A street with vision

There are a number of upscale projects on the go on the historic Prophets Street.

Hanevi'im Street 521 (photo credit: Coutresy of Ambassador Real Estate)
Hanevi'im Street 521
(photo credit: Coutresy of Ambassador Real Estate)
Hanevi’im Street – the “Street of the Prophets” – is among the most picturesque thoroughfares in Jerusalem, and its history has transformed it into one of the most diverse architectural streets in the capital.
During its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was one of the most fashionable addresses in the city. As Jerusalem expanded beyond the Old City walls, it became the abode of wealthy Christian, Muslim and Jewish families who wanted out of the crowded area inside those walls. It also became the preferred location for hospitals, churches, monasteries, hospices and consulates.
Most of these buildings, such as the Italian Hospital – now the Education Ministry – were beautiful, striking and meant to make a statement. Each structure was built in the style of the country that commissioned it.
The Italian Hospital, for instance, designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, was built as a Renaissance fortress. The Bikur Cholim Hospital, formerly the German Hospital, was built in the South German style, while the Anglican International School – the former English Mission Hospital – looks like any late 19th-century public building in one of the outposts of the British Empire. There is also the old Ethiopian Consulate building, built by Ethiopia’s Empress Taytu, which has since been converted into an apartment building.
Hanevi’im Street extends beyond the old cease-fire line, and on the eastern end of the street, the architecture is wholly Arab.
Many of the old palatial residences were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Jerusalem was still part of the Turkish Empire. In contrast to the fate of such residences in Jerusalem’s suburbs – which were divided into apartments for new immigrants after the 1948 war – most of these houses, with cool verdant gardens behind high stone walls, are still inhabited, and some have been converted into fashionable offices.
When the street came into existence in the mid- 19th century, it did not have an official name. Known as the “Street of the Hospitals” or the “Street of the Consulates,” it was not even a street in the modern sense of the word, because it was not paved and did not have sewage facilities; water was supplied by the cisterns that collected rain. Shortly after the establishment of the British Mandate, the street received its name from Ronald Storrs, the first civil governor of Jerusalem, who had the street paved and the necessary infrastructure installed.
From its inception, the street retained its contour, which followed the route of its houses and public buildings. It runs on an east-west axis, stretching from Damascus Gate to what is now Davidka Square.
Incidentally the western end of Hanevi’im Street was the location of the tent city that the Turkish authorities erected in 1898 to house Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and Empress Augusta during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However, there is no monument to commemorate this important visit, during which, among other things, the emperor met with Theodor Herzl in the tented compound. The only such monument, if it can be so called, was a breach in the city walls: The Ottoman authorities cut a part of the wall adjacent to the Jaffa Gate to allow the emperor to make a triumphant entrance on horseback to the Holy City.
With Jaffa Road converted into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare on which all traffic save the light rail is banned, Hanevi’im Street, which is parallel to Jaffa Road, has become a major artery. In the late 1980s, there was a proposal to widen the narrow, two-lane street into a 32-meter-wide superhighway. However, the proposal met with stiff opposition from Jerusalem residents, as it called for destroying the historic garden courtyards of the buildings lining the street. The plan was ultimately shelved.
According to real-estate operators, the area has great potential.
“It is attractive, it is historical and it is central – 500 meters from the commercial center of Jaffa Road and 500 m. from the walls of the Old City,” Itzik Levy, the general manager of the Ambassador Real Estate Jerusalem brokerage, tells In Jerusalem regarding Hanevi’im Street.
“Furthermore, the municipality has plans to upgrade the street while maintaining its historic look. Real estate developers have discovered the potential of the area, and there are now a number of interesting residential upscale real-estate projects in the planning and building process. The ‘Hanevi’im 45’ project, the ‘Harav Kook 7’ and the ‘Hanevi’im Courts’ project are in the building process, while the ‘Beit Clark’ project at 27 Hanevi’im is still in the early stages. This last will have nine floors; the first two will be occupied by a high-class boutique hotel, and the top seven will be occupied by luxury apartments.”
Hanevi’im is also much in demand for those who want to purchase one of the old private houses, complete with walled garden and cistern.
Moshe Babani of the Anglo-Saxon Real Estate brokerage network speaks of a 1,440-sq.m. compound of old houses for sale. This is the kind of property that affluent overseas residents who want a large residence in Jerusalem usually acquire, if they can afford it: The asking price is upward of $8.5 million. •