Rechov Hanevi’im mirrors the great battle that engulfed Eretz Yisrael — for the Land itself and for the soul of each and every Jew within the Land. This clash took place in
The final retreat of the Crusaders from the
Holy Land in 1291 marked the diminishing of interest among the European powers in the region. The Mameluks,
who then occupied and ruled the country from , destroyed all its ports to prevent
another Christian invasion. An economic decline resulted, which persisted
throughout the period of Turkish rule (1516 to 1917). Being at the edge of the
Ottoman Empire, Eretz Yisrael had no part in the progress that occurred in
metropolitan Cairo Constantinople.
From the beginning of the 19th century, European interest in the
Holy Land gradually
increased. This was both for religious and political reasons. Consulates, missions,
schools, and hospitals were established in Eretz Yisrael by various European
In the second half of the 19th century, starting in 1855, new suburbs were set up and
started spreading out beyond the walls of the .
The city’s main thoroughfare was Old City Jaffa Road, and along it on both sides
there developed Jewish residential neighbourhoods close to the .
Mishkenos Shaananim (1855), Machane Yisrael (1866), Nachalas Shiva (1869), Even
Yisrael (1875), Beis David (1877), and Ezras Yisrael were examples of the neighborhoods
being built. Old City
The same period also saw the development of Jewish suburbs in the area of Meah She’arim (built in 1874), north of
Jaffa Road. Between
these two developing areas, a street, Rechov Hanevi’im — which had a completely different character — came into being.
Many of those who built on Rechov Hanevi’im were trying to block the development of Jewish housing and the joining and consolidation of the Jewish districts on both sides of the road.
At the beginning of the British Mandate, this street was given its present name of Rechov
Hanevi’im by the Governor of
, Ronald Storrs.
(He was the one who passed the law that Jerusalem
buildings should have an outer stone covering.) At that time, the street was
paved and infrastructure for water and electricity were installed. Jerusalem
Until this point, the street had been known as “the street of the consulates” due to the numerous foreign consulates and missions located there. It also was referred to as “the street of the hospitals,” because of the many hospitals flanking it.
Today Rechov Hanevi’im is one of the most interesting urban entities in
containing well-preserved historic sites — a treasure trove of
historic buildings. The graceful 19th-century structural designs give the
street the title of “most beautiful street outside the Israel .” Old City
Hacherut Square ( Davidka Square) on the corner of Hanevi’im and Jaffa Road,
until it bisects the neighborhood of Musrara (at Rechov Ha’ayin Chet and Rechov Heleni Hamalka), it then goes on to intersect with
Kvish Chail Handasah (Road Number One). Continuing in this line, it
eventuallyreaches Damascus Gate.
To explore, let us start from the side of Rechov Hanevi’im that reaches Rechov Yaffo — Davidka Square. The public square in the center of
as Kikar HaDavidka is at the intersection of Rechov Hanevi’im, Rechov Yaffo, and Rechov Kiach. Officially named Kikar Hacherut ( Jerusalem Freedom Square), it
contains a small memorial to the Davidka and a Davidka itself, the curious,
homemade mortar used to defend
and other cities during the Jerusalem
1948 War of
The English left
in May 1948. At that point, five
Arab nations declared war against the Palestine
Yishuv. (This was besides the unknown number of local, irregular forces who were already combating the Jews.) The Jewish forces needed to be ingenious, for they were poorly supplied in weapons and woefully outnumbered in the face of these 50 million Arabs who intended to “drive the Jews into the sea.”
This lack of sufficient arms inspired improvisation, which led to the development of the Davidka. It was a mortar in name only, even though its shell was far wider than its barrel. Instead of explosives, it was loaded with whatever metal pieces the soldiers who were using it had on hand.
Also, being grossly inaccurate in hitting its targets, the Davidka was more of a specialized popgun than a weapon of destruction. However, the impressive “pop” it made was so great that it caused the panicked, terrified retreat of more than one Arab force.
The Arabs were sure that Jewish American scientists (e.g., Einstein and Oppenheimer) had given their Israeli brethren the know-how of manufacturing the atom bomb. They had no doubt that the humble Davidka’s thunderous roar was the beginning of nuclear payloads. This “misunderstanding,” clearly planted in their heads by Hashem, contributed to the Palmach’s victory in Tzfas,
and other places. The Israeli army
used the Davidka only until July 1948. The army then acquired conventional artillery
such as cannons, mountain howitzers and Jerusalem
The inventor of this peculiar Davidka weapon was David Leibowitch who lived in the Bukharim section, hence the name “Little David” (“Davidka”). The name also alludes metaphorically to the Biblical battle of David and Goliath (Shmuel 1, 17): In 1948, the tiny state of
David) was forced to defend itself against the “giant” British-trained and British-led professional Arab Legion and other Arab
forces (Goliath). Israel
In all, six Davidkas were manufactured and were used in the battles for
Haifa, Ein Zeitun,
Tzfas, the Abu Kabir neighborhood of Jaffa,
Biddu and . Jerusalem
Sometimes “made in
” was imprinted into these and other wholly Israeli-made contraptions. The “ USA ” stood for the Yiddish acronym “Unzer Shtikel Arbet” (our piece of workmanship). The boys of the Palmach called the
Davidka, “HeRMaN” — “Harbeh Rash, Me’at Nezek” (A lot of noise, little damage). USA
In 1956, architect Asher Hiram designed a memorial to the Davidka and to the Harel Brigade’s participation in the battle for
A Davidka used by that brigade was mounted on a stone platform engraved with
part of the passuk from Melachim II, 19:34: “I will protect this city, to save it.” The monument has rounded
protrusions that are meant to memorialize the berets the Palmach wore. Jerusalem
The Jerusalem Light Rail project required revamping work on all three squares (Tzahal,
and Davidka) on Zion Jaffa Road. In 2009, Mexican architect Ricardo
Legorreta was commissioned to redesign Davidka Square. To emphasize the
historical importance of the site, the square was enlarged for pedestrians and
to grow trees and then paved with reddish stones. A blue trench (lit up at
night) “water element” with a fountain was added,
as well as stone benches.