The Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is a non-profit organization that was formed as part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The goal of this organization is to protect historical sites through political lobbying, public campaigns and education. It is recognized by the Ministry of Interior, (the government office in charge of zoning and town planning in Israel), as an organization which can advise local municipalities in all matters concerning the preservation or conservation of historical buildings, monuments and sites. In 2007, the Society separated from the Society for the Protection of Nature and is now an independent organization.
Real estate developers often prefer to just demolish historical buildings in order to pave the way for new developments and buildings. The Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites in Israel has fought many battles to save historical buildings from demolition.
In 1991 the Society pushed for amendments in the zoning law designed to protect historical buildings. In Tel Aviv they succeeded in preventing the demolition of one of the first Jewish neighborhoods built outside the walls of old Jaffa, Neve Tzedek. Today, Neve Tzedek is a thriving part of historical Tel Aviv.
They were also instrumental in bringing about the preservation of the heart of Tel Aviv (Lev Hair), including all the Bauhaus buildings for which Tel Aviv was a declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003, as well as the port of Jaffa and Templar Colony of Sarona.
In other parts of the country the Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites was successful in preventing the destruction of many historical buildings and sites. The logo for the organization is the façade of one of the most famous buildings built in the beginning of the 20th century, Gymnasia Herzylia in Achuzat Bayit, the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
Gymnasia Herzliya was one of the first schools in Tel Aviv where the classes were taught in Hebrew. The school was run under the idea that the students would be the future leaders of the Jewish nation. The building functioned as more than a school. It was a meeting place for public committees. It was a venue for theater and public parties. After the Arab riots of 1921, the bodies of the victims were brought to the school before being sent for burial. During the British Mandate period weapons were hidden on the premises. The building was extraordinarily beautiful with European, Arab and Jewish motifs. It stood at the head of Herzl Street and could be viewed from the windows of the Jaffa – Jerusalem Railroad trains. It was demolished in 1959 and in its place the Shalom Towers office building complex was constructed.
The demolition of this most important historical building was not prevented. However, soon afterwards the Israeli public began to realize that its demolition was a mistake and it was important to prevent such things from happening in the future. This is the role filled by the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.