In the beginning, the experience was sort of like looking into a kaleidoscope. On visits to sites throughout the country, we discussed the many facets that play into conservation, including the sites’ historical and religious contexts, modern political realities, and of course, preservation techniques of the sites’ materials. In each conversation, we delved into sensitive and complicated issues and I appreciated that the IAA did not shy away from challenging discussions.
Living in Acre has made me especially cognizant of the sensitive nature of this work. A large part of the population is Muslim and every morning at 4 AM, I am awoken by the call to the prayer. Until Saving the Stones, my Israel had largely consisted of the upper middle class neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, where my grandmother lives. In Acre, I almost never heard English spoken in the streets and the perspectives I gained are worlds away from those I was accustomed to on previous visits to Israel.
This environment has complemented my work well, as each participant was expected to conduct his/her own personal project during the semester. I chose to study the mandate government’s attempts to conserve Acre in the 1930s, analyzing trends and creating an interactive interface of old photographs as a simplified database. I also studied an old prison in Acre’s Old City, where Irgun fighters were jailed before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Because of the expertise I developed, I am able to take part in meetings with the IAA as they convert the prison into a museum. Israeli society is not hierarchal and they take my work seriously in their planning. My work with Saving the Stones was very gratifying. Working alongside young people from all over the world, including Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Israel, and the United States, who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and care deeply about conservation was inspiring. It was a privilege to be involved in work that is both personally meaningful and significant in Israel.