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Monday, December 16, 2013

Rechov Hanevi’im 9©

The Renaissance-style building on 29 Rechov Shivtei Yisrael, corner of 34 Rechov Haneviim, was built between 1911 and 1917. It started out as the Italian Hospital of the Mission, and was managed by nuns. During World War I, because Italy was an enemy of Turkey, the Turks seized the building.

The British took over the building during Mandatory times and used the Italian Hospital during World War I to headquarter the British Royal Air Force. Three years later, when the British began leaving Palestine, both the Arabs and the Hagana tried to grab this strategic property near the border with eastern Jerusalem. Fortunately, the Hagana discovered the exact time of the British pull-out and the Jews were able to take over the building.

During the War of Independence it was a frontal Israeli firing post, facing the Jordanian Legion.
Following the war, the building functioned as a home for the mentally deficient. The Ministry of
Education occupied it in 1963. On the door of the former chapel of the Italian Hospital is an enormous mezuzah to show that the structure is now a Jewish building.


On the corner of Haneviim and Shivtei Yisrael streets diagonally opposite the Italian Hospital stands an arresting edifice that dates back to 1885. The building was constructed by a Swiss Protestant missionary named Jacob Johannes Frutiger. He called it Machanayim and engraved the name above the door. The name comes from a passsuk in Bereishis (32:3): Yaakov said when he saw them, This is a G-dly camp! So he called the name of that place Machanayim.

Atop the roof is a high balcony that offered its residents and guests a splendid view of the Old City. Frutiger became one of the richest bankers in Eretz Yisrael, but when he started to suffer from forgetfulness (possibly Alzheimers), his son took over the bank. However, his son was soon arrested for not carrying a lantern at night. This Turkish law assumed that anyone without a light was bent on disreputable purposes.

His imprisonment did little to repair the standing of the bank, whose reputation was ruined, and as a result the family had to sell the house. Menachem Ussishkin, director of the Jewish National Fund, bought it and lived there from 1922 until 1927. Eventually, Lord Herbert Plumertook, the
British High Commissioner, took over the gorgeous domicile. Ussishkin was so upset that when he built ahouse in Rehavia, he emblazoned Machanayim above the door!
At a later date the original Machanayim house became the Evelina de Rothschild School. Today it houses offices of the Israeli Ministry of Education.

At 26 Rechov Haneviim there is a private balcony from where (at a certain angle) the makom Hamikdash can be seen.

In front of the new apartment block at 26-aleph Rechov Haneviim is a small memorial garden with a few benches. It is dedicated to Daniel Bitton, a 42-yearold bus driver who was killed, together with 25 other Jews, in a suicide bombing on a No. 18 bus travelling down Jaffa Road near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, on Feb. 25, 1996. A few days later, on March 3, 1996, an additional 19 people were murdered by a suicide bomber on another 18 bus.

The U.S. Consulate General, founded in the Old City in 1844, relocated to an address near the beginning of Rechov Haneviim in the late 19th century. In 1912, it moved to its present address on Agron Street.

Overlooking the busy Kvish Chail Handasah (Highway 1), at the corner of Haneviim Street, is Mitzpe Tomer. The lookouts name commemorates a 19-yearold Israeli border police officer, Mordechai Tomer, who was killed when a traveling car bomb detonated in April 2002.

Directly ahead, looking out from Mitzpe Tomer, is the site where Kiryah Neemanah (Batei Nissan Beck) was founded in 1879. Chassidim purchased this area in order to build the ninth colony founded beyond the Old City walls. Thirty houses were built by the chassidim, and the other half of was built up by Persian Jews. Other neighbourhoods for Syrian Jews and Jews who came from Georgia were built in the area. In all, there were 200 homes.

During the 1929 Arab riots, the Kiryah Neemanah area was subjected to terrible Muslim fury. The residents were murdered and plundered by the Arabs. Three of the eight shuls of the area were vandalized and then set on fire. After the riots, only a handful of Jews returned, and Muslims and Christians occupied the rest of the homes. These Jews also suffered from Arab terror in the 1936 Arab riots. In 1948, the last of the Jews in the neighbourhood left the area, escaping before the Arab forces occupied eastern Jerusalem and the Old City. Today a few brave families have come to live in the area among the Arabs.

From 1948 until 1967, the eastern end of Rechov Haneviim, which forms a triangle with the Old City walls and the southern side of the neighbourhood of Musrara, was part of the no-mans-land between Israel and Jordan. The area was returned to Israel with the reunification of Jerusalem after the miraculous Six Day War.

In the late 1980s, it was proposed to widen the narrow, two-lane Rechov Haneviim into a 32-meter-wide superhighway. This would have entailed the destruction of historic garden-courtyard buildings lining the street, and the plan encountered stiff opposition from Jerusalem residents. An alternative proposal suggested laying the highway across the courtyards while retaining the outer stone walls, to maintain the 19th century character of the street. Neither idea has come to fruition.

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