magnificently built


The Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem was built as a garden suburb of Jerusalem starting in 1922. Its name comes from the ‘song of songs’, written by King Solomon, in which the female object of his love is described… ‘your neck is like the tower of David, built with turrets’. The image in Hebrew is that of someone or something magnificently built. I’m often reminded of the name when driving from there to my home in North Jerusalem. I pass the tower of David and embrace it in my thoughts as I maneuver through traffic.


I first moved from the Buchari quarter to that neighborhood at the start of the 60s. At the time, there were a few artists who had already found homes there, alongside some of the illustrious citizens of our town. Our greatest author of modern times, Shai Agnon, Nobel prize winner, lived down the street from me, and attended the same synagogue. Just about everyone knew everyone else, and we would all meet one another at the local grocery store. There was only one then. Our fellow residents were clerks and teachers, and a few professors, as well as engineers and some businessmen. Religious and non religious lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance.


The neighborhood was beautiful. There was luxurious greenery to be seen between the houses that were built with great care. The walls of stone and the large trees kept us cool in the hot summer. But even with the calm and the beauty of the neighborhood, there were a number of disadvantages that helped keep the prices down. And it was thanks to those disadvantages that I was able to find an apartment that I could afford, surrounded by a lush garden, and shaded by a couple of large and grand trees. The neighborhood had been built at the southern end of the city. And the ceasefire line of 1948 cut through the neighborhood, with unfriendly Arabs living in close proximity. Shots would be fired occasionally across the border. And though they were relatively few and far between, they made some of our residents nervous. There were those who felt insecure.


I was living with an Arab housemate at the time, and used to be amused by his indignation at such violent outbursts. He would shout over the orange trees that lined the border, in Arabic, ‘You are shooting at real human beings’. But the shots were sporadic, and the attacks were usually short lived… they would stop as suddenly as they had started whether he would yell or not. The other main disadvantage was that the neighborhood was quite a distance from the center of town, which meant that most of us had to take a bus to get downtown. Very few had private cars back in those days. I preferred to walk. I could usually get to the center of town in about 45 minutes, walking at a fast clip.


I remember taking my bride to visit my home and its surroundings, for a visit. She had been living in a more upscale neighborhood on the west side of the city, largely populated by University professors, and situated close to the University. It too had been designed to be a garden neighborhood, the same year that my neighborhood had been established. But it was a bit more square in appearance, and one couldn’t help but sense the decorum that characterized her neighborhood. The streets and buildings were tidy, and fitted well together. In my neighborhood, almost every resident had made some change to his home. Trees and bushes seemed to grab any available space without heeding to plans or a grand design.


If the town center was a bus ride away from her old neighborhood, she could visit the university or the national library by foot… just a short walk away. On the Sabbath, together in Talpiot, we would walk to a kibbutz situated just outside of the city, to the south. The city has grown a lot since then, and swallowed up that kibbutz as well. It is now part of the greater Jerusalem area. But it still has beautiful scenic views that a visitor may enjoy.


Since then, the neighborhood has grown more than any of us could have guessed. It now has an industrial zone which contains many factories and workshops; motor garages, and bars, nightclubs, and banquet halls, as well as indoor shopping malls. There you’ll find restaurants, movie theaters, and a famous venue for musical performances called the ‘Yellow Submarine’. Over the years, new apartment buildings have been built around the old neighborhood, offering living quarters on a number of different economic levels.


In the last week, I have accompanied Chana as she became reacquainted with the neighborhood. Yes she once lived here too. And now she has decided to move back to Jerusalem from her beautiful village outside of the city. The move back to the city means a smaller domicile. But she is practical and down to earth, and is handling her move in a manner much healthier than my own move just a few months ago. She has chosen a home on the eastern side of the neighborhood, where Rachel Ben-Zvi, wife of a former president of our country, established an agricultural training school for women, back in 1928. Now it is a very pleasant part of the neighborhood. The photos shown here were taken while walking around that area.



60 responses to “magnificently built

  1. How interesting that you have seen all the many changes that have taken place in your neighbourhoods over the years, and doubtless there will be many more. Your photos exhibit your love for your city, and its golden stone is very beautiful.

