From Denver to Akko: Living conservation on Saving the Stones

By Alison Goren, Saving the Stones
Window dressings, throw pillows, handmade kiln dried Italian leather chaise, and the latest Kravet fabric trimmings.  While studying interior architecture in Denver, Colorado, these were the things my classmates were most interested in. I, on the other hand, found my attention captured by sustainable design practices and their focus on adaptive reuse of historic structures.  After an opportunity to work on a community conservation project of a historic synagogue in a run-down neighborhood of Denver, I knew this was the field for me.
I had wanted to live in Israel since a Taglit-Birthright trip a year prior, and knew Masa Israel Journey could help me find the right way to do this.  My discovery of Saving the Stones was immediate, a practical conservation program with an emphasis on historic architecture and archaeology. I knew that this was the right fit. I moved out of my apartment, sold my car, my furniture, and with a heavy heart left my loving cat with a close friend, and arrived in Akko feeling like Indiana Jones.
The first weeks were understandably overwhelming: new country, new language, new culture, but most importantly new incredible experiences every single day. Walking the maze of streets and alleys of Old Akko became such a huge part of my understanding of conservation of a historic living city. Saving the Stones gave more practical, hands-on practice in the field of conservation than I believe the average graduate program... But then again, there is really no comparison to truly 'living it' every moment.
I was so inspired by the initial five months that I pushed to stay longer. Luckily I had the opportunity to further contribute in an actual way, on real conservation planning projects of the IAA, one being the very building  from which I sit in my office and write this (but more on that later).
Following almost a full year in Akko with Saving the Stones, I decided on the very natural next step, to officially make Aliyah to Israel. Though if I'm completely honest, the decision came just after my first month here...  I briefly visited friends and family in North America, said my farewells, and found myself starting full time ulpan in Haifa. While the initial absorption period was difficult, and emotionally trying at times, I knew that conservation of the heritage of the land of Israel is some the most important work one can do, at least in my eyes.  
Wanting to delve further into the academic world of conservation, I began a masters program in conservation at the University of Haifa, while simultaneously remaining well connected to the concurrent groups of Saving the Stones.  I now, in fact, am working with the International Conservation Center - Citta di Roma in Akko, where I act as international program development, marketing, and communications, for both Saving the Stones and our various other fledgling programs, using my drive and passion to inspire others to join us and experience the world of conservation in Israel.  I am also actively keeping my eyes open for thesis research topics, where my value for the heritage of this land is both a privilege and a curse... I view everything as deserving and worthy of preservation! 
My experience with Saving the Stones, while as a student is finished, the process is ongoing. It brought me to my path and has continued directing me towards each significant milestone, career or otherwise, in my life since. 

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