THE GUIDE TO THE AMERICAN COLONY IN JAFFA - TEL AVIV
I invite you to visit the American Colony in Jaffa, this is absolutely one of the most fascinating and intriguing neighborhoods in the history of Jaffa. The small site located just a few steps away from the historical heart of old Jaffa has been inhabited and operated since the middle of the19th century by religious-minded settlers, and Christian missionaries full of good intentions.
Residents of The Russian Empire, England, Germany, and the United States lived in the neighborhood's homes, creating and building an unrepeatable neighborhood till this day.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE AMERICAN COLONY IN JAFFA?
The American Colony in Jaffa is very small and it's possible to see all highlights in just a few hours, I would like to present the most important building that you should focus on.
EILAT STREET, CORNER OF AUERBACH - A FOUR-STORY BUILDING
The bustling Eilat Street that we stand on was called in the nineteenth century by the name of Nablus Road and used as the main road that led pilgrims from Jaffa to Jerusalem and other holy sites. the four-story building on Auerbach Street at the corner of Eilat Street was used during the British Mandate as the headquarters building of the infamous British police.
CID - Criminal Investigation Department. Here many of those who were considered by the British as opponents of the regime, Arabs, and Jews alike, were arrested, interrogated, and tortured. In the post-World War II era, the building served as a target for Irgun and Lehi organizations and was attacked on several occasions by gunfire and explosives.
THE NORTON HOUSE
The wooden house at 4 Auerbach Street was built in 1866 by an American family named Norton, who came from the state of Maine in the United States. The name of the family was engraved on wooden boards discovered here during the preservation of the building. The Norton family was part of a large group of 157 Protestant Christian Americans. They belonged to a religious community called the Church of Messiah which came to the Land of Israel to establish an agricultural colony. The group was headed by a priest named George Adams who believed that the settlement of the Land of Israel would prepare the ground for the return of the Jews from exile and thus expedite the date of redemption and the days of the Messiah.
On September 22, 1866, the American settlers reached the shores of Jaffa aboard the ship "Nelly Chipin", which was loaded with all kinds of goods. The beginning was not easy. Various bureaucratic difficulties delayed the purchase of land and the construction of houses for the new colony, and the settlers were forced to live for several months in tents on the seafront of Jaffa. As they were not accustomed to the climatic conditions in the country and the various diseases common in it, many of the settlers fell asleep, and nine of them, most of them children, died during the first weeks after going down to the beach. Despite the difficulties and diseases, the members of the group succeeded in establishing the colony at the end of 1866. The land was purchased legally, and about ten houses were built as planned along the two streets of the neighborhood, now called Auerbach Street and Bar Hoffman Street.
Group members brought from the United States all the objects and furniture designed to facilitate their organization in their new country, and even brought their wooden houses with them when they were disassembled into parts and ready for rebuilding. The Norton House was one of those first wooden houses brought from the United States when they were disassembled into parts and ready for assembly. It was a two-story building and a basement and was later added to the terrace that now surrounds the building. The building was neglected over the years and even faced the danger of collapsing, but was carefully restored in 1990 and won the President's Award for Site Restoration in 1991. Several years ago a new construction began, and today the house is planned to be part of a luxury residential project, perhaps a hotel.
JERUSALEM HOTEL - HOUSE NUMBER 6
The magnificent stone house at 6 Auerbach Street, was built in 1867 by the Drisco brothers, one of the American settlers who came to Jaffa. It was the only house in the American Colony built of stone, rather than wood like the rest of the Colony houses, and intended to serve as a luxury hotel. Construction took longer than planned, and the brothers were unable to open the hotel during the Easter tourist season. This delay turned out to be devastating: the brothers lost their money and were forced to sell the hotel to a missionary named Peter Metzler, a German-born Christian missionary. Metzler arrived in Jaffa in 1858, ran a mission station there, and purchased part of the American Colony area to expand the station's operations. The cause of the change in Metzler's plans was a Russian nobleman named Pelto d'Ostinov who came to Jaffa in 1862 to be healed after falling from the back of a galloping horse. Austinov teamed up with Metzler, inviting him to live in Russia and help him manage his estate.
