The Military Army Blog

In Jerusalem’s Romema, the Turks surrendered to a British cook… four times

No doubt you have heard, perhaps more than once, how the Turks surrendered Jerusalem to a British army cook in 1917. But did you know that there were actually four surrenders?

Three of these historic events took place on more or less the exact spot, at the time an open field on the highest hill in Jerusalem. Called Allenby Square, it is situated in the heart of what would soon become Romema, established in 1921 as the first Jerusalem neighborhood founded during the British Mandate in Palestine.

Intended as a classy neighborhood of 24 houses, Romema was far from the noise of the town and situated between the Arab villages of Lifta and Sheikh Bader. Unlike many other Jerusalem neighborhoods, it was built with private funding. It also differed in a distinct dearth of planning, so it lacks parks and any kind of homogeneity. In the end and apparently for lack of money, just over a dozen grandiose buildings were constructed.

The initiator of the project was Turkish-born attorney Yom Tov Hamon, a district court judge and an expert in Ottoman law and issues concerning land ownership. He was often called in to arbitrate in disputes between Arab landowners in the region. When there was a disagreement about ownership of the land on this hill, Hamon decreed that the plot should be sold and it was thus made available for a Jewish neighborhood.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

The home built by Romema s founder, Yom Tov Hamon (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The name Romema was taken from the Psalms: The Lord s right hand is lifted high (romem) Indeed, at the time this was the highest hill in Jerusalem somewhere between 810 and 830 meters above sea level.

Most of the original streets were named for the Hebrew newspapers in print at the time: they included Eliezer Ben Yehuda s Hatzvi, and HaOr, and renowned Rabbi Ben Zion Koainkh s HaMeasef.

Most of the houses in Romema that were built after the establishment of the State of Israel are drab and lacking in character. But a few of the elegant original buildings still stand and often have been artfully preserved.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

The Allenby guest house (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Allenby 2 is both an address and the name of the establishment across from the Square. Two floors added in the 1950s destroyed much of the original house s charm, but it still boasts lovely window frames and a magnificent entrance. For the past 20 years or so, it has served as a guesthouse conveniently located near the Central Bus Station.

Across from the Central Bus Station on HaTzvi Street stands a house built by Hebron-born lawyer Aharon Mani, scion to a long line of famous Iraqi rabbis. Built in 1925, the ambiance has been disturbed by later additions. But the porch and staircase are magnificent, and fit charmingly onto the corner of the street.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

The Mani house (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Its nearest neighbor is an elegant domain built by pioneer hotelier Yehiel Amdurski. Absolutely gorgeous, the house was constructed out of red stone brought from quarries in Hebron. Twin porches are held up by Doric pillars, and their inner ceilings are covered by large paintings.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

The Amdurski house (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Next door to the Amdurski house stands a dwelling that belonged to the Hefetz family from Bukhara. Less grandiose than some of the others, it has one unique feature: a lintel whose decorative blue and white tiles with a windmill design were brought home by family members after a trip to Holland.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

Windmills at HaTzvi 6 (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Parallel to HaTzvi Street, Ariel Street has several magnificent structures of its own. One of them boasts four Tuscan (smooth) columns, and a gable above the entrance. The date of construction 1923 and the name of architect A. Balog are engraved in large letters (and numbers) on the wall.

A tiny synagogue for Jews from Kurdistan is found at the front of the edifice next door. Four families live in the building, enough, we were told, to meet the minimal requirements for daily worship. Apparently because the synagogue is so small, the women sit out on the porch during prayers.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

Romema s Kurdistani synagogue and apartments (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Adorable people-shaped shutter holders on the windows of this building and several others on the street are collectors items today. Brought to this country by German Templers, the iron holders are known by their Yiddish name of menchelach.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

One of many menshelach on Ariel Street, Romema (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Moldova-born Rabbi Fishman-Maimon erected the unusual house across the street. One of the first to appear in Romema, it boasts a unique fa ade, with a Star of David engraved in stone above the entrance. The date 1922 and the rabbi s first name Yehuda are written inside and around the Star of David. Rabbi Fishman-Maimon was one of the founders of the religious-Zionist movement Mizrahi . It was at his urging that David Ben-Gurion established a Ministry of Religious Affairs during his first term as prime minister.

In Jerusalem’s Romema, The Turks Surrendered To A British Cook… Four Times

The home built by Moldova-born Rabbi Fishman-Maimon (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Following the fall of the both First and Second Temples, sages declared that every new building must carry a reminder of that destruction. That reminder was to be an unpainted area one cubit by one cubit (46 centimeters by 46 centimeters) in size. Many observant Jews take this edict literally and leave an unplastered black square on their walls.

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