Rehov Hanevi'im - Around the houses

A treasure trove of historic buildings, Rehov Hanevi'im was once home to Menahem Ussishkin, Conrad Schick and the head of the German Protestant community.

Following a large wave of Russian pogroms in the early 1880s, Jews began emigrating from Eastern Europe. Thousands of destitute refugees headed for the Holy Land in 1882, forming part of the First Aliya. Leaders of the Zionist movements asked Baron Edmond de Rothschild for help in establishing colonies in the Land of Israel — but were refused. The poor Jews of Jaffa, where the newcomers disembarked, and Jerusalem, where many ended up, had very little to offer.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of refugees were forced to get help from an English missionary group known as the London Jews’ Society. The mission was eager to assist, and soon its institutions were filled with Eastern European Jews. The able-bodied among them were given work on 32 dunams (eight acres) of mission-owned land along Rehov Hanevi’im (Street of the Prophets). They cleared the land of rocks, built walls and planted ornamental and fruit trees.

Jerusalem rabbis were appalled at the Jews’ close links to the mission and vehemently objected. But since they weren’t in any position to find work and housing for their fellow Jews, they finally gave in — on one condition: Whenever a missionary began preaching, the Jews were to cover their ears. It is said that one reason Baron Rothschild finally began underwriting Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel was the situation in Jerusalem, with Jews depending on missionaries for their sustenance.

From 1882-1883, hundreds of refugees were employed by or housed in the beautiful mission complex, today the Anglican International School and part of a lovely stroll along one of west Jerusalem’s most historic and well- preserved streets. Begin your jaunt on the corner of Hanevi’im and Jaffa Road — at Kikar Davidka. The walk ends on the corner of Shivtei Yisrael and Hanevi’im.

The main feature of Kikar Davidka is a memorial to the men and women who defended the city during the War of Independence. You might need your imagination to see a resemblance, but the top of the stone monument is meant to look like stocking caps worn by Palmah soldiers.

In front of the memorial stands a Davidka. The strange-looking mortar was conjured up on the eve of the war by engineer David Leibowitch, a member of the Hagana who spent his evenings trying to upgrade the few weapons it had managed to acquire. Although the Davidka did little but give off a huge, terrifying shriek, that noise was enough to cause the enemy to flee in panic. The inscription is part of a phrase from the Bible: ’I will defend this city and save it...’ (II Kings 19:34).

NOW YOU reach the Anglican complex, at No. 82. The property on which it stands was bought in 1863, making it one of the first plots of land purchased outside the Old City walls. The original structure was designed that same year by famous architect Conrad Schick, a missionary with golden hands who built his own home just up the street.

Thirty years later, a girls’ boarding school was built on the property, and in 1897 the English Mission added a hospital. During World War I, the Turks used the mission hospital for their wounded soldiers, and in 1917 the British turned it into headquarters for the 60th Division, conquerors of Jerusalem. Gen. Edmund Allenby, commander of British forces, lunched here one day with Lawrence of Arabia.

The intersection of Hanevi’im and Strauss boasts three famous structures. To your right, with a main entrance on Strauss, stands Bikur Holim Hospital. The original hospital was inside the Old City; the current facility opened in 1927. Take a look at the entrance: Its most impressive features are pilasters and three sets of double doors designed by Ze’ev Raban. Made of beaten copper, they are covered by biblical verses and symbols of the 12 tribes.

Facing Bikur Holim across Hanevi’im is the Israel Center, located in what was once Jerusalem’s premier hotel — the San Remo, erected in 1927.

Across Strauss, the more elegant wing of Bikur Holim was originally a German hospital. Strangely shaped, with one side on Hanevi’im and the other on Strauss, it was designed by Schick for the Protestant Diakonissen Kaiserwerthes Schwestern Order. See if you can make out the order’s symbol — a dove carrying an olive branch.

Stop at the old railroad car just past the hospital. It served as national headquarters for Yad Sarah, a volunteer organization that provides free medical and rehabilitative equipment to all comers, from its establishment in 1976 until completion of a more modern facility in 1998.

Enter the picturesque alley across the street at 64 Hanevi’im, and find yourself in another world. One of the early residents of this charming garden neighborhood was painter William Hollman Hunt. Famous for his religious paintings, Hunt traveled to the Land of Israel often in search of inspiration for his work. In 1869 he built the house at the end of the lane and settled down for good. One of Hunt’s best-known creations is a strawberry-blond goat with sad looking eyes. Called Scapegoat, it was completed in 1854.