In those years there were several hundred German settlers in Haifa who were members of a religious Christian group called the "Temple Association", Tempelgesellschaft in German, or in short - Templars. Members of this group came to Eretz Israel and were looking for a place to establish an agricultural colony. Some of the Templars who were living in Haifa at the time accepted Metzler's offer, bought houses from him in the American colony, and moved to Jaffa in houses now called the "German Colony"(one of the central streets in Haifa near the port).
The story of the Templars began in the middle of the 19th century in southern Germany, where a Christian religious group arose that sought to instill in its believers' principles and values of sincere belief in God, love of others, and modesty. The leaders of the group preached to their members about the obligation to come to the land of God, which is the Land of Israel, to establish agricultural settlements there and to serve as an example to the inhabitants of the land by living a lifestyle of simplicity and diligence. The building next was purchased in 1870 by Ernest Hardg, the son of the Templar leader in Haifa. Hardg renovated and expanded the building and opened the Jerusalem Hotel. It was one of the best and most luxurious hotels in the city of Jaffa, which included 24 rooms named after figures from the Bible.
Today, the building of the Jerusalem Hotel is planned to be part of a luxury housing project.
WENTWORTH HOUSE - HOUSE NUMBER 10
The Wentworth House, located at 10 Auerbach Street, corner of Bar Hoffman Street, is another of the houses built in 1866 as part of the American Colony in Jaffa. The original house included only the right part of the current structure, the part built of wooden beams.
The American settlers did not know the climatic and soil conditions in the Land of Israel. They adhered to the working methods they brought with them from the United States and failed in their efforts to cultivate the land. The small crop that grew was not enough for their livelihood, their money ran out and they began to look for ways to return to the United States. Luckily, a group of wealthy tourists from the United States arrived in Jaffa at the time, who were in the midst of a pleasure trip in the Eastern countries. Moses Beach, one of the tourists, donated a large sum of money to finance their journey back to their home in the state of Maine. Another tourist from the same group of tourists was a young journalist named Mark Twain. In the amusing book he wrote, "A Journey of Pleasures to the Holy Land," he described the adventures of the wealthy tourist group, and also told of the fate of the refugees of the American colony in Jaffa, whom he crowned a "diligent failure."
On October 1, 1867, most American settlers left Jaffa on a tourist ship and began their sad journey back to the United States. The American Wentworth family who lived in this house were also among those leaving. The house was purchased by the Frank Templar family. The Frank family expanded the house and built the left-wing from stone. After many years in which the house stood abandoned and facing demolition, the place was purchased by the couple Gene and Reed Holmes, descendants of the American settlers. They renovated the house and opened on the first floor a museum and a heritage center called "Maine Friendship House". You can visit the place by prior arrangement and view pictures and objects that illustrate the history of the American colony that became a German colony.
PARK HOTEL GARDEN (BEIT EMANUEL HOSTEL)
The house at 14 Bar Hoffman Street, was built in 1866 by four American settler families and sold to the Templars in 1869. When Baron von Austinov returned to Jaffa in 1878 he bought the house, renovated it, and moved in with his wife.
In one of the nearby houses lived at that time a man named Moritz Hull, a European Jew who converted to Christianity, lived for a time in Ethiopia and moved to the German colony in Jaffa with his wife, an Ethiopian princess who married, and their young daughter. Plato von Austinov and Moritz Hull became good friends and often spent time together.
In 1895 Austinov decided to convert his large house into a luxury hotel called the Park Hotel and appointed Moritz Hull as its manager. The hotel is considered the most luxurious and dignified hotel in Jaffa and 1898 even got to host the German Emperor Wilhelm II.
In the courtyard of the hotel, Baron Austinov planted a large and well-kept garden with rich exotic vegetation. The plants included cages containing various animals, such as monkeys and parrots, as well as archeological finds from the large collection in his possession. The park was open to the public and left its mark on the residents of Jaffa and the visitors to the city. Most of the plants have disappeared over the years, but to this day it can be seen as a large Bengal ficus tree with aerial roots that clung to the ground and thickened so that the impression was given that it was a few different trees.
