German Colony, Jerusalem

Cremieux Street, German Colony, Jerusalem
Natural History Museum, German Colony

The German Colony (Hebrew: המושבה הגרמנית, HaMoshava HaGermanit) is a neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel established in the second half of the 19th century by members of the German Temple Society. Today the Moshava, as it is popularly known, is an upscale neighborhood bisected by Emek Refaim Street, an avenue lined with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes.


Biblical era

Emek Refaim (Valley of Refaim) is mentioned in the Book of Joshua and in the Second Book of Samuel. The name is derived from a legendary race of giants who lived in this region in biblical times.

Templer settlement

Templer Cemetery

In 1873, after establishing colonies in Haifa and Jaffa, members of the Templer sect from Württemberg, Germany, settled on a large tract of land in the Refaim Valley, southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem. The land was purchased by one of the colonists, Matthäus Frank, from the Arabs of Beit Safafa.[1][2] The Templers were Christians who broke away from the Protestant church and encouraged their members to settle in the Holy Land to prepare for Messianic salvation. They built their homes in the style to which they were accustomed in Germany - farmhouses of one or two stories, with slanting tiled roofs and shuttered windows, but using local materials such as Jerusalem stone instead of wood and bricks.[3] The colonists engaged in agriculture and traditional trades such as carpentry and blacksmithing. Their homes ran along two parallel streets that would become Emek Refaim and Bethlehem Road. The British Mandatory government deported the German Templers during World War II. As Germans, they were considered enemy citizens, all the more so because they made no effort to disguise their Nazi sympathies. Some of them resettled in Australia.

Christian Arab settlement

As the neighborhood expanded south along the valley, many of the lots were purchased by well-to-do Christian Arab families attracted by its location between the road to Bethlehem and the developing neighborhoods of Katamon, Talbiya, and Baka, which were populated by some of Jerusalem's wealthiest Arabs.

One of the most famous Christian families in Hebron (Khalil) is Abu Gharbieh, which helped improving the foundations of the city.

State of Israel

The Arab residents of Katamon fled in 1948, in the wake of fierce battles for control of the area during the Arab–Israeli War. The abandoned homes in the German Colony and other parts of Katamon were used to house new immigrants. Since the end of the 20th century, the neighborhood has undergone a process of gentrification. Efforts are being made to restore old landmark buildings and incorporate some of their architectural features, such as arched windows and tiled roofs, in new construction. Numerous cafes, bars, restaurants, and boutiques have opened in the neighborhood, and many affluent families have moved there, pushing up the price of real estate. The German Colony has a large English-speaking population,[4] with the English speaking community comprising both families and singles, permanent immigrants and visitors. The neighborhood is home to the Smadar Theater, Jerusalem's arthouse cinema and a perennial gathering place for the artisterati.[4]

During the Second Intifada, in September 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside Café Hillel on Emek Refaim Street, killing seven people. In February 2004, another suicide bombing took place on bus #14a as it was leaving the neighborhood northwards. Eight were killed. A small stone monument was erected on top of the fence of the old train station, facing the location of the attack. It is visible from the main northern entrance to the German Colony, across from Liberty Bell Park.


Lintel with Arabic inscription from 1925

The colorful history of the German Colony is illustrated by the mix of architectural styles found within a relatively small area. One finds Swabian-style homes, examples of late provincial Ottoman architecture and British Art Deco from the Mandatory period, within close proximity. An example of British architecture is the Scottish Hospice and St Andrew's Church, built in 1927, decorated with local Armenian tilework.[5][6] Some of the Templer homes have biblical inscriptions in German on their lintels, in Fraktur script.

Street names

The side streets of the German Colony are named for Gentile supporters of Zionism and the Jewish people. Apart from the French author Émile Zola, Czech president Tomas Masaryk, and South African prime minister Jan Smuts, many of the streets are named for Britons: Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, British Labour Party MP Josiah Wedgwood, Colonel John Henry Patterson, commander of the Jewish Legion in World War I and the pro-Zionist British general Wyndham Deedes.[7]


Frank House on Emek Refaim Street

Development plans

For years, developers have been trying to build up the area at the northern entrance to the neighborhood, overlooking Liberty Bell Park. Mass protests in the early 1970s failed to halt the construction of a high-rise apartment building, known as the Omariya compound. In the wake of protests by environmentalists and neighborhood activists, the plans have been altered, and the height of a planned 14-story Four Seasons Hotel has been cut to seven stories.[8]

Notable residents


  1. "Hamoshava Hagermanit Beyerushalayim," Itzik Sweiki, SPNI bulletin, p. 23,
  2. Studies in the Economic and Social History of Palestine in the Nineteenth, by Roger Owen, 1982, Southern Illinois University Press, Page 44
  3. "Jerusalem: Architecture in the late Ottoman Period". 1902-01-27. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  4. 1 2 Discover Jerusalem - German Colony
  5. Archived June 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "". Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  7. Wehner, Peter. "« Churchill and the Jews by Martin Gilbert Churchil's Promised Land by Michael Makovsky Commentary Magazine". Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  8. "Opposition to 14-story hotel".
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Coordinates: 31°45′47.4″N 35°13′15.79″E / 31.763167°N 35.2210528°E / 31.763167; 35.2210528

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