Israel Mulls NIS 500M 'Heritage' Trails That Reach Into West Bank

Netanyahu at Herzliya Conference: Our continued existence relies on our knowledge of Israel's legacy.

Haaretz has learnt that Benjamin Netanyahu's government is considering a five-year plan costing NIS 500 million to renovate and preserve national heritage and infrastructure sites, in an attempt to strengthen ties between global Jewry and Israel's historical and Zionist legacy.

Rough details of the plan were first revealed by Haaretz a month ago, and Netanyahu paid it special attention in his address to the Herzliya Conference several weeks ago.

"The guarantee of Israel's continued existence lies not only in weapons systems, or in the strength of our army, or in our economical strength and inventiveness, our exports, or in any of the other crucial factors," the premier told the conference.

Referring to the proposal for two heritage trails running the length and breath of Israel, Netanyahu told the conference that Israel's existence relied first and foremost on the emotional connection and knowledge bestowed upon children by their parents and, as a state, by the educational system.

The premier added that on February 25 he intended to present the cabinet with a working program which would include the inauguration of two trails to be added the existing Israel Trail: an historical trail that would connect various archeological sites, and an "Israeli Experience" trail linking dozens of Israel's landmarks, museums and memorials.

Haaretz has learned that 37 archeological sites are said to be candidates for upgrade as part of the program, including some which are already in good operating order, such as the Caesarea National Park and Mount Massada.

But other significant sites, such as Tel Lachish and the ancient synagogue located in Sde Amudim, located adjacent the Golani Junction near Tiberias, are in need of extensive repair and renovation.

Other sites mentioned in the program are Neot Kedumim, Susia, Qumran, Beit She'an, Tel Meggido, Tiberias, Tel Arad, Tel Dan, the City of David in Jerusalem, and more.

In addition to archeological sites, the plan includes 109 other projects which will potentially be upgraded.

Among the 39 programs outlined in the plan, the central one would create a documentation center in Israel to oversee sites' archives and work as a center for coordination between the sites. There is also a proposed course that would train staff in document preservation, as well as help gather information on the different heritage sites.

The heritage sites themselves are spread out throughout Israel and include places such as Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the historic Jezreel Valley railway, and the Dead Sea town of Ein Gedi.

Another program that stands to benefit is focused on saving and making accessible a collection of Jewish movie archives to be named for renowned American-Jewish director Steven Spielberg.