The first pediatrician in Jerusalem, Dr. Helen Kagan, also resided in this alley; so did the poet Rahel, who came to ease the pain of her fatal tuberculosis with the dry air of the Holy City. Across from the tiny white hut where she lived was a garden whose blossoming pear tree figured in one of her poems.

Back on Hanevi’im, cross the street to get a good view of Tabor House (58). The elaborate edifice was erected by Schick, one of Jerusalem’s most multifaceted inhabitants, for his family. A German Protestant missionary who arrived in 1846, Schick was an expert draftsman, painter, watchmaker and carpenter who taught himself architectural design and archeology. He specialized in building detailed models of both the Temple and the Temple Mount that were a big hit among wealthy Jerusalemites. Indeed, he received 800 gold coins for one of his models, a fee which enabled him to construct this imaginative combination of eastern and European architecture.

The handsome Hadassah College of Technology on the corner of Rehov Harav Kook was originally the Rothschild Hospital, built in 1888 as the first Jewish hospital outside the Old City walls for patients of all creeds and nationalities.

A few years before the onset of World War I, a group of Presbyterians came to Jerusalem. Apparently, they planned to set up a tent on the Mount of Olives for 50,000 people, who would then be the first to be redeemed by the Messiah, and they left the tent curtains and rods in the basement of Rothschild Hospital for safekeeping.

When the hospital ran out of sheets during the war, someone remembered the curtains; the rods were turned into fuel for heating the patients’ rooms. Eventually the hospital was forced to close. Later it was taken over by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America to become the first Hadassah Hospital.

Now walk down to the magnificent edifice at 42 Hanevi’im. It was on this spot in 1882, then a vacant lot, that Theodor Herzl met with German Emperor Wilhelm II to discuss Zionist issues. Who knows what might have happened had Wilhelm given his wholehearted support to Herzl’s cause.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the German government built an imposing two-story building here to house the head of the German Protestant community. Although the eagle and cross that symbolized the German Empire have since been removed, two walls retain inscriptions. Look for them on the front and side of what is now the Jerusalem ORT College.

CROSS THE street for a better look at the enormous building which is both No. 38 and 40. For many years Ethiopia’s consulate, it was erected in 1928 by the devout Christian Ethiopian Empress Zauditu and features bright mosaics, attractive windows and decorative gables. Ethiopians trace their royal family to a union between King Solomon and the queen of Sheba. The Lion of Judah is the symbol of the Ethiopian royal house, so the mosaic lion on the faade comes as no surprise. Today the building is rented out to lodgers.

Now feast your eyes on one of the most superb complexes in the country: the Italian Hospital. Designed by Antonio Barluzzi, who created several of Jerusalem’s most inspiring houses of Christian worship, the palatial structure was completed in 1919.

During World War II, the British turned the hospital into headquarters for the Royal Air Force. Three years later, when the British began pulling out of Palestine, both the Arabs and the Hagana hoped to get their hands on this strategic property near the border with east Jerusalem. Fortunately for the Hagana, it discovered the exact time of the British exit and the Jews got in first. Today the Italian Hospital building houses the Ministry of Education.

Our tour ends at the arresting edifice on the corner of Hanevi’im and Shivtei Yisrael, which dates back to 1885. The house was built by a Protestant missionary named Jacob Johannes Frutiger who called it Mahanayim and wrote its name above the door. The name comes from the biblical passage: ’When Jacob saw them, he said, ’This is the camp of God. So he named that place Mahanayim’ (Genesis 32:2). Pass the house, cross the street and stand way back to spot a balcony high atop the roof: It offered residents and guests a splendid view of the Old City.

As the years passed, Frutiger became one of the richest bankers in the country. Then he began getting lost on his way to work and it was thought that his mind was gone (possibly, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease).

His wife asked her son to take over the bank, but the son was arrested for not carrying a lantern at night — an intriguing Turkish law which assumed anyone without a light was bent on nefarious purposes. His incarceration did little to mend the reputation of the bank, which collapsed. The family was forced to sell their property, including the house.

Menahem Ussishkin, director of the Jewish National Fund, lived here from 1922 until 1927, when he was forced out of this gorgeous domicile to make room for the British High Commissioner. So upset was he by this move that when he built a house in Rehavia, he inscribed ’Mahanayim’ above the door!