Emek Refaim Street is located in the German Colony neighbourhood in the centre of Jerusalem. The German Colony is the most elegant and trendy neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and it is few minutes walk from the modern downtown and the Old City.
Emek Refaim is part of the cultural history of Jerusalem, and it is crowded with cafés, restaurants and shops. Moreover, the street is featured by German Templar architectural style buildings, making it a unique neighbourhood.
German Colony is also known as HaMoshava HaGermanit, and it was settled in the second part of the 19th century by the German Temple Society members. The buildings of this area were built in Bauhaus, Ottoman, and Templar styles. Emek Refaim is one of the trendiest streets of Jerusalem, and it is a blend of modern and ancient elements, recalling the Tel Aviv style streets, with fashionable boutiques, eateries and cafeterias. Very often in Emek Refaim, there are events, book fairs and markets, and indeed, it is one of the best places in Jerusalem to have a delightful walk and taste delicious food at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
The neighbourhood of Emek Refaim has a vintage atmosphere, and the street is well-known for its calm charm, historic buildings, beautiful shops and pleasant coffee shops. However, it is also the perfect place to enjoy an elegant and unforgettable dinner with a more private ambience than the downtown area of Jerusalem. Some of the eateries that deserve a visit are the creative Pompidou Bistro and the family-friendly restaurant Roza, being both of them vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly.
Emek Refaim Park
The park of Emek Refaim has a total surface of five thousand square metres extending from Malha Rail Station along Nahal Refaim through the neighbourhood of Malha, Givat Masua, Ir Ganim, Kiryat Menachem, and the moshavim Ora and Aminadav, until the district of Gilo in the south. The park has many springs, such as Ein Lavan, the Walaja and Ein al-Khaniya springs, and it includes the Biblical Zoo, the Jerusalem Aquarium, and the Ein Yael Active Museum.
The fantastic landscape of the park is made of agricultural terraces, orchards, and springs, representing the gardening and plantation system of the Land of Israel. The park contains the midstream of Nahal Refaim, one of the rivers of Nahal Sorek, which has been improved, including a promenade created beside its extension. Additionally, in the park, there are also bike routes, footpaths, playgrounds, sports equipment, gardens, picnic areas, and a car park. The springs of Ein Lavan and Ein al-Khaniya have been restored, and nowadays, they are accessible. The Emek Refaim park is made of luxuriant vegetation and characteristic trees typical of the Jerusalem Hills.
Historical Records Of Emek Refaim
Emek Refaim has a pretty unusual name because it means “Valley Of The Ghosts” or “Valley Of The Giants” in English.
The Hebrew terminology comes from the biblical Valley of Rephaim, which started its descent from this area in Jerusalem. The 2nd-century CE Aramaic Targum of Onkelos interprets the name as “meshar gibaraya” or “plain of the mighty.” Jerome’s 4th-century Latin Vulgate interprets the name as “Vallis Raphaim”; instead, the English King James version translated Emek Refaim as “the valley of the giants”, as well as the Jewish commentators.
During the first and second Temple periods, Emek Refaim was outside the ancient city of Jerusalem; nevertheless, it was inhabited by the tribe of Judah farmers.
In the 19th century, the first residents of Emek Refaim were the German Templers, and it is possible to find Biblical inscriptions in German Fraktur script on some houses’ architraves. During World War II, the Templers deported by the British. The style of the Templers’ houses is similar to their residences in Württemberg.
Architectural Style Of Emek Refaim
Most of the buildings on Emek Refaim backdate to the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. Some of the unique German Templer constructions are still enduring. During the British Mandate, a movie theatre known as Smadar was built on Emek Refaim and Lloyd George Street, although its anciently was known as the Regent or the Orient. On a hill facing the Hinnom Valley, at the corner with Emek Refaim, the Scottish Church of St. Andrew’s was constructed in 1927, incorporating local Armenian paving stones.
