Neighborhood watch: Still in demand

Talbiyeh is one of the capital’s most expensive neighborhoods, but it is sought after among wealthy foreign buyers.

The Belgian Consulate 521 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Belgian Consulate 521
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Many consider Talbiyeh the most high-end neighborhood in Jerusalem. Of course, the “golden triangle” of neighborhoods around the King David Hotel – Mamilla, David’s Village and the King David Street area – may be more expensive, but on average Talbiyeh is probably one of the two or three most expensive areas in the capital.
Like most of the older high-end neighborhoods in Jerusalem, this one was built in the early 20th century for the benefit of affluent Old City residents who wanted to live in homes more spacious than the cramped accommodations in their own walled neighborhood. Talbiyeh was built specifically as a residential area for wealthy Christian Arabs.
From a real-estate perspective, it is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods among wealthy foreign buyers due to its proximity to the city center, the Old City and the Western Wall.
Many of the properties in Talbiyeh feature arched windows, original mosaics and high ceilings. These features, according to RE/MAX Vision Real Estate broker Alyssa Friedland, “are particularly attractive to the foreign buyers who feel the spiritual and oldworld Jerusalem charm inherent in these magnificent properties. Even the most run-down properties sell for as much as NIS 24,000 per square meter, whereas beautifully renovated properties reach price levels of NIS 40,000 to NIS 60,000 per sq.m.”
She says that “there is still quite a bit of turnover in the high-end market in Talbiyeh. However, the foreign buyers these days are less free-spending than before the financial crisis that started in 2008, and are opting for smaller three- to-five-room vacation homes, as opposed to the larger six- to-nine-room mansions that they were purchasing a few years ago.”
THE BEGINNINGS of Talbiyeh go back to the establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine. At that time, a wealthy businessman named Constantine Salameh bought a large tract of land from the Greek Orthodox Church and used it to build himself a palatial home, as well as two high-end apartment houses that he rented to well-heeled families. The rest of the land was parceled out and sold to two wealthy Christian Arabs who built elegant homes with Renaissance, Moorish and Arab architectural motifs, surrounded by trees and flowering gardens.
Before the Six Day War, many of the villas in Talbiyeh housed foreign consulates. Salameh’s home, which he leased to the Belgian Consulate, faces a square originally named for him – Salameh Square – and later renamed Wingate Square in honor of Orde Wingate, a British officer who trained members of the Hagana in the 1930s. Nearby is Marcus Street, named for Col. David (Mickey) Marcus, a US army officer who volunteered as a military adviser in the War of Independence.
After the 1948 war, the original inhabitants of Talbiyeh fled the fighting. Their houses were confiscated after the Knesset passed the Absentee Property Law, which expropriated all the assets – mostly real estate – of those who had fled during the war. This included Salameh’s house, which, incidentally, some consider one of the most beautiful private houses not only in Jerusalem but in the whole country.
Salameh was the only refugee whose property was returned at least symbolically. When Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977, Salameh accompanied him, and with Sadat’s help, he submitted a plea claiming that he had not left the city because of the fighting, but because he had been on a business trip when hostilities broke out.
Then-prime minister Menachem Begin approved his request, but instead of getting his property back, he got $700,000 – the equivalent of about $14 million today.
After 1948, the neighborhood received a new name – Komemiyut – but as with most other neighborhoods that had their names Hebraicized, it is unlikely that the average Jerusalemite knows where Komemiyut is.
Among the estates located in Talbiyeh is the President’s Residence. For the residence of a head of state, it is a modest 2.5-acre plot with a one-story building.
Less modest is the palatial residence of the Sherover family. A mansion set on a 5,500-sq.m.
plot, it sits in the heart of Jerusalem at the junction of Marcus, Pinsker and Dubnow streets. It is next to the Jerusalem Theater, which the Sherover family donated to the city, and near the Van Leer Institute and the new Hansen Cultural Center.
Benny Loval, manager of Anglo-Saxon Jerusalem, tells In Jerusalem that “the Sherover compound is situated in Jerusalem’s most upscale and exclusive neighborhood. There is currently no other comparable property on the Jerusalem market with a lot this size and two separate villas with a total built area of 1,700 sq.m.”
The main villa was originally built in 1958 for Miles Sherover, a wealthy Venezuelan industrialist, and his wife, Gita. The villa, its gardens and pool functioned as a hub of Jerusalem’s social life during the ’60s and ’70s, hosting many VIP dignitaries.
With the death of her husband in 1976 and son Gabriel in 1988, Gita Sherover built a smaller villa in the compound and lived there until her death in 2004.
The compound is now for sale through Anglo Saxon for $32.5 million.