In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Austinov, who was a Russian citizen, was forced to leave the country. During the British Mandate, an English girls' high school was opened on the site, which operated until 1948. After the War of Independence, the building was used for various purposes until the 1970 Beit Emanuel hostel was opened there. The hostel is now owned by the London Mission. An exhibition was set up in one of its rooms, showing pictures, documents, and various exhibits depicting the history of the house and the history of Jaffa. It is advisable to ask the permission of the hostel staff to visit the exhibition and climb on the roof of the hostel to enjoy an impressive panoramic view.
The Emanuel Church is located at 15 Bar Hoffman Street in the heart of the American colony in Jaffa. The residents of the American colony in Jaffa believed in a simple way of life and believed that the believer did not need the structure of a glorious church to pray to God.
The years passed and the members of the second generation of the people of the colony changed their opinions. They no longer believed in the principles of the community like the parents' generation and some even chose to return to the lap of the evangelical church that their parents had abandoned. Towards the end of the 19th century, second-generation believers sought to build a church for them. In 1898, during the visit of German Emperor Wilhelm II to Israel, he was accompanied by a clergyman named Friedrich von Braun, who was the head of the church of the city of Stuttgart in Germany, and who took care of the members of the Evangelical community in Jaffa. He came to the Land of Israel intending to lay the cornerstone for the construction of the church in front of us.
The work of building the church in the American colony lasted six years, and in 1904 its dedication ceremony took place. It was called the "German Evangelical Church of Jaffa" and was used by members of the German colony until they were forced to leave the place during World War II.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, the building was handed over for use by members of the Lutheran Church of Scandinavia, it was thoroughly renovated and is now called the "Emanuel Church".
It is recommended to visit the church of the American colony and look at the decorations, especially the beautiful stained glass windows depicting events related to Jaffa mentioned in the Bible and the New Testament.
Floyd House is located at 16 Bar Hoffman Street, corner of Amikam Eliyahu St. The Floyd family was one of those families of American settlers of the American colony in Jaffa, one of the few who remained in Jaffa after most of the settlers returned to the United States.
The beginning of Rola and Theodosia Floyd's journey in the Land of Israel was not easy. Their infant son was one of the children who died of an illness as soon as they landed on the Jaffa coast, and like the other settlers, they also suffered from shortages. Despite the difficulties, the devout Floyds decided in their religion to stay in the country and fight for the fulfillment of the goal for which they came. Floyd chose to be a tour guide in Israel. He studied Arabic and the history of the Land of Israel and began working for the famous travel agent 'Thomas Cook and Sons'. It was a great success and became famous as the best guide in the Land of Israel. Floyd brought with him on a ship from the United States a carriage equipped with innovative suspensions that softened the contact with the country’s bumpy roads. It is said that whoever got to ride it, again did not want to ride in any other way.
In the early 1990s, the house was renovated by a sculptor who lives there. You will see in the courtyard of the house some of her sculptural works.
The impressive arched house in the American colony in Jaffa, located at 9 Auerbach Street, was the private home of Emanuel Braish, one of the inhabitants of the Templar colony, who established large trading houses in the city in the 1970s. The Templars made a significant contribution to the development of commercial life in Jaffa. In 1875, Reich began importing tiles made in Mercy, France, thus making his mark on the landscape of the country. In the common yard of this house and the house next to it, next to the big palm tree, is to this day a water well that served the residents of the entire colony.
(9 BAR HOFFMAN STREET)
The visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II to Israel in 1898 was a turning point in the connection between Germany and the inhabitants of the German colonies in Israel. Unlike the first-generation Templars, who sought to break away from the old homeland, the second-generation strengthened ties with Germany and became avid nationalists. In the early 1930s, with the rise of the Nazi party to power in Germany, they were joined by members of the Templar communities in Israel who began to engage in Nazi political activity.
With the outbreak of World War II, the British authorities arrested the members of the German colonies, who were considered citizens of an enemy country, and imprisoned them in detention camps. In 1942, as the fighting front approached the borders of the country, the British decided to exile the German colonies to Australia and confiscate their property. At the end of World War II, after the horrific details of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis on the Jews of Europe became known, it was clear to all that there was no chance that the German inhabitants would return to their seats in the country. The houses of the colony, which were confiscated by the British, were handed over to the State of Israel after the War of Independence and were used by IDF units and various government ministries.
