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Jerusalem Attractions: Rehavia & Makor Haim

The Greek Orthodox Church owned a good deal of land in Jerusalem and, in 1921, it offered for sale a large plot on one of the city's western hills, popularly known by the name of the native Jerusalem plant, Ginzaria. Through the Palestine Land Development Company (PLDC) - which, because of legalities dealt with land purchase at the time - JNF bought the plot and built Jerusalem's first, modern Jewish neighborhood of Rehavia. Planned by architect Richard Kaufman as a garden neighborhood, it featured low buildings, narrow streets and much greenery - a gem in the heart of the new Jewish settlement in Jerusalem. JNF's dealing in urban land purchase, however, raised objections and, as a result, the area was transferred back to the PLDC in exchange for lands in the Jezreel Valley.

JNF, nevertheless, retained several large plots in the neighborhood and important national institutions rose at these sites: the Hebrew Gymnasia High School and the Yeshurun Central Synagogue, as well as the national institutions of the state in the making, which overlooked the Old City. The semi-circular complex, designed by architect Prof. Yohanan Rathner, housed the World Zionist Organization and Zionist Executive, the National Committee offices, the Eretz Israel Jewish community offices, the Jewish National Fund and the Keren HaYesod Foundation Fund, the latter two, along with the Jewish Agency, occupying the premises to this day.

The construction of Rehavia was followed four years later by that of Makor Haim on the city's southern fringes. On the other side of the German colony of Emek Refa'im, it was near the railway tracks and opposite the Arab villages of Malha and Beit Tzafafa. Makor Haim was originally planned as a village of 20 small farmsteads, but developed as a small, frontier urban neighborhood, augmented in time by 40 new families.

The lands of Makor Haim had been purchased in 1913 with funds donated by Haim Cohen, a Jewish philanthropist from Lodz. Poland, for a religious settlement to be named after him - Makor Haim. After World War I, JNF bought additional lands in the area. Surrounded by large Arab villages, Makor Haim endured no few difficulties in times of unrest, such as the 1936-39 riots and the 1948 War of Independence;Rehavia and Makor Haim were prominent neighborhoods established on JNF land in the early Twenties, during the British Mandate. Subsequently JNF refrained from purchasing land for residential purposes, but continued to work on behalf of Jerusalem in different ways. Among other things it purchased plots for public and educational institutions, including a teachers seminary, an institute for the blind at the entrance to the city, the Rav Kook Center and Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva, the Beit HaAm community center and the Menora club for demobilized soldiers. It also bought land for workers housing and for the HaPoel HaMizrahi neighborhood. Similarly, it bought various plots in different regions as the "spearhead"' of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel.

Source: Shmuel Even-Or Orenstein, "A Crown for Jerusalem," JNF, 1996