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Hebron: Rehabilitation and Reuse of Residential Buildings in the Old City

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 11.04.2008:

By Hebron Rehabilitation Committee

The old city of Hebron was originally built for residential purposes. The architectural structure of the city was designed to fulfil the needs and match the lifestyle of residents in a manner compatible with their traditions and social customs. In addition to residential buildings that make up most of the old city, there are public-service buildings such as markets, schools, public baths, almshouses, pools, water canals, and others.

Recently it has become necessary to preserve the historical significance of the old city of Hebron, to face Israeli settlement expansion, and to design a plan to rehabilitate the old city and reuse it. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee is currently developing the general framework for rehabilitating old residential units, whether they are apartments in buildings or independent houses. The framework seeks to provide privacy, basic services, proper environment in terms of ventilation and lighting, and easy movement of residents inside their living quarters.

Front and back yards are being converted into apartments to accommodate the expanding number of family members and to provide housing for the increasing population in Hebron. Since house yards were not designed as living spaces, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has reconstructed them to become proper living quarters for people. Yards were divided into separate rooms, including kitchens and bathrooms, and supplied with all the basic necessities such as electricity and water. Each yard, or new apartment, has a separate entrance that provides its residents with privacy, and windows are structured in a manner that does not expose residents to neighbours around them.

Ancient buildings in the old city of Hebron lack proper ventilation and lighting and, therefore, while undertaking their reconstruction, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee makes sure that the entire space inside the buildings or apartments gets a reasonable amount of fresh air and sunlight. Some rooms even have skylights to provide the rooms with clean air and light.

In spite of the small size of some apartments, careful measures were taken to ensure the free and easy movement of residents. These measures include enlarging the entrance to the apartment, widening the openings of doors, straightening uneven stairs, and removing stairs that may impede movement.

The rehabilitation and reconstruction of buildings and houses in the old city of Hebron is a huge project. In spite of the touch of modernity that the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee is trying to give to old residential locales in the city, it fully realizes that their distinguishing and special historical and cultural features should be preserved. Mastabas or outdoor stone benches, stone staircases, domes, old doors, wooden cupboards, and old tiles that characterize old buildings remain untouched. Since these are a main part of the heritage of Hebron, they are renewed for functional purposes.

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee was founded in 1996 through a presidential decree of the late President Yasser Arafat. The committee may be reached at hebronrc@hebronet.com.

This Week in Palestine

April 2008

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