In 1955, the people of the German colony were paid compensation for the property confiscated from them, and the lands of the German colony passed fully to the state. The house next to which we stand was handed over in the early 1950s for use by the Scandinavian Lutheran Church and it now serves as the community and residence of the faculty members who operate the Emanuel Church. The houses of the American-German colony in Jaffa are currently in the process of being restored and restored. It is recommended to wander the streets of the colony and watch the beauty of the restored houses.
At the end of the street stood alone 400-year-old antique mulberry tree. In the early 1990s, the tree burned completely. As part of the rehabilitation operations of the colony, a special agronomist was brought in who, after many efforts, managed to bring him back to life, and since then he has been in bloom and flourishing every year. If you go to the tree and look closely you can still see remnants of the fire that threatened its extinction.
11 NITZANA STREET
The building is one of the most beautiful examples of the magnificent construction of the 1930s of the American colony in Jaffa. The owner of the lot, an Arab resident of Jaffa who served as an agent of the car company "General Motors", commissioned in 1936 the Arab architect David Talil to build for him the main branch of the company in Jaffa. Talil, which gained fame after building magnificent houses in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem, designed a long building in the international style that was popular in those days. The ground floor of the building housed offices, garages, and a car showroom, and the upper floors were used as residences. The building also houses the Zichron Baruch Synagogue.
Until the 1970s, an ultra-Orthodox community of people from the Ukrainian city of Kumarna prayed at the site. Over the years, the place died out, but at the initiative of the residents, the synagogue was reopened on weekdays and today it is mainly used by the workers of the workshops in the neighborhood. Behind us is a small square, a purple square, in the shade of the big ficus tree. Stop at the center of the square, where the eleventh station is.
The Noga neighborhood was established by Arab entrepreneurs living in Jaffa in the 1920s and 1930s. The neighborhood houses are characterized by the international style that was common at the time. The houses have two or three floors, with the ground floor being used as workshops of various garages and factories, while the upper floors were used for offices and residences. Many of the houses were used by the British, who concentrated in this central neighborhood close to the port the institutions of government of the Mandate, and the military headquarters. The building at 8 Segula Street was built in 1934 and is a good example of the style of construction in which the neighborhood was established. It is a long structure that stretches along the entire southern façade of Purple Square and its rounded balconies continue beyond the corners of nearby streets.
The American colony in the Jaffa neighborhood is full of creators and artists who have opened workshops and galleries in a variety of fields. It is recommended to wander the streets of the neighborhood, visit galleries and watch the artists' workshops. You should also look at the information pages on the website, where you can find a detailed list of the galleries in the neighborhood.
VENUS THEATER FRONT (GESHER THEATER)
Reached Jerusalem Boulevard No. 9. During the British Mandate in Israel, Jerusalem Boulevard (then called King George Boulevard) became the main commercial and entertainment area of Jaffa. Businesses, government buildings, and public institutions were built along the beautiful boulevard. The building next to which we are now was built in the 1940s by Arab businessmen and operated a cinema called Nabil. In the years following the establishment of the State of Israel, a cinema in a building was named Noga and it was a great success and gave its name to the entire region. Today, the Gesher Theater operates on the site, which is considered one of the pillars of modern Israeli theater. The theater was founded in 1991 by director Yevgeny Arieh who was a successful theater director in Moscow. The theater actors are mostly new immigrants from Russia and the plays are staged in Hebrew and Russian. In the area to the right of the Gesher Theater is the Bat Ami pedestrian mall, which was built in the 1980s to revive Jerusalem Boulevard, and commercial shops and galleries were built there.
On the other side of the road is a row of large buildings that served as government, commercial, and entertainment buildings. Jerusalem No. 12 is home to Jaffa's main post office. The magnificent building, decorated with stone strips in various shades, was designed by British architect Austin Harrison. This is one of the most important buildings erected in Jaffa during the Mandate, and it is still used today for its original purpose.
