The Tiberias municipality is planning to build a public park on grounds containing the remnants of the Roman city center. The park project has the financial backing of Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson. The park is to be named for Tiberias-born Ozer Berkovitz, the Finance Ministry's wage division official who died of cardiac arrest a month ago.
Several prominent archaeologists oppose the plan because, as one put it, "it will be forever rued if Tiberias loses such an important cultural asset, that any other city would be proud of." However, the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is expected to have a major role in the park's construction, does not object to the plan. The district archaeologist, Dina Avshalom Gorni, wrote to the mayor that the authority "views the part as an important plan" and that "there is no objection in principle to the park plan" on condition that the site be designated an archaeological park.
The park, including an amphitheater and recreational facilities, would cover 30 dunams along Lake Kinneret at the southern entrance to the city. Tiberias Development CEO Alvit Freund came up with the idea a year ago. Her plan met with objection from Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld, an archaeologist who has been conducting excavations in the area for close to a decade, with municipal help. Hirschfeld says excavations here would uncover synagogues and the main shopping thoroughfare.
The struggle over the park took a turn several weeks ago after the municipality decided to name it "Park Berko" for the late treasury official. The municipality held an evening in Berkovitz's memory two weeks ago, at which Hirchson announced that the treasury would cover half the costs. Since then Hirschfeld has been under increased pressure to remove his objections to the project.