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A tour of the German Colony in Haifa

Between the old houses of the Templer Colony at the foot of the Baha’i Gardens
by: Israel Traveler   |   20.03.2011

Until the year of 1868 there was nothing here worth writing home about. Rocks, thistles and all those things this country has aplenty. But then the Templers arrived here- a group of German Protestant Christians who believed that salvation can only be achieved through life in the Holy Land. And in the days before Tel Aviv was declared the undisputable queen of real-estate in Israel, they chose Haifa as their home. With a close by port, pleasant climate and accessibility to the Galilee region and to the valleys, this was not a bad place for starting a settlement.
And they knew what they were doing. For the first time in the history of urban settlement in this country a well-planned settlement was built here, with a main street, a garden for each house and many trees to give their shade to the streets. The Colony was extensively renovated in the last few years, and the houses from that earlier time- built in the rural style of the South of Germany, with two floors and a food cellar- stand here to this day. The Templer settlers have left this place a long time ago, driven out by the British after dealing in Nazi political activity. But their splendid architecture still remains. Today one can enjoy a walk in the Colony’s main street, Ben Gurion Boulevard, and look at the elegant houses with their tiled roofs, sit in one of the restaurants or cafés in the area and enjoy the view of the magnificent Baha’i Gardens looking over the colony.
The tour of the Colony begins with the Colony preservation project administration in building number 46. This building has 3 floors and an eaves trough decorated with stone cornice, clear characteristics of the Templer building style. This is the same in houses cluster number 24. Here one can find an original house with a large stable featuring an arched door in its yard. Above its door is a rooster weather vane with the year 1893 inscribed on it. This place also features water pumps above the wells in the yards. Houses number 19 and 21 feature the original building with its arched exedra.
In house number 15 from 1872, with its beautiful courtyard, one can find the "HaShdera” restaurant. While renewing and reconstructing this place, a cellar was found here, with wine barrels, saddles and various agricultural equipment, which was used by the family that lived here. House number 16 was purchased by the British Christian Zionist Sir Laurence Oliphant, who lived here between the years 1882 and 1885. From this house Sir Oliphant left for his travels in Israel and assisted the first Jewish settlements. At the front of the house above its original entrance is inscribed the Psalms verse: "Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right” and on the second floor, between the two main windows, is the inscription "Oliphant House” in German.
The Schumacher House on 12 Ben Gurion Boulevard, was the family home of Jacob Schumacher, one of the colony’s honored residents and the engineer who created its original plan. The structure combines the typical Templer style with a balcony high in the front of the building and the characteristic pediment, with oriental elements such as the arches in the front. The house’s courtyard once had a sundial which was used by the school teacher in order to let the workers in the fields know that it was noon time. In 1875 this house hosted the members of the "British Fund for Explorations in Israel”, which explored the Haifa and Galilee areas. The house served as the measurements’ zero point. An inscription commemorating their visit can be found inside the house.
"Beit HaAm”, or the "House of the People”, in house number 11 is the first Templer building in Israel and it as well combines the Western and Eastern architectural styles. This building was considered at the time to be the most beautiful structure in Haifa and served as a model for imitation. At the front of the house is a small bell tower and above an opening in the Northern wall one can find the inscribed Psalms verse: "If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand be forgotten". This place, which was used in the past as the community’s center and as a house of prayer, serves today the Haifa Museum. It holds an exhibition of photographs of the city of Haifa from the last hundred years. We will end the tour at the Hardegg Institute, located behind the Soldiers House (on number 5 Meir Street). The building was built in 1870 by Georg David Hardegg, the founder of the Colony, and it was used at some point in its history as a hospital under a German Catholic Monastery.

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