The old core is a prototype of the Palestinian village architecture. It refers to small-scale traditional housing complexes of similar color and texture which blend in naturally with the environment and whose architecture has remained for the most part intact. The Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation (CCHP), which has been instrumental in renovating the old cores of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, is also at work renovating buildings for use as community centers, or sometimes entire areas in the surrounding villages. Its work is essential in preserving the special character of the Palestinian landscape.
The traditional Palestinian house, which basic form has remained the same for at least a millennium if not two, sheds light on daily life in periods from the Roman period right into the twentieth century. In contrast to huge tracts of identical, mass produced housing, each Palestinian house was one of a kind, adapted to the specific site. However, many houses and whole quarters or villages are in need of urgent attention, as is clear to anyone who walks with a member of CCHP or a municipality, and sees the number of times they are approached by citizens wanting to preserve their homes.
Many factors have contributed to the deterioration of traditional buildings and the sometimes less than lovely modern construction in towns and villages. In the towns, many old houses are no longer inhabited by the original owners, some of whom emigrated in search of better conditions, or who moved out of the old town quarters at the turn of the twentieth century; they preferred to live in the new detached houses, some quite luxurious, which began to sprout up at a distance from the town, which eventually grew to encompass them. The increase in population, both natural and due to the influx of refugees has also necessitated new housing, but there have often been restrictions on building. Changes in lifestyle have meant that not everyone is able or willing to live anymore in an extended family. Finally, the day to day worries of Palestinians have often put such matters far back in the list of priorities.