Nostalgia Sunday – Netanyahu’s fixer upper
The members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet went on a little trip today up to visit historic Tel Hai in the Galilee. Going on tiyul is quite common this season — dozens of people are hiking Shvil Yisrael, the Israel National Trail this month — but it’s unusual for members of Knesset to move en masse out of their comfort zone and into the periphery.
However, this was a special occasion. Today being the 90th anniversary of the battle at the Tel Hai compound — itself refurbished thanks to the efforts of The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) — it was selected as an appropriate time and place for a cabinet meeting to approve a comprehensive plan, the largest ever, to “strengthen the national heritage infrastructures of the State of Israel”.
What is a national heritage infrastructure? As set out in Netanyahu’s plan (called TAMAR which in Hebrew is the acronym for “national heritage infrastructure”) it consists of about 150 “tangible/material cultural resources” (archaeological and historic sites) and “intangible/nonmaterial cultural resources” (archives and collections of literature, poetry, philosophy, arts, crafts, music and song, dance, theater, film, traditions, holidays, festivals, ceremonies, etc.) all in need of rehabilitation and/or enrichment. TAMAR will cost almost NIS 400 million, and will be funded by private donations to be matched by allocations from the budgets of 16 government ministries.
The list of sites — which is not yet finalized — includes 37 archaeological sites, 39 museums and collections, and 62 sites relating to Israel’s Jewish and Zionist heritage — many literally crumbling to bits, such as the magnificent painted ceiling in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim Yeshiva. There are also 13 projects in the “intangible/nonmaterial” category that would restore cultural resources like the backlog of yet-uncatalogued movies still in cartons at the Israel Film Archive – as well as upgrade the archive building itself.
Two additional trails will be created in addition to Shvil Yisrael, promised Netanyahu, one a historic trail of archaeological sites from the biblical, Second Temple and other eras in the history of the Land of Israel, the other a trail tracing the places and events that gave rise to the modern-day State of Israel.
Netanyahu couldn’t have given a better example than this one: dowdy, dingy Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. “It is good that the city is open to the world and good that the city is alive and moving forward. But at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, there is a small auditorium in which the State of Israel was declared. There, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, declared the State of Israel.
“The hall is run-down. I am not saying that it is about to fall over but as far as the many young people and others, who flock to the street, to Rothschild Boulevard, are concerned, they do not know it. They do not visit it at all. And therefore, we will rehabilitate Independence Hall.”
The long-term payoff for TAMAR, say the plan’s authors, will be NIS 630 million in annual tourism revenue, job creation in the amount of 3,500 permanent positions plus 800 more during the 5-year period of the plan’s execution, and development of tourism to the Negev and Galilee regions. Later this week, the cabinet is due to approve the national transportation plan joining the Galilee and other regions to an accessible national transportation grid.
The cabinet also made a separate decision today on a new building for Israel’s National Library, funded by a donation from Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild Foundation).