Israel's cultural heritage expresses the cultural diversity and wealth existing in the country and aids in defining the Israeli identity. The heritage sites intensify the connection between the people and its land, the links between the community and the country's cultural landscapes and those between man and his past, and contribute to social cohesiveness. The diverse and numerous cultural heritage assets in Israel are tangible archaeological and historical testimonies that give expression to the unique Israeli experience and identity. They reflect the range of ethnic and cultural communities in Israel, and they tell us of our current identity, our past, and the formation of the Israeli landscape. These places are of value.
The cultural heritage and its surroundings are a nonrenewable physical resource that cannot be replaced or copied. Cultural assets are highly vulnerable and are constantly threatened by the ravages of nature and man, accelerated development that is accompanied by pollution, population growth and density, an increasing burden of internal and foreign tourism, and uncontrolled archaeological excavations. The great sensitivity of cultural sites requires that we actively protect, conserve, and present them, to enjoy them now and to bequeath them to future generations. Proper conservative care and routine maintenance are necessary to ensure on going public benefit from these assets.
The conservation of the cultural sites and their transmission to future generations are a national interest, and are of common concern to every Israeli. This policy is a system of professional directives that defines the manner in which the cultural assets will be treated, and that complements the Antiquities Law and the Antiquities Authority Law. It is based on internationally accepted ethics and principles that are mandatory for all the relevant parties, including public authorities, site directors, those engaged in research, documentation, planning, and conservation, educators, and those in the media. At the basis of the conservation policy lies a careful approach to change. This approach calls for all action necessary for the care and use of the sites, but that also mandates changing as little as possible, in order to preserve the cultural significance of the asset.
The formulation of this policy reflects the central role of the IAA in the conservation of the Israeli built heritage. By virtue of its commitment, the IAA established the Conservation Department, which shall lead and coordinate the conservation of cultural heritage in Israel from a national perspective of the totality of the heritage values, and it will constitute an influential professional body in the supervision, formulation and dissemination of professional standards, research, professional training and implementation of conservation education. The IAA, within its responsibility for the conservation of the State of Israel's heritage, will seek to cooperate with all the various bodies involved in the conservation of sites and their promotion. It nevertheless should be stressed that conservation is not the exclusive province of conservation bodies that are the representatives of Israeli society as a whole, that protect the cultural capital of the entire society, and who do so on its behalf. The IAA will act to enhance public awareness and appreciation of the riches of the past.