The communal nature of Katamon

Although varied in their religious affiliations, the residents live together harmoniously and have established a welcoming neighborhood.

Katamon (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
Many of the fashionable areas of Jerusalem have had a checkered history. They were upper-class Arab neighborhoods prior to the War of Independence. In the aftermath of that war, these areas were claimed by Israel, and the Arab residents had to leave. Most of the houses were large and majestic; but with the influx of new immigrants, these dwellings were divided and subdivided into smaller apartments.
Katamon is a case in point.
Though many central Jerusalem neighborhoods have become too expensive for young families to afford, Katamon, with its pastoral streets, parks, community centers and numerous synagogues, has become a haven for them. With four-room apartments in nearby Rehavia and the German Colony costing as much as NIS 3 million, young families find more home for their money in Katamon, which can average NIS 2.25m. With this active and energetic population needing schools and religious institutions as well, many vibrant venues were buillt to suit their needs. Today the neighborhood of more than 5,000 residents is one of the more sought-after areas for young modern Orthodox families.
Katamon was established just before World War I. Although many of the original buildings were destroyed during that time, building activity resumed after 1924, mostly by affluent Christian Arabs, who built large mansions. Abandoned after 1948 because most of the residents became enemy aliens, they became home to new immigrants who settled in the neighborhood.
Katamon, dubbed “the flower garden of Jerusalem,” is bounded by Talbiyeh to the northeast and the German Colony and the Greek Colony to the southeast. It is bounded on its south side by Rahel Imeinu and Hizkiyahu Hamelech streets (separating it from the Greek Colony), and on its east side by Rehov Kovshei Katamon (separating it from Talbiyeh). These streets connect to Rehov Emek Refaim and Rehov Hapalmah, respectively.
A major site in Katamon is the San Simon monastery, on a hilltop to the north. The monastery is now surrounded by a large park. San Simon Park is also a very popular picnic and meeting place for local families.
The area is home to several foreign consulates, among them the Greek consulate, the Italian consulate and the Costa Rican consulate. The old Hapoel stadium was purchased by developers and is now the site of the upscale Ganei Katamon neighborhood, ringing Ofira Navon Park, named after the wife of president Yitzhak Navon.
The Misgav Ladach hospital on the southern edge of the neighborhood specialized in maternity care but is now a Meuhedet clinic. The L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art is located on Rehov Hapalmah.
Katamon also houses the core community of Erloi Hassidism, as well as its yeshiva, Ohel Shimon. The Shtieblach is a popular synagogue with services around the clock. The well-known Yakar Institute is a creative Jewish learning center attracting many young religious families. The population is a mixture of national religious, secular and haredi. Although varied in their religious affiliations, the residents live together harmoniously and have established a very comfortable and welcoming neighborhood for newcomers.
In the early 1970s, a general process of renewal began in this area, and many of the inhabitants realized their dreams of having stone courtyards, fences, quality porches and tiled roofs. Major renovations were carried out, with architectural styles not previously seen in the area.
Katamon has a romantic, sentimental style, with small, artistic houses with yards, all located within close proximity to the center of town. In addition, there are many schools, pre-schools and synagogues in the neighborhood.
Katamon branches out into several neighborhoods collectively called “the Katamonim,” built in the early years of the state to accommodate the large wave of new immigrants.
Real Estate agent Felicia Mizrachi from RE/MAX Vision, who specializes in the Katamon neighborhood, says, “Although many neighborhoods in Jerusalem have become overpriced for the general population, the prices in Katamon are still affordable. A spacious five-room (four-bedroom) apartment on Bilu, in very good condition, is being marketed for NIS 2.75m. It even has an additional basement room that was renovated as a small clinic. Young families can afford these prices and are definitely attracted to the beautiful neighborhood filled with trees and parks and within walking distance of some of the best schools and shopping areas in the city.
Due to the political situation, many young national religious families are moving into Katamon from Judea and Samaria. Katamon has national religious kindergartens and one of the best educational networks suited to the needs of that community. Built around national religious synagogues, community centers and other cultural activities that are all within walking distance – with no need to car pool children around the city – Katamon is a very desirable neighborhood to live in.
Recent real estate transactions in Katamon
On Rehov Haportzim, a two-room, 40 square meter apartment on the third floor, with an elevator and a beautiful view but needing renovations, sold for NIS 980,000. The property had been owned as an investment by a couple for many years and was rented out, generating a very good return. It was purchased by an investor who intends to keep the current tenants.
• On Rehov Hapalmah, a three-room apartment on the second floor needing some renovations, in a lovely stone building above some shops, sold for NIS 1.3 million.
• A renovated four-room apartment (100 sq.m.) with a garden (30 sq.m.) sold for NIS 2.8m.
Sales transactions by RE/MAX Vision