The German Colony ( המושבה הגרמנית, HaMoshava HaGermanit) is a neighborhood in Jerusalem, established in the second half of the 19th century by members of the German Temple Society. Today the Moshava, as it is popularly known, is an upscale neighborhood bisected by Emek Refaim Street, an avenue lined with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes.
Emek Refaim is mentioned in the Book of Joshua and Samuel. The name is derived from a legendary race of giants who lived in this region in biblical times.
In 1873, after establishing colonies in Haifa and Jaffa, members of the Templar sect from Württemberg, Germany, settled on a large tract of land in the Refaim Valley, southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem. The land was purchased by one of the colonists, Matthaus Frank. The Templars were Christians who broke away from the Protestant church and encouraged their members to settle in the Holy Land. They built their homes in the style to which they were accustomed in Germany – farmhouses of one or two stories, with slanting tiled roofs and shuttered windows, but using local materials such as Jerusalem stone instead of wood and bricks. The colonists engaged in agriculture and traditional trades such as carpentry and blacksmithing. Their homes ran along two parallel streets that would become Emek Refaim and Bethlehem Road.
Homes in the German Colony and neighborhoods surrounding were used to house new immigrants. Since the end of the 20th century, the neighborhood has undergone a process of gentrification. Efforts are being made to restore old landmark buildings and incorporate some of their architectural features, such as arched windows and tiled roofs, in new construction. Numerous cafes, bars, restaurants, and boutiques have opened in the neighborhood, and many affluent families have moved there, pushing up the price of real estate. The German Colony has a large English-speaking population, with the English-speaking community comprising both families and singles, permanent immigrants and visitors. In more recent years there is a growing French population as well. The neighborhood is home to the Smadar Theater, Jerusalem’s arthouse cinema and a perennial gathering place for the aristate.
The colorful history of the German Colony is illustrated by the mix of architectural styles found within a relatively small area. One finds Swabian-German style homes, examples of late provincial Ottoman architecture and British Art Deco from the Mandatory period, within close proximity. An example of British architecture is the Scottish Hospice and St. Andrew’s Church, built in 1927, decorated with local Armenian tilework. Some of the Templar homes have biblical inscriptions in German on their lintels, in Fraktur calligraphy script.
The side streets of the German Colony are named for supporters of Zionism and the Jewish people. Apart from the French author Emile Zola, Czech president Tomas Masaryk, and South African prime minister Jan Smuts, many of the streets are named for Britons: Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, British Labour Party leader Josiah Wedgewood, Colonel John Henry Patterson, commander of the Jewish Legion in World War I and the pro-Zionist British general Wyndham Deedes.
For years, developers have been trying to build up the area at the northern entrance to the neighborhood, overlooking Liberty Bell Park. To preserve the quint German Colony surroundings the local council has been successful keeping heights of the new buildings and hotels compatible with the original houses and the atmosphere of this magical and unique neighborhood.