    • The changes occur slowly, and so it takes a new perspective to realize how much has changed. It was just because Chana was looking for a new home in Jerusalem, that I found myself remembering that neighborhood as it was some fifty years ago… and then realized all the changes I had seen. Thanks very much, Gill.

  2. Good afternoon, Shimon. A very interesting post…I enjoy learning about your city and its history, and like you I am drawn much more to areas where it’s more ‘higgledy piggledy’ (a very old English expression) and I do need to see trees….
    I enjoy all these photographs, especially the one with the cat:)x

    • I love learning new words and expressions in English, and though you mention that this is very old English, it’s completely new to me. Checked it out in the dictionary too, and I feel richer now. And you know, when I’m checking out a neighborhood, the first three things I think about are whether there’s a grocery store nearby, will I have parking for my car, and how do the cats feel in that area. I’m happy to tell that all the answers were affirmative. The cats in this neighborhood show no fear, and seem to be quite contented with their fate. xxx

      • I guess “very old” is relative: one dictionary I checked says the earliest known occurrence of higgledy-piggledy is from 1598. That’s four centuries ago, but still in the early modern English period (as opposed to Middle English or Old English). The phrase seems to be a rhyming duplication based on pig, so it’s not kosher but it’s definitely expressive.

        • Thanks very much for filling in a little history here, Steve. Just out of curiosity, were you familiar with this expression before your read it here? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it. And speaking of kosher, what a pleasure it is to roll the words over one’s tongue, and still not transgress the commandment (for those who still value those very old precepts).

          • Yes, Shimon, I’d heard that expression before. I don’t know about Hebrew, but there are many expressions in English consisting of two parts that sound similar. Here are a few more:


            I’d better stop.

            • Thanks for the list. We do have a few words like that in Hebrew. Most of these English words are unknown to me, but I thank you for the list. It’s quite a collection.

  3. I love how your stories…your recollections…your observations…take me to a different place. It is wonderful seeing a part of the world through your eyes.

    • So glad to hear you enjoyed the post, Kathleen. When I was young, my curiosity led me to to far away places around the world. Nowadays, I stay pretty close to home, but find that there is still adventure, and a lot to learn. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I enjoyed too dear Shimon, you really pictured so nicely as if I was there too… Interesting and enjoyable reading your memories and todays through your camera. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, have a nice weekend and new week, love, nia

    • Thanks very much, Nia. Glad you enjoyed the post. As I’m sure you know, sometimes, just a few square blocks in the city can hold a complete world for us. And visiting such a place, after we’ve lived somewhere else for a while, is quite an adventure. I was very pleased to see a lot of relaxed cats in the area.

  5. Beautiful in the way of things that are well loved. What a remarkable history.

    • I really like the way you said this, Judy. I remember looking at a list once, in the newspaper, of the ten best cities in the world. At first, I was a little disappointed to realize that Jerusalem wasn’t even mentioned. But thinking about it, I understood that I look at this city through loving eyes. It’s not objective at all. But when you love someone or some place, they look so beautiful in our eyes.

  6. Many emotions, while reading your blog, my friend … just came back from Europe (Denmark and Germany) , cuz that’s where the rest of my family lives … my one and only aunt (87) left gave me a pic of my grandfather … my mumme (84) won’t talk about her past … she tries to cope through crying and drinking … she never told me ” I love you” not once ever … she was only 15, when my family was destroyed in the 1940s … so I forgive her … Healing? Hell, no … Blessed be, Shimon … you are so awesome … smiles …

    • I know so well what you’re talking about, my dear cat. Traumas are a bit like ripples in a lake. They keep going… all the way, and bounce back. Some of us have had to carry the traumas of parents or loved ones. And then… even without witnessing the horror, we continue to carry the weight as long as we live. Thank you for your blessing, and my best wishes to you always.

