for the management and development of the Old City, initiating a master plan, conducting a survey of buildings slated for conservation etc., while studying the methods that have been adopted in other ancient cities, particularly Old Acre.

Thus the steering committee deemed it appropriate that during its first meeting it host Mr. Dudu Harari, general manager of the Old Acre Development Company, who expounded on and described the work that company was implementing in the old city of Acre. A tour of the alleyways in Acre also took place which was guided by Mr. Ra’anan Kislev, director of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who presented the conservation activity in old city.
Mr. Shamai Assif, an architect and head of the Planning Administration of the Ministry of Interior, presented to the ministries’ representatives and the mayor of Safed the benefits and disadvantages of establishing a government development company.
Mr. Ilan Shohat, the newly elected mayor of Safed, emphasized that he recognizes the importance of the establishment of the steering committee and the fact that many government ministries are cooperating for the benefit of the Old City of Safed. Mayor Shohat added that “Safed is a complex, multi-faceted city but has a heritage and unique characteristics that with the help of planning and proper management can be turned into the international capital of Jewish culture and spirituality”.

In concluding the meeting, architect Shamai Assif stated the willingness of the Ministry of Interior’s Planning Administration to prepare a plan for the Old City of Safed.
Mayor Shohat announced that he would investigate the possibility of setting up a government company for the development and conservation of the Old City of Safed. The draft proposal will be drawn up by the Safed municipality, in cooperation with the district planner and the steering committee headed by him no later than February 8, 2009.

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