The German Colony is a Jerusalem neighborhood where the buildings date back to the mid-1800s when German Templers arrived in the Promised Land. Today the picturesque neighborhood is home to trendy cafes, restaurants, and boutique stores.
The Templers hailed from Wurttemberg, Germany, and were a Christian sect that broke away from the Protestant Church. The Templers (not to be confused with the 11th-century Crusader Templars) believed in settling the Holy Land in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. They arrived in Palestine in the 19th century and established communities in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv.
Their settlements feature the characteristic German farmhouse-style houses, usually with two stories, a slanting tile roof, and shutter windows. Once settled in the Holy Land they took up agriculture and traditional trades including blacksmithing and carpentry. When World War II broke out, the ruling British authorities in Palestine deported the Templers who supported Germany and Hitler. In fact, at one point a Swastika flag was flown above the German Colony in Haifa.
In 1873, after the Templers had already settled in Haifa and Jaffa, they purchased land in the Rafaim Valley in Jerusalem. They chose Emek Refaim (Valley of the Giants) because of its biblical connection. The colony homes were built along both sides of Emek Refaim Street, and Bethlehem Street.
Like the rest of the German Templers in Palestine, the Jerusalem community was deported during World War II, and their property was bought by local affluent Christian Arabs. During the War of Independence in 1948, many of the Arab residents abandoned their homes, and for a while, the neighborhood stood neglected. More recently the buildings have been restored and the neighborhood gentrified. The colony’s historic homes attracted wealthy Americans who made the upscale neighborhood their home.
If you visit the Jerusalem German Colony you can enjoy wandering along trendy Emek Refaim Street. You can admire the historic Templer buildings and homes built during various periods including the British art deco style, German Bauhaus, and Ottoman-era architecture. Some of the buildings bear inscriptions or biblical quotes in German and Arabic.
The neighborhood has high-end stores, stylish restaurants, and a thriving cultural life with the arthouse cinema, Smadar Theater. Don’t miss Park HaMisila (Railway Track Park) that borders the German Colony. It was created along the length of former train tracks similar to New York’s High Line Park.