  7. Lovely to listen to you talk of the city, past and present, it was all spoken so naturally and personally I almost interrupted with a question or two….
    I love that the trees and bushes snatch a little land, they have no care for plans as you say. The colours of the stone are gorgeous, they seem to glow! I love the third and last pictures, are they showing the sea or is that just the summer sky? The cat looks like it doesn’t have a care in the world….the way we should all be!
    Good luck to Chana, it will be lovely for you having her closer. xxx

    • No, we can’t see the sea from Jerusalem. I think what you saw was a cloud heavy with dust coming from the east. There was a time, when I only cared to photograph when I could see blue skies and strong sunlight. But I’ve learned to appreciate other scenes too, over the years. Now I even photograph on cloudy days. Thanks for you good wishes to Chana. I’ll pass them on to her. Yes, it’ll be a great pleasure having her in town. Thanks for your comment, Dina. xxx

  8. Thank you for another tour of your city, Shimon, both through time and space. Your word picture of your erstwhile housemate yelling at unseen gunmen over the orange trees is striking/mordant/darkly funny. Humans – what messes they make for themselves – but good things too as you so often show us here.

    • Yes, I am usually so involved in the present, that I don’t often reminisce. But now and then, the memories pop up, Sometimes, they are like a visit back to a time or situation that I’d almost forgotten completely. Recently, I had a similar experience rereading a book that I had read 50 years ago. I remembered a lot of it, but found it provoked different emotions the second time around. Thanks for the comment, Tish.

  9. Thank you, Shimon, for such a wonderful tour. Your memories and photographs are so vivid; for a time, I was with you, walking those lovely golden streets, cooled by the greenery and gilded buildings…How cities evolve is so interesting to me. I revisit Milwaukee frequently to see the current flow, layering, demolition and rebuilding of my own youthful “stomping grounds.” I hope Chana will be profoundly at peace in her new home and old surroundings. 🙂

    • Having lived in the city almost all my life, I know that there are many worlds to be found there. I’ve always had a very romantic attraction to the country life… and yet felt extremely comfortable too, in the city, which is more ‘people’ than nature. Thank you very much, Kitty, for your good wishes to Chana. I will convey your message. Sometimes we ask for change and want it… but it seems to me that even then, there’s a good deal of work in adjusting to the change.

  10. A lovely description of your city and your mention of the Song of Solomon and King David immediately took me back to my ‘A’ level studies in Religious Knowledge – half a century ago now!

    • Thank you, Jenny. It seems to me that there is a great bridge that connects all of us who have been inspired by those old stories, and the great poetry of that time and place.

  11. Excellent article.

  12. Thank you for taking us along on this tour. Shabbat shalom

  13. Very homey, interesting area. So different from most of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in here in the US. Amazes me how home-like every different style of neighborhood can be – from close-quarters urban living, to more spread-out “plot of ground with a house” style.

    • It’s strange, Rick. I have always been very attracted by country living. I love the idea of being connected to the ground, and having those open spaces. Yet I’ve spent almost all my life in the close quarters of the urban life. It seems to me that we’re missing something very important here in the city, but more and more people are choosing that life style all the time…

  14. Another intimate look at your beloved city, Shimon….beautifully rendered. Thank you. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Scott, for coming by and for your comment. I imagine you’re quite busy these days, arranging and adjusting to your new living quarters. Wishing you good fortune.

      • You are most welcome, Shimon….and yes, my family and I are still busy arranging and adjusting….thank you for the well-wishes…they are very much appreciated.

  15. The pictures are lovely Shimon…as are your words (always). Your mention of the Song of Solomon with its beautiful romantic style is greatly appreciated. Thank you for giving such an exquisite picture of the sites around you and how they change.

    • You know, Vasca, our language is almost unknown among the peoples of the world. And our country is described in the media, usually in terms of the conflict with our neighbors. At times, it’s very discouraging to see the way we are portrayed on the outside. So it gives me comfort to know that there are those who are familiar with the Song of Solomon. And it encourages me to share an insider’s point of view. Thank you for your comment.

  16. Thank you for sharing the changes in your special town. We all note them where we live, but most can’t express the thoughts as well as you. Times they are a changin’.

    • I’ve always considered myself very lucky to be able to live in a place I love so much. Very pleased that you enjoyed this post, Bev. And you’re right, the change keeps happening… and we’re changing too.

