The value of this publication, entitled “Riwaq’s Registry of Historic Buildings in Palestine," lies in the fact that it is the first registry of its kind for one component of Palestine’s cultural and natural heritage (architectural heritage) in the West Bank, including Arab Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Although the British, Jordanians, Israelis, and Palestinians carried out several surveys of archaeological sites in Palestine, this publication is the first complete inventory of the historic buildings, most of which date from the late Ottoman through the British Mandate period (1700–1948). These buildings are not identified as antiquities, and none of them is listed in the official Gazette as protected. According to current Palestinian laws, they are not eligible for the protection granted by law to historic areas.
Other components of our cultural heritage are also not protected by current laws, and some are not even listed in any registry – however preliminary it may be – such as the movable antiquities. Likewise, there does not exist in Palestine a registry of natural heritage. Knowledge and information are essential for the safeguarding of our cultural and natural heritage, and we regard this Registry as the first step in the long process of safeguarding Palestinian cultural and natural heritage. This Registry is an encyclopedia of architectural information on some 50,320 historic buildings in 422 Palestinian localities – 16 major cities, including East Jerusalem, and 406 villages throughout the 11 governorates in the West Bank and the 5 governorates in the Gaza Strip.
The value of this Riwaq’s Registry is further enhanced by the archiving of a large number of computerized maps. It includes more than 400 such maps, which have been transformed from their original inaccurate paper copy into computerized maps, using the Geographical Information System, thus making them available for the first time to officials and general users in Palestine. Riwaq’s Registry includes more than 45,000 photographs of old historic buildings. This Registry is therefore an important document that not only gathers the information, but also corroborates it in archived maps and photographs.
Once the newly proposed legislations, which include the protection of historical buildings is actually passed, Riwaq’s Registry can serve as an important database and a general inventory for governmental and non-governmental agencies responsible for managing the cultural heritage. These agencies will have to prepare the “List of Preliminary Registration” in order to include the heritage in the National Registry.