Israel is currently experiencing a quick growth in the local population. According to data from 2018, the fertility rate in the country has reached 3.1 children per woman. Comparatively, the correspondent rate in the US is 1.6. Given this fact and considering the current population of Israel (9 million), the total population of the country will reach 20 million in the next 45 years. Taking into account the small size of the country, Israel will become one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
Today, there is an urgent demand for urbanization and new housing projects. However, some believe that this brisk development may affect the conditions of the country's archaeological sites.
Israel has the most historic monuments (around 35,000) in comparison to all other Mediterranean countries. Parts of those sites may remain unrevealed as they are buried under new infrastructure projects.
According to Yonathan Mizrachi, chief executive of Emek Shaveh, an Israeli Non-Government Organization aiming to defend cultural heritage rights and to protect ancient monuments, rescue archaeology works take place in advance of construction projects but, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the government association that supervises the works, tends to boost new constructions projects without preserving the ancient sites.
Mr. Mizrachi stated that salvage archaeology surveys were conducted in more than half of the total building licenses issued in 2019. Moreover, in the majority of the sites, some iconic items were retrieved but the construction works were permitted even if there may be more buried underground. “There are no red lines, or any understanding or rules (about) what should be kept and should be destroyed," he added.
Conversely, IAA suggests that it follows regulations established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to decide whether a construction project should be developed and aims to preserve the country's historic sites. “I would like the whole country to be covered in archaeology. But my children need a place to live,” Gideon Avni, head of the archaeology division at the IAA, stated.
Other archaeologists suggest that construction projects are currently funding the excavation works to detect sites that would otherwise be unknown for many more decades. In 2019, 83% of the total salvage archaeology works were enabled by funds ($122.7 million) from the construction industry. Therefore, infrastructure growth may actually aid the archaeology sector.
Most agree that an interim solution should be found in order to both facilitate urban development and preserve historic archaeological monuments. "We have to look for equilibrium, for balance, between the necessity of modern life and the necessity of preserving the heritage," Pierre de Miroschedji, an archaeologist and a former director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Nanterre, stated.