The Inauguration of the National Project to Conserve the Stones in the Western Wall and the Establishment of the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department (Minhal Shimur) (5/4/09)
The Western Wall and the monuments around it are among the most important cultural heritage sites in the world. Every year millions of people come to Jerusalem to see them. In order to ensure a safe and comfortable experience, the site should be constantly maintained and new services developed for the benefit of the visitors.
A year ago the Western Wall Heritage Foundation conducted a survey of the state of the wall, which revealed that the physical condition of the stones was deteriorating. It was against this background that the Israel Antiquities Authority decided to take urgent action: the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department conducted an extensive physical and engineering survey of the Western Wall’s condition which culminated in the submission of a work plan. Conservation measures are currently being carried out there.
The work is focusing on the conservation treatment of the stones in the Western Wall and their stability, in accordance with their degree of preservation and the level of risk they present to the visiting public.
The project to conserve the stones in the Western Wall in particular, and the conservation and development of the Western Wall compound in general, is one of the most complex projects of its kind ever undertaken in Israel. The Western Wall compound project is an example of the enormous task that confronts us in conserving and presenting Israel’s cultural heritage. Such a cultural heritage site that is important on both a local and international level which involves large number of visitors, the need for constant maintenance, and the conservation of the Western Wall’s original appearance for us and for posterity, is first and foremost a challenge. This undertaking requires knowledge and professionalism in a wide range of fields.
The project is being directed by the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department, which is staffed with architects, engineers and conservators that specialize in different areas. The Conservation Department manifests the Israel Antiquities Authority’s obligation to create a body that will lead the way in the field of conservation in Israel, as a result of the state’s responsibility to the cultural heritage in its territory. In touching the stones of the Western Wall the conservators of the Israel Antiquities Authority are touching what has been the very heart of Jewish heritage for generations.
The Conservation Department carries out conservation work throughout the country. The department is engaged in preserving heritage sites that date to a variety of periods. A professional team of fifty five people implements the conservation work: conservators, architects, engineers, planners, chemists, geologists and archaeologists.
The conservation experts of the Israel Antiquities Authority provide an answer to the totality of aspects that constitute the conservation process, among them, documentation, research, planning, execution and maintenance. Conservation of the heritage sites is done with an overall view of the conservation process, from its inception to its culmination, and is implemented based on a defined and explicit policy and in accordance with the rules of professional ethics.