September 30th 2013
Jerusalem’s Rechavia Neighborhood of dates back to the 1920s, when it was founded on land that belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church. The plan was to build a tranquil garden neighborhood in the midst of the city center, modeled after the garden cities of Europe. To maintain this vision, commercial property is only found on two main roads that border the neighborhood. The main commercial thoroughfare is Azza Street, lined with cafés, restaurants and specialty shops. A casual walk down Azza Street is the perfect way to get in touch with Jerusalem’s café culture, or to shop for items such as boutique chocolate, high-end artistic gifts and French-style pastries.
Rechavia’s residential streets have been home to German and other European intellectuals since the neighborhood was first established. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Israel’s fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir, both made their homes in Rechavia, along with leaders such as Menachem Ussishkin, head of the Jewish National Fund and numerous government ministers. The streets carry names of Jewish scholars and poets from the Golden Age of Spain, such as Ben Maimon (Maimonides), Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, Alfasi and Ramban (Nachmanides).
Today, the Prime Minister’s official residence is situated in Rechavia, at the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin Streets. The home is among the best-known examples of Bauhaus architecture in Jerusalem. Other highlights include the international headquarters of the Jewish Agency for Israel on Keren Kayemet Street and the windmill on Ramban Street, built in the middle of the 19th century by the Greek Orthodox Church. Gymnasia Rehavia High School, built on Keren Kayemet Street in 1928, was the second modern high school to be founded in pre-state Palestine.
Religious institutions in Rechavia include the Ratisbonne Monastery, which operates today as the Jerusalem campus of the Salesian Pontifical University of Rome and the Yeshurun Synagogue. The stone-cut tomb known as Jason’s Tomb, dating from the Maccabean period (164 BCE to 63 BCE) was recently discovered on Alfasi Street. Another neighborhood landmark is Yad Ben-Zvi, a research institute established by the second President of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi.
The streets in Rechavia are narrow and sometimes heavily trafficked. The best way to explore is on foot, in order to more fully appreciate the gardens and to take in the character of the neighborhood.