German Colony in Jerusalem
The neighbourhood of the German Colony was founded in the second part of the 19th century as a German Templer Colony. Today the district is an upscale neighbourhood divided by Emek Refaim Street, a big and elegant avenue crowded with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes.
German Colony Through The Jerusalem’s History
Emek Refaim, or Valley of Refaim, is quoted in the Book of Joshua and the Second Book of Samuel. The name might be derived from a legendary race of giants who lived in this region in biblical times.
In 1873, after building settlements in Haifa and Jaffa, members of the Templer sect from Württemberg, Germany, dwelled on a big plot of land in the Refaim Valley, southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem. Matthäus Frank, one of the newcomers, acquired the land from the Arabs of Beit Safafa. The Templars were Christians who split from the Protestant church and urged their members to reside in the Holy Land to be ready for the Messianic redemption. They built their houses in the Germanic style typical of their origin country, which consisted of farmhouses of one or two storeys, with oblique tile roofs and shuttered windows, employing Jerusalem stones instead of wood and bricks.
The colonists were occupied in agriculture and traditional businesses such as carpentry and blacksmithing. Their houses were located on two parallel streets that afterwards would become Emek Refaim and Bethlehem Road. The British Mandatory government extradited the German Templers during World War II because Germans were considered enemy citizens; hence, some emigrated to Australia.
Christian Arab Settlement
During the years, the neighbourhood of the German Colony expanded towards the south along the valley. Many of the properties were purchased by wealthy Christian Arab families because of the attraction of this location, which was between the road to Bethlehem and the developing neighbourhoods of Katamon, Talbiya, and Baka, populated by Jerusalem’s wealthiest Arabs.
State of Israel
In 1948, during the Arab-Israeli War, the Arab residents of Katamon fled, and the deserted houses in the German Colony and Katamon were employed to host new immigrants. During the last part of the 1900s, the neighbourhood went through a process of upscaling. Many restorations have been made to reconstruct old monumental buildings and include ancient architectural features, such as arched windows and tiled roofs, in the new buildings. Several bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops appeared in the German Colony neighbourhood, and many wealthy families have relocated there. The German Colony hosts a great English-speaking community including both families and singles, permanent immigrants and visitors. In the neighbourhood resides the famous Smadar Theater, one of Jerusalem’s well-known cinemas and a perennial gathering place for the artists. In September 2003, during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian terror attack at Café Hillel on Emek Refaim Street killed seven people, and again, in February 2004, another suicide bombing took place on a bus killing eight people. A small stone monument was erected in front of the location of the attack, and it is noticeable from the northern entrance to the German Colony, opposite Liberty Bell Park.
Architecture Of The German Colony
The interesting history of the German Colony architecture is evident in the mix of design styles in a relatively small area. Examples of the unique style of the German Colony are the Swabian-style houses, with a blend of modern Ottoman architecture and British Art Deco from the Mandatory period. The Scottish Hospice and St Andrew’s Church are examples of British architecture, and they were built in 1927 and decorated with local Armenian tiles. In the architraves of some of the Templer houses, there are biblical inscriptions in German in Fraktur fonts.
The German Colony’s Street Names
Most of the German Colony streets are named after Gentile supporters of Zionism, Israel and the Jewish Nation. Besides being named after the French author Émile Zola, Czech president Tomas Masaryk and South African prime minister Jan Smuts, in most cases, the streets of the German Colony have been named after famous British personalities such as Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Baron Josiah Wedgwood, Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, Colonel John Henry Patterson, pro-Zionist British general Wyndham Deedes.
Parks and Green Spaces In The German Colony
The Park HaMesila, which is also known as Train Track Park, is on the German Colony’s south border with Baka. This ancient train railway was transformed into a park about 7km in radius, and the part that borders the German Colony has been widely decorated.
At the junction of the park with Masaryk Street, there is a ‘Bus Stop Library’ where it is possible to donate undesired books or select something to read.