The Charming Community of Talbiyeh
Talbiyeh is an upscale Jerusalem neighborhood located between Rechavia to the north, Yemin Moshe to the east, the German Colony to the south and Old Katamon to the west. Talbiyeh’s streets are lined with trees and the gardens are beautifully manicured, and many of its buildings date back to the British Mandate period.
Talbiyeh is well located: it is a quick walk to the Old City, Ben Yehuda Street and to Emek Refaim. In addition, Keren Hayesod Street on the edge of Talbiyeh has many bus lines, offering its residents easy access to all public transportation lines.
Talbiyeh is one of the most popular destinations for vacationers and retired olim, as it is easy to live there speaking only English. There are many synagogues that boast a large English-speaking constituency, including the Great Synagogue, Hovevei Tzion, and Beit Knesset Hanassi/Young Israel of Rechavia. Between the many classes available in these shuls and the constant quality programming offered at the OU Center on Keren Hayesod, Talbiyeh’s residents enjoy a veritable smorgasbord of Torah and Jewish cultural activities.
Talbiyeh also provides its residents with many cultural activities, including various museums and the prestigious Jerusalem Theater. In addition, Talbiyeh houses numerous important national and local institutions, including the official residence of the President of the State of Israel and the National Institute of Science and the Van Leer Foundation.
Talbiyeh is built primarily on land that was purchased by the Greek Orthodox Church from local Arabs in the second half of the nineteenth century. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Greek Orthodox Church lost the financial support of the Russian pilgrims and was forced to sell off its lands (in the form of long-term leaseholds).
At the end of the British Mandate period, a villa at 18 Marcus Street served as the Royal Air Force headquarters and was the de facto border between the Iraqis who took up military positions in the lower part of Talbiyeh near the German Colony, and the Haganah which was entrenched in northern Talbiyeh. Retaining control of Talbiyeh was vital to the nascent Jewish state as it was a major corridor to Rechavia, home to many important national institutions. At a farewell party for the British hosted by Jews before Israel declared its independence, the British promised to inform the Haganah when they would vacate RAF headquarters – and they kept their word.
The following night, the British withdrew and the Haganah soldiers immediately crawled to the back of the building, entered from the rear and hoisted the Israeli flag from the roof. The next morning, when the Iraqis saw the Israeli flag flying, they realized that they had lost the battle before it ever began. Reuven Mas, the leader of Talbiyeh’s Jewish community, offered the Arab families in Talbiyeh permission to stay, promising they would be safe from harm, but the Arab neighbors immediately departed. Soon thereafter, Jewish families who lost their homes in the northern Jerusalem battles took up residency in these abandoned homes.
After 1948, the area was renamed Komemiyut, representing the Jewish desire for independence and security (see the Ahava Rabba prayer before Shema). However, the new name never caught on, and the name Talbiyeh remains synonymous with this desirable neighborhood.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.