By JERUSALEM POST STAFFPublished: MARCH 22, 2007 15:28Advertisement
Rehov Emek Refaim serves as the unofficial border between Baka and the German Colony, which takes its name from the religious German community that thrived there during the late 19th century. This group, which called itself the Templers after the European Crusader order that for a time controlled Jerusalem, built much of the German Colony and was responsible for the neighborhood's distinctive look.
By the early 20th century, the area had become an upper-class neighborhood for Arabs and Ottoman officials, and Emek Refaim was a residential street.
The original Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, which ran from 1892-1998, terminated at the old railway station in Baka, not far from Emek Refaim, making the area well known to pilgrims and tourists.
After the War of Independence, most of the original inhabitants fled and the neighborhood became part of the new State of Israel.
According to Jerusalem historian and architect David Kroyanker, who is currently working on a book about Emek Refaim and the German Colony, since then the population has been a diverse mix of Jews.
"It has changed over the years," he says. "During the 1950s, there were a lot of olim from North Africa and Eastern Europe in the German Colony. Then, after '67 there was an influx of upper-middle-class Israelis - professors and lawyers who could afford individual houses, who wanted a red-tiled roof and a small garden.
"Then the latest is the aliya from the West. It was about 15 years ago, more or less, that there was a change in the population - and not just in the Moshava [German Colony], but also in parts of Katamon and Talbiyeh. For the family that can afford it, [the Western olim] like to live in neighborhoods that have some sort of history, that have a special character. It's one of the few places that has those nice old houses."
The new Western olim were well-to-do and further helped to transform Emek Refaim into an economic and culinary center, a process that really accelerated during the late 1990s.
Musician Ziv Yehezkel, 42, was born and raised in the Moshava. "I remember in '96, a nice couple started a cafe in the Smadar Theater, and we would play music there on Friday afternoons before the movie. The scene was built up little by little, all the cafes, and it was already 'in' a few years later.
"Before that it was something else completely. It was always a center, a main street connecting downtown with Talpiot and Katamon. But back in the '70s and '80s, the Americans and yuppies weren't there... so it was a lot less quiet. It wasn't a nice neighborhood so much; it wasn't an easy place."
The street suffered several difficult years, as during the second intifada Emek Refaim cafes were targeted numerous times by suicide bombers, including a foiled attack at Caffit and a bombing at Cafe Hillel in 2003 that claimed the lives of seven people.
Business owners and customers were undeterred, and since the security situation has improved Emek Refaim has been thriving. - G.F.
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