Two small neighborhoods that were assimilated between two main streets: Emek Rephaim and
Bethlehem road. Their restored houses tell a different story of Jerusalem – that of the penetration
of the European states and Christian communities to the city of Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century,
from a private person’s standpoint rather than an institutional one. A few public houses were built in
these areas; these were houses with a communitarian function and not a religious one.
Almost every private house is decorated with a verse from the Bible on its façade in German, Latin or Greek.
No, it’s not a mistake these are not the same Templars from
the crusader period. They are a different religious protestant
society – Tempelgesellschaft – that was formed during the
19th century. Their aim was to promote spiritual cooperation
to advance the rebuilding of the Temple in the Holy Land,
in the belief that this foundation will promote the second
coming of Christ.
They built colonies close to the old city center of Haifa,
in the Valley of Yezrael, close to Old Jaffa, today’s Sarona area
in Tel Aviv and near the Old City of Jerusalem.
They brought with them some of the agricultural industrial
inventions and modern technologies from Europe.
They maintained good relationships with both the
Jews and Muslims who lived in the region.
The second generation of the Templars left the messianic beliefs and kept their German identity.
Most of the Templars were considered as regular citizens until the British commissioner,
at the beginning of the Second World War, changed their status to enemies and they left the area.
Close your eyes and imagine a German countryside village with small two floor villas.
Now open them and search for some of the original houses of the colony.
The first building, at Emek Rephaim no.1, is the community house. It was inaugurated in
1882 in the presence of the Othman governor. The architecture reminds us of a Romanesque chapel.
But the members of the community were very careful to not call it a church or a temple.
That is the reason that the apsis is facing North and not East like most of the churches in the world.
On top of the pediment there is a small bell tower. Most of the private houses have a simple façade
decorated with verses from the Old Testament.
Frank’s house, built in 1873, at Emek Repahim no.3, is also
called Ebenezer house because “The men of Israel rushed out
of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines… Then Samuel took
a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it
Ebenezer…” Samuel 1, ch 7, 11-12. This house had the first
private swimming pool. Zendel’s house, located across the
street at no.9, is decorated with a statue of an old sleepy lion
above the main door. The lion was the family’s pharmacy
symbol back in Germany. They were very involved with the
construction of the German institutions in the city (the
Dormition church, Lemel orphaned school and the leper
house). Landuerhut house, at no.7, which has simple
architectonical elements (rounded windows and small
balconies), was the first pub of the neighborhood.
The basement floor was used as the wine cellar.
The second generation houses, the Templars of the twenties, were much more impressive.
They built in the Jugendstil but in Jerusalem stone, that became more and more popular over time.
A good example is the Ahman house on the corner of Bethlehem road and Karmia Street.
The original metal work is typical of this German Art Novae style.
Some of the houses in the colony tell a different story from
1929: That of one of the Nazi party members.
The Lyceum or school, located at Emek Rephaim no. 3 and 5,
were built in 1882. The clock on the façade shows the German
accuracy. Up until the twenties, children studied religion.
After the up rise of the Nazis these classes became political
studies. House no. 12, called Eimberguer house,
had its antenna changed at the end of the seventies.
During these works a couple of old boxes were discovered with
Nazi uniforms, flags and posters. The most interesting story
belongs to the house at 4 Lloyd George Street,
known today as Smadar Cinema.
Gotlib Buirila built the house in cement without using the local
In 1928 most of the clients were Jews and British soldiers.
In 1934, after refusing to screen Nazi propaganda films,
Buirila rented it out to a Jew. Belkind changed the name to
Efret to attract the citizens of the city.
The head of the Nazi party in the region was furious about it.
Buirila took back the cinema hoping that things would work
out eventually. The cinema was eventually closed in 1942.
In the same year the British assembled most of the German
citizens in Sarona colony (today in Tel Aviv) and exchanged
them with important, high class Jews from the concentration
camp of Bergan-Belsen. In the house at Emek Rephaim no.16,
lived Christian Emberger who was a carpenter.
He was forgotten by the British authorities during the
exchanges and again during the Independence war of 1948.
He was the only member of the Nazi party who witnessed the creation of the State of Israel through
his own eyes. Only in 1952 was he banished to Australia by the Israeli authorities.
In 1900, a couple of Greek Orthodox families decided to settle down in the renovated part of the city.
The Greek Orthodox Church purchased an amount of properties and only here used them for their
own population. 25 new houses were built to accommodate a number of wealthy families who arrived
from Greece. Even though the settlers were very religious, there was no church in the new neighborhood.
They preferred to walk to San Simon church in Katamon or to the Old City’s churches.
The architecture reminds us a lot of a green village on the country side of Greece with one or two floor villas.
Some of the interesting buildings to see are the Greek club house, Yuniadis house, Herupas house and some
more in Emek Rephaim Street and Ben Non Street. During 1948, most of the Greek citizens escaped
to the monasteries of the old city and from there back to Greece.
You begin from Post hostel in Jerusalem here:
By foot: leaving the hostel, turn right to Queen Shlomziyon Street. Cross the main junction and keep on walking in King David street. When its ending take the road on your right to Derech Beit Lehem and in
front of the First Station keep right to Emek Repahim street.
By bus: from the corner of Jaffa Road and King George street take bus number 77 or 34 to Emek Repahim.