Be'er Sheva Refuses to Save Home of City's Founding Father From Bulldozer

The Be'er Sheva municipality is refusing to cooperate with the Council for the Restoration and Preservation of Historic Sites in Israel in an effort to save the home of the city's founding father, David Tuviyahu.

The house, located in Be'er Sheva's Old City, is owned by a private entrepreneur who obtained a permit to raze the building and build apartments and a commercial center in its place. The preservation council wants the municipality to purchase the house from the developer, or alternately to compensate him with building rights at another site. But the municipality claims it lacks the power to do so.

Tuviyahu became Be'er Sheva's first mayor in 1950. During his 11 years in office, he laid the city's water and electricity infrastructure and established its first high schools. After retiring, he devoted himself to the effort to establish a university in the city, which today is deemed the capital of the Negev.

After his death in 1975, his family sold his modest home to a private entrepreneur. Ofer Yogev, director of the preservation council's Be'er Sheva and Southern District, has been trying for the last year to turn back the clock and preserve Tuviyahu's home. But his letters to city hall and his proposal for preserving the house and turning it into a museum have fallen on deaf ears.

"He is the man who shaped the image of Be'er Sheva," said Yogev, bemoaning city hall's failure to mobilize behind the cause. "He launched things that today are taken for granted. His house is located at the edge of the Old City, in the heart of a cultural district, opposite the science park. The municipality is in any event searching for a site for a museum of the city's history. What could be better than this place? It is a genuine cultural asset. I find it hard to believe that the Tel Aviv municipality would permit Meir Dizengoff's home to be demolished."

Yossi Feldman, the preservation council's director general, added, "It's important to commemorate not just with a monument, but also with a tangible place that symbolizes the start of the modern development that followed the War of Independence. Tuviyahu was a bulldozer, despite the difficult conditions in the city. Every self-respecting city has a place to commemorate its founding leader, and usually it preserves the first house the mayor lived in."

The Be'er Sheva municipality responded that the plot in question "is privately owned, and it is covered by a detailed plan that includes razing the building and constructing a new building. The Be'er Sheva municipality does not have the tools to prevent the owner of the property from exercising his rights."