North of it, in house number 10, is a cinema building built in the 1940s by an Arab family called Fallah, called Rashid Cinema. After the establishment of the State of Israel, a cinema called "Tzlil" operated there and today the theater club operates in the building.
JERUSALEM BOULEVARD, CORNER OF RAZIEL STREET
During the First World War, Hassan Beck served as the military governor of the city of Jaffa on behalf of the Turkish government. He sought to carry out a series of actions that would make Jaffa a modern and progressive city, such as the major cities of Europe and used the power of his rule to impose his will on the residents who did not always agree with his decisions. In 1915, the governor decided to pave a wide and modern boulevard in Jaffa, such as the boulevards built-in European cities and similar to the Rothschild boulevards built in Tel Aviv.
Hassan Beck, described by the people of the time as a firm and cruel governor, did not spare any means to quickly advance his plan. The landowners who were planted in the orchards at the time we're invited to the governor's house, and after a brief "persuasion" call "volunteered" to donate their lands to improve the city. Many residents of the western part of Jaffa were recruited as forced laborers to cut down the orchard trees and prepare the surface, and students of the Mikve Israel agricultural school were required to plant the row of Washingtonia palm trees that adorned the center of the boulevard.
At the time of its construction, the boulevard was perceived by the residents of Jaffa as an arbitrary action by the cruel governor, who paved a road thirty meters wide in the heart of the orchard area that leads nowhere. At the end of World War I, during the British Mandate for Israel, the name of the boulevard was changed, and it was now called "King George V Avenue". The wide and beautiful street became the main commercial and entertainment area of Jaffa, and next to it many businesses, government buildings, and shops were built. The boulevards were extended further south at the expense of the orchard areas and served as a center for the development of new neighborhoods in Jaffa.
With the conquest of Jaffa during the War of Independence, all the names of the old streets of Jaffa were abolished and replaced with numbers. The boulevards were given the temporary name "Street No. 1". In 1949, with the unification of Tel Aviv and Jaffa into one city, it was impossible to return the boulevard to its previous name because in Tel Aviv there was already a street with that name and it was decided to call the boulevard by its current name, "Jerusalem Boulevard". Today, the boulevard is part of the main transportation route that connects Tel Aviv via Jaffa to the city of Bat Yam. This route will be crossed by one of the light rail lines that will connect the cities of Bat Yam, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, and Petah Tikva.
THE "STATION" TRAIN STATION
In 1892, the construction of the first railway line in the Land of Israel was completed, which connected the port city of Jaffa with Jerusalem. The initiative for the construction of the railway belonged to the Turkish government, which sought to improve the infrastructure in the country and thereby promote its economy. The concession to build the railway line was handed over to a French company, and this is very evident in the design of the station.
The beginning of the train's activity was perceived by the residents of the country as a sign of progress and development.
In the first years, one train left the station per day, at one o'clock in the afternoon, and when the line was a success and the number of passengers increased, so did the number of journeys. Thus the railway began to be a serious competitor to the stagecoaches. Passengers preferred the long train ride over the winding road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Famous travelers include Benjamin Zeev Herzl and Emperor Wilhelm II.
During the First World War, the railway was used for military purposes. In the 1920s, with the beginning of the British Mandate, a narrow railway was established that connected the station to the port of Jaffa, and during World War II the station was available to the British army. The station stopped operating at the end of the mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel.
Near the railway station was established in 1902 the factory of Hugo Wieland. Wieland, who belonged to the Templar movement and lived until then in the German colony of Jaffa, realized the commercial potential inherent in its proximity to the train station and built a factory for the production of building materials. This factory, which was a pioneer in its field, produced, among other things, concrete shingles, stairs, painted tiles, and columns.
The Wieland family was forced to leave the country during World War II, and the factory was abandoned. After many years in which the complex suffered from severe neglect, the municipality began in 2004 to rehabilitate the station building and convert it to a cultural, recreation and leisure center. The buildings were restored and renovated, and train carriages and tracks were placed on the site.
The American colony in Jaffa is one of the undervalued locations to visit Jaffa, most people touring the old city of Jaffa with a tour guide and skipping this amazing piece of history, but I think that you should visit this pearl on your next visit to Israel and expand even more your horizons.