Over-population, a housing shortage and the exodus of Christian families: these are the problems at the root of the project “Jerusalem, stones of the memory”, the highly successful initiative launched by ATS pro Terra Sancta and the Custody of the Holy Land to renovate some 500 homes rented out on free loan to poor Christian families in the Old City.
“The houses are in old buildings, at times below ground level, which entails a series of problems: damp due to leaks and infiltration, wiring, plumbing and gas pipes which are dangerous and extensions that have been added over time with asbestos roofing,” explains Enrico Tafi, an engineer and volunteer who works on the project and who recently presented the initiative at the Third Day of Volunteers of the Holy Land held in Rome.
The works, which in the past were contracted out to local firms, are today followed by the Technical Department of the Custody with their own labour force. This is the new approach that the Custody of the Holy Land wanted: the workmen, Christians and Muslims from East Jerusalem and the West Bank are legally employed and are trained and coordinated by a staff of Italian professionals. The material used for the works is purchased from local tradesmen.
All this means not only a more efficient use of the financial resources of the Custody and the generous contributions from private and institutional donors, but also the creation of jobs for Palestinians, support for the development of local commercial businesses and the professional development of local workers. Not to be forgotten is educating Christians and Muslims to live together, as they work side by side on renovating and improving a heritage of buildings with great historical value.
A few figures…
– since 2007 about 100 refurbishments have been completed, for a total cost of approximately 7.000.000 NIS, equal to euro 1.4 million;
– 10 projects have been finalized and are currently in progress with estimates ranging from euro 6,000 to euro 43,000;
– 320 other projects will be planned in hte short term at an average estimate of euro 22,000 per house.