The German Colony
The German Colony, often referred to by locals as ‘HaMoshava’ is one of Jerusalem’s most sought after, upscale neighborhoods. It offers many attractions for the younger generation as Emek Refaim Street is an avenue lined with trendy shops, restaurants, and cafes; along with quiet, pastoral streets and parks, capable of making you forget you are right in the center of Israel’s capital. The proximity of the neighborhood to the Old City and the City Center also add to the demand.
The neighborhood was established in the second half of the 19th century as a German Templar Colony in Palestine. Many Templars came from an agricultural background, turning the German Colony into a farming suburb of Jerusalem. The new Christian residents built their homes in the style of German farmhouses while incorporating the native building material of Jerusalem Stone, resulting in a unique architectural style, remnants of which have been preserved to this day. During World War II the Templars were deported to Germany, and affluent Christian-Arabs flocked the area. These Arabs added their own architectural style to the area with beautiful, Arab-Style homes. Although their architectural influence can still be seen today in the neighborhood, the Arab-Christians didn’t stay long. Many of them fled during the 1948 Independence War.
In 1975 the government declared the German Colony as a historical site, in an effort to maintain the buildings in the area. This led to an increased effort in restoring the old buildings, and the use of similar architectural trends like tiled roofs and arched windows in new construction. All this, along with the central location, attracted wealthy English and French immigrants to the area, increasing the prestige of the neighborhood, along with property values.
Emek Refaim Street
The famous Emek Refaim Street is one of the German Colony’s main attractions. It features many trendy shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The street attracts residents from all nearby neighborhoods, along with many tourists from Israel and all over the world, and truly represents a large cultural and commercial hub. There are a lot of small pastoral streets connected to Emek Refaim, they feature beautiful Arab-style homes covered in vines, and offer a nice break from the lively main street.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of the lesser known attractions in Jerusalem, it sits inside the Villa Decan, a historic structure from the 19th century, quietly hidden away in the greenery of the surrounding area. The museum offers a variety of exhibitions, showcasing everything from dinosaurs to modern-day bird migrations, along with lectures and educational films, and different activities catered to children and adults.
Sitting behind tall concrete walls, the Templar Cemetery is a unique sight for the center of Jerusalem, and Israel in general. The cemetery was built by the Templars in the 19th century and served as a burial ground for community members and leaders. The cemetery also includes a memorial to the 550 Templars from the various German colonies around Israel who fought in World War I and World War II.
Entering the quiet cemetery from the lively Emek Refaim Street is a rather transcending experience, like walking through a glass door into a completely different location, and is definitely worth a visit.
Located on Emek Refaim 6, the house was built by Matthaus Frank, who in 1872 purchased the plot of land which would later become the German Colony from the Arabs. Frank sold most of the land to the Templars, but kept about 5 dunam (5,000 sqm) for himself. On his land, Frank built a large home – the first structure to be completed in the German Colony, along with a steam-driven flour mill and a bakery which he ran. Locals from the time described the property as a majestic castle, surrounded by fruit trees and even equipped with stables.
Lev Smadar Cinema
The oldest operating cinema in Jerusalem, established in 1928 for the British Military, then opened for the public, and in 1950 bought by Arie Chachik whose family runs it to this day. The cinema is well-known by locals for its home-like and friendly atmosphere. On Fridays the cinema used to be filled to the brim, and to this day it’s one of the only cinemas open in Jerusalem during the weekend. The place also has a nice café, and if you’d like, you could watch the movie sipping on a nice cup of coffee or a cold beer.
Lev Smadar is open from the afternoon on weekdays, and all day long during the weekend, and is definitely worth a visit for those who want to see some quality cinematography.
The First Station Compound
The First Station, as the name suggests, is the first train station built in Jerusalem, at the end of the 19th century, with the first train from Jaffa entering it on September 26, 1892. The architecture was influenced by European and Templar styles and over time, various additions were built, including a thick layer of concrete that covered the roof in fear of bombings during the British Mandate. The station worked practically non-stop till its closure in 1998 due to the poor state of the railways. The complex got neglected and forgotten for over a decade, until reconstruction and preservation works were started, and the complex was opened as a new entertainment center in 2013.
Located at the edge of Emek Refaim, the First Station is a large culture, entertainment and culinary center, providing entertainment for locals and tourists of all ages. It’s the perfect place to visit any time and any day, from live day performances, to a lively night life: the first station has it all.
Also known as The Train Track Park follows the original train tracks that lead from the First Station compound, all the way to the new train station in Malha. Featuring 7km (4.3 miles) of walking and biking trails, along with playgrounds, sitting benches, open libraries and plenty of green grass areas, open for all to enjoy. The park has been noted as a symbol of coexistence in the divided city, as it passes through Jewish and Arab neighborhoods and is used by residents of both.
Between Derech Beit Lehem and Emek Refaim lies Cremieux st., a narrow cobblestone residential street of red-tile-roof houses with mixed architectural styles, surrounded by low stone walls partly covered by vines and creepers. It is considered to be among the most exclusive streets in the German Colony, with large Arab-style homes, many of which have undergone extensive renovation. Its distinctive atmosphere stems from its rural character, tied in with the luxurious interiors of the homes.