Our country’s antiquities are a national asset as defined by the Antiquities Law; moreover they are of great cultural value, an indisputable asset that ties the people to its land, which is holy to all three monotheistic religions. In Israel there is more than one antiquities site per square kilometer, and it has the highest density of antiquities sites of any country in the world. Recognizing the importance of the ancient sites and safeguarding them was understood by the decision makers in the Knesset and the Israeli government. In order to intensify the treatment and study of the antiquities and antiquities sites the Israel Antiquities Authority Law was enacted in 1989, and in April 1990 the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) was established in place of the Department of Antiquities and the Archeological Survey of Israel.
The offices, researchers’ rooms, laboratories and storage areas of the Department of Antiquities were insufficient for the larger IAA, which was required to adequately address all of the country’s archaeological needs and also assumed responsibility of caring for the Dead Sea scrolls. Therefore the IAA leased more space in addition to that made available by the state; however, the cost of it is extremely expensive and it does not meet the requirements of the IAA.
The IAA Council was required to deal with this issue of location. A sub-committee drawn from the council members was established to examine the matter and in 1993 it was decided to investigate the possibility of expanding the Rockefeller Museum. The committee determined it was infeasible to build the additional areas required by the IAA in the Rockefeller Museum and that an alternative solution should be sought. Fortunately, that year a suitable plot of land became available in the museum campus, next to the Bible Lands Museum and the Israel Museum. The Ministry of Finance offered the land to the IAA on condition the IAA building will be open to the public, will display the archaeological research and serve as an important introduction to those visiting the Israel Museum. The IAA accepted the stipulation and the council resolved the following:
The National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel will serve as the link that connects the past with the present and will strengthen the bond between the community and archaeology. The place will increase the awareness of heritage and will act as a magnet in bringing together the public and the country’s treasures. The construction of the IAA building in the museum campus will imbue the structure with the importance it deserves and will enhance the visiting public’s experience.
The Purpose of the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel:
- Restoration and conservation of ancient artifacts for the purpose of research and exhibition to the general public
- Safeguarding and display of the National Treasures
- Operating exhibitions in Israel and abroad
- Museum for news about antiquities
- Central archives and library for the study of archaeology in Israel
- Seat of the Israel Antiquities Authority administration
- Research center for the study of Israel’s antiquities
- Information center for scholars and interested members of the public
- Explanation and intensifying the connection with the country’s heritage and its antiquities
After the purpose of the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel was defined, Log Engineering & Management Company, Ltd. was hired to identify the requirements and formulate a plan for the campus. In March 1997 Log Company submitted its conclusions in a detailed document to the management of the IAA and its council, and the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel project was begun, with the assistance and impetus of the Ministry of Education and Jerusalem Municipality, led by the Jerusalem Development Authority.
The years 1998-2002 were devoted to building an infrastructure, fund raising for the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel and updating the plan according to changes in the structure. In August 2002 an architectural competition was held under the guideline of finding a way that will enable the IAA employees to work simultaneous with the building being open to the public, while providing suitable connections between the different IAA units as specified in the plan. The program submitted by the architect Moshe Safdie was selected. Safdie's concept likens the IAA building to an archaeological excavation. Rising above the building’s roof is an enormous canopy reminiscent of the tent-like canopies used to shade archaeological excavations and the movement in the building is from the top down. The numbering of the floors in the building, from the top down, is also similar to the numbering of the strata in an archaeological excavation. The structure is built around three inner courtyards, and most of its space is visible to the public, including the laboratories and the antiquities storerooms. It will be possible to see most of the laboratories through windows situated about half a story higher than the entrance to them. The IAA scientific archives and the National Archaeological Library, which is the largest and preeminent archaeological library in Israel, will also be open to the general public and will be built in accordance with the best technological innovations. About 200 IAA employees will work in the archaeological campus, and besides the offices, the more than 200 parking spaces to serve the employees and guests visiting the campus, the laboratories and archaeological display areas, there will be a restaurant and cafeteria on the campus and a beautiful courtyard built around a pool.
A model of the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel prepared by Safdie was presented to the President of Israel, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education; all three praised the initiative and announced their support of it. The Prime Minister and the President were invited and honored us with their presence at the ceremony laying the cornerstone of the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, named in honor of Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein who contributed generously to the project.
Many friends and donors from Israel and abroad have joined together in raising the tens of millions dollars needed to build the project and we wish to thank them for their generosity:
- The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein
National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel
- The Ingeborg and Ira Rennert
World Center for the Dead Sea Scrolls
- The Shelby White and Leon Levy
Center for State Treasures
- The William Davidson
Universe of Archaeology Theatre
- Yad Hanadiv
- The Brigitta and Emmanuel Davidson Upper Garden
- The Margot and Tom Pritzker Hall of Archaeology
- The Saul A. Fox National Center for Ancient Glass
- The Saul A. Fox National Coin Center
- The Bernard Osher Dead Sea Scrolls Study and Illumination Galleries
- The Estanne and Martin Fawer National Library Reading Hall
- The Matthew and Marysia Gerson National Center for Mosaics
- The Nash Family Foundation Ancient Textiles Study Collection
- The Dorothy and Byron Gerson Four Sisters Courtyard
- The Sandra and Leon Levine Dead Sea Scrolls Education Center
- The David Berg National Library for the Dead Sea Scrolls
- Anne Newman Family Education Suite
- Rivkah Saker and Uzi Zucker Canopy
- Sir Timothy and Lady Sainsbury
- Betty and Cyril Stein
- Claire and Gordon Prussian
In August 2003 the E.D. Rahat Company was chosen to manage the project, consultants were selected, while at the same time the process of obtaining statutory approval proceeded, which was granted by the district planning and building board in November 2007 and the detailed planning of the building proceeded, which was completed in 2010.
Quarrying began at the building site in 2010 and was finished in early 2011 in one of the largest quarrying projects ever carried out in Jerusalem. The contractor will be selected and construction will commence in 2011.
Since the structure is being built mainly from donations, the Ministry of Finance decided to assist the project with a sum equivalent to the value added tax of the land required by the Israel Lands Administration.
Once open to the general public, the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel will provide a different viewpoint than visits to the nearby Israel Museum and Bible Lands Museum; here the public will be able to view the National Treasures storerooms as well as observe conservation work being done in the laboratories where archaeological finds are treated. The Dead Sea scrolls laboratory will also be open to the public. A special gallery will contain an exhibition focusing on the process of preserving the scrolls, an important additional aspect to those exhibits at the nearby Shrine of the Book.
With the help of contributions from private donors and foundations, together with assistance from the government of Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Antiquities Authority anticipates completing construction and occupying the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel by the end of 2014. With the move to the new facility, the activity of the IAA will be concentrated in two structures in Jerusalem – in the new campus and the Rockefeller Museum – and the IAA will vacate its offices at Har Hotzvim, Wolakh Street and the Israel Museum.