  17. Your posts have introduced me to sections of Jeruselum that I never visited. Thank you, Shimon, for the guided tour.

    • Very glad you enjoyed the post, Barbara. There are great differences from one neighborhood to the next, here in Jerusalem. And I’m very grateful that I feel at home in a number of them.

  18. Very pretty area, Shimon. It’s fascinating to think of living in a city that’s thousands of years old and so vibrant! Thanks for the history and the tour!

    • Yes Cathy, there’s a very long history to Jerusalem. And in less than a half an hour, I can walk past structures that are more than a thousand years old… stones that were put together without mortar… and then see new homes that were built to begin with. with hot and cold running water and air conditioning. But the spirit of this city is tied to the souls of those who live here. And that is what I love most about this city.

  19. I’m struck by the relative understanding of lushness.
    I’m struck by the allegories of the bricks mortar and trees in your life memories and experiences.
    I’m also struck by the draw, the magnetic draw, of the return to ‘Yerushalyim’

    • Yes, it’s quite true, menhir. So much of our experience is relative. How wonderful it was for me to travel to far away places, and to learn to love other, alternative worlds. It helped me realize that the possibilities are endless. Beauty, and the other precious wonders of this world can never be judged in competition, but must be appreciated, each for its innate worth. Yet even after having see great wonders of the world, I returned to my ancient city and felt truly at home.

  20. You always manage to weave such interesting stories into your Posts, Shimon. Each one brings a new insight into your country and life in Jerusalem.

    • Thank you very much, Andy. It is a special pleasure sharing with you, knowing that you have made great efforts to experience the good of this world, and also to contribute to others. Though we are the products of very different cultures, I am often reminded (by your writing and photography) that we share a lot of common loves and pleasures. Thank you for your comment.

  21. Kathryn Braithwaite

    The title made me laugh as it sounds like a kind way of describing a large lady of generous proportions,not that I know any personally..As for your photos,what can i say?I’ve never seen anything like them.I don’t know.. how you do it,nor do I want to.Some things are better kept secret.Well I can’t spend all night here commenting on your genius.I have to wash my hair. I only have one left and I cherish it dearly… until I buy a it’s well done again,you are one of us now..

    • Thank you very much for coming by and for your comment, Kathryn. I appreciate your humor, and realize that it is one of the better paths to transcendental awareness. Your kindness makes me blush. When you’re buying that wig, please buy a mask for me…

  22. A thoroughly enjoyable post as ever Shimon!

  23. Wonderful reading, Mr. Shimon. Being able to adjust to the change is a good thing. Thank you for sharing the wonderful stories. Btw, I just came back from my vacation, have missed your posts…

    • Thank you very much, Amy. Adjusting to change can be difficult at times, but it’s definitely in our best interest. I hope it feels good to be back after your vacation.

  24. What a beautiful neighbourhood and such wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing with us Shimon.

    • Yes, it’s a very nice neighborhood… both the old part, and the additions that have grown over the years… well worth visiting, the next time you’re in Jerusalem, Edith. I enjoy seeing your pictures from Israel.

  25. My computer has been down for about 2 weeks, so I’m just now getting to read this. Thanks for the photos. I’m surprised that you dont know most of Steves double words.

  26. The dwellings in Jerusalem always amaze me. They are so close together and homogenous that they remind me of storybook towns. So pretty. It seems to me that living in such a place you would always be aware of the history of it. There must be something very special about walking by such holy, sites simply on your way somewhere. This kind of atmosphere, ambiance, whatever, doesn’t exist in the US. Unfortunately. I sense a major difference here. I was delighted to learn that Chana is coming back to Jerusalem. 🙂 I hope you are well and safe, Shimon. I am thinking about you every day.

    • Oh George, you were thinking of me back then… in JUly… and I’m thinking of you now in February… and wishing you very good days… hoping you have just the right things around you… and just the right people… maybe a little music too. So that every day is precious…

  27. It is August 14 2014 … and I don’t know to else to reach you … so I chose the cat blog of yours … naturally … smiles … I miss you, Shimon … Love, cat.

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