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.