The Templers were an evangelical Protestant sect
founded in Germany in the middle of the 19th century. Large numbers of
them came to settle in the Holy Land to await the second coming of
Jesus which, they believed, would coincide with the rebuilding of the
Temple in Jerusalem.
it is easy to confuse the spelling of the Templers with the much
earlier Knights Templar who were here in Crusader times, but there is a
marvelous mnemonic which means you will never get it wrong again. The
Templars who came first spelt it with an "a" and the Templers with an
"e," and "a" comes before "e" in the alphabet.
The Templers established several colonies here - in Haifa,
Jaffa, Beit Lehem Haglilit, Jerusalem and in what today is called Bnei
Atarot. They called the settlement Wilhelma after the kaiser and for
many years what is today Ben-Gurion Airport was called Wilhelma Airport
because of its proximity.
The sect is credited with bringing many innovations in
architecture, agriculture and industry to Palestine. The architecture,
of which this is a typical example, certainly looked different from the
other buildings of the period and had a definite European flavor. No
less a personality than Yoel Moshe Salomon, one of the founders of
Petah Tikva (he of the wonderful Arik Einstein song), wrote that
walking in a Templer colony one might imagine oneself in Europe.
But much as one would like to love the Templers for their contribution to the country, all is not as cozy and gemütlich
as one would have hoped. In the 1930s they became Nazi sympathizers,
hung swastikas on their public buildings and greeted each other with
the Nazi salute. Wilhelma became an internment camp for them until
after the state was established, when they were deported to Australia.
Motty Goldman was six years old when he came to live in this
house with his parents, and he and his siblings used to kick a soccer
ball around the beautiful tiled floors without having too much
awareness of their aesthetic and historical aspects.
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eight years of living on the ground floor, the family moved upstairs,
and this is where he still lives with his wife, Gil, and three
He was at first a little reluctant to allow us up to the living
area, which is not furnished quite as they wanted it yet, as they are
busy hunting for art deco furniture which will fit in with the style of
the house, frequenting flea markets and house sales until they find
just what they are looking for.
However, a gigantic copper air-conditioning unit certainly
merited a picture, even if the lounge suite didn't. And the living-room
walls are painted a rich wine color, as if to emphasize the central
role of wine-making in their lives.
The house was built in 1932, making it one of the more modern
Templer buildings, and it combines the traditional modesty of other
Templer structures with the art deco features appropriate to the
period. According to the Goldmans, it is the only Templer building in
the country open to the public.
The original Templer settlers lived in what later became the
stable and, according to tradition, they said they would build another
house when they had money and leave their first abode for the animals,
which they did. Today the stable houses a cooking school run by another
On Friday mornings the public is invited to visit the home and
taste some of Motty's excellent wines, while Gil serves cheeses,
quiches, salads and good coffee.
"The idea is to present the house as a peaceful oasis,
recalling another, more tranquil time," explains Motty. "We have quiet
background music playing and, while there is nothing dramatic in the
décor, we feel as though the house conveys something special with its
simplicity and homey feeling."
The shapes of the windows, the stone balconies and rounded
walls all testify to the 70-plus years the building has been standing,
while the tiled floors, all different, have remained in remarkably good
condition. The original frosted glass is still in the upper half of the
doors which lead from the entrance hall to what is now the café. A
crystal chandelier, an old restored chaise longue and ornate chairs of
an undetermined provenance contribute to the atmosphere of another
time. The original banisters with their carvings of stylized flowers
and bubble moldings are still in pristine condition. Outside, a deck
has been added for visitors to sit and enjoy the garden while sipping
their wine, and it blends in seamlessly with the rest of the house.
The basement has been turned into a conference room and
visitors' center where wine-tasting courses are given and some bottles
of the prize-winning wine line the shelves. At the entrance to the room
Motty has a quite extensive collection of farming tools and all kinds
of utensils from another age in a wall-long display.
The village of Bnei Atarot contains many other examples of
Templer homes, and every Friday a play is performed, in costume, for
the benefit of visitors to tell the story of the place, recreating the
life of the first settlers.
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