Moshav working to preserve Templer homes from renovation
The Atzekson home is one of the oldest in the Templer colony of Wilhelma, but the German Templers could never have known that the current inhabitants would be working to preserve those homes during renovations to a nearby airport.
One by one, Ganya Atzekson of Moshav Bnei Atarot points to the Templer elements of her childhood home.
"The upper part of the windows, those are certainly original," she says.
She points to the single wooden shutter, and to the old doors.
The Atzekson home is one of the oldest in the Templer colony of Wilhelma. But the German Templers, who came to Palestine and established Wilhelma in 1902, could never have known that the current inhabitants - together with the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites - would be working to preserve those homes during renovations to a nearby airport. Noise from Ben-Gurion International Airport, where air traffic has been diverted during renovation of the runways, has prompted renovations to Wilhelma homes as well, as residents work to stave off the unbearable noise.
Roofs are to be renovated, and the original wooden doors and windows replaced - with aluminum. Under an agreement reached by arbitration between the Israel Airports Authority and the residents, the authority must fund the acoustic protection for the homes.
Tal Ben-Nun Glaz, director of the central district of the society, wrote a letter last year to the then-head of the Interior Ministry's central district, Dr. Shuki Amrani, warning that the renovations could irreparably damage the old historic homes.
A month later, at a meeting of the District Building and Planning Committee, a representative of the Israel Airports Authority pledged that the Israel Airports Authority would not damage the original facades. However, the airports authority now says it is not the contractor, but only the conduit for the funding to a special trustee, and it is the residents who determine how renovations are carried out, down to the smallest detail.
For example, Atzekson and her husband Yitzhak want the authority and the contractors to number all the elements when they dismantle them so they can be restored to their exact place - "at a huge cost," they say.
According to the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, Bnei Atarot is to be preserved under National Master Plan 35, which is problematic because it does not specifically define each structure slated for preservation.
However, the buildings must be treated with all due care. "The way the Israel Airports Authority has priced the acoustic protection of the historic buildings does not allow the residents to maintain the character and the original elements of the homes," the society said.
The society also said that since preservation is for the good of the public, not just residents, it is inconceivable for the homeowners to have to pay for preservation themselves.
The airports authority said it had "taken the need for preservation into account in planning, that architectural and engineering solutions were provided so that acoustical protection does not harm buildings slated for preservation [and that] all the solutions were approved by the court-appointed arbitrator."