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| Walking Tour: Inspiring Pioneers who lived in the center of Jerusalem

Zev Stub    
Monday, 20 March 10:14 AM

From, a new website of outdoor activities in Jerusalem and surrounding areas that includes guided walks in Jerusalem, hikes in the surrounding countryside, family bicycle rides, outdoor swimming and horseback riding.    

The buildings and former occupants in this walk close to Jaffa St and the center of town reflect a new stage in the development of the city – cosmopolitan, intellectual and Zionistic. The homes of three inspiring early Zionist figures are visited or pointed out – the ophthalmologist Dr. Abraham Ticho, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (“Rav Kook”) the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, and the linguist Eliezer ben Yehuda. The influence of these latter two figures continues to this day. 



The notion that Hebrew could be used in literature and even spoken was not a new idea. However, it was Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922) who fixated on the idea that Hebrew could be revived and become the language of a people. In Wikipedia, Cecil Roth is quoted as saying that “Before Ben-Yehuda, Jews could speak Hebrew; after him they did.” Ben-Yehuda, born Eliezer Yitzhak Perlman, had a traditional Jewish education in Poland studying Bible, Mishna and Talmud. His parents intended him becoming a Rabbi. In Poland, he exposed himself to secular literature. He studied medicine in the Sorbonne in Paris. At age 23 he immigrated to Ottoman Palestine and settled in Jerusalem where he worked initially as a schoolteacher at the Alliance Israelite Universelle School. He edited several Hebrew-language newspapers as part of his efforts to popularize Hebrew. He spoke only Hebrew at home. His son was raised entirely in Hebrew and became the first native speaker of modern Hebrew. This was a significant challenge for the family, since no other family in the country was speaking Hebrew. Plus many words simply did not exist. The word “ze” (this/that) was probably used a lot in the house! When words did not exist, Eliezer created them using Semitic roots, particularly from Arabic. Many of the thousands of words he invented caught on, although a lot did not. He was the author of the first modern Hebrew dictionary and was a major figure in the establishment of the Committee of the Hebrew Language. This became the Academy of the Hebrew Language and remains an important committee in keeping the Hebrew language on track and devising new words. He was responsible for persuading the High Commissioner to make Hebrew one of the three official languages during the British Mandate (the other two were English and Arabic). This remains the situation today. His personal life was not an easy one. His first wife Devora died of tuberculosis, and three of his children died from diphtheria soon after her death. At Devorah’s wish, Ben-Yehuda married her younger sister Paula Beila who took the name Hemdah. Hemdah assisted her husband with much of his work, both during his lifetime and after. She rented rooms in the adjoining house, for example, to print her husband’s newspapers. Her husband’s efforts were not well received by the ultra-orthodox establishment. They objected to his using the holy Hebrew language for secular purposes and made their objections known in various ways, including throwing stones at his home. Nevertheless, his strong personality was undeterred. That Hebrew is the language of the Israeli people today is a testament to his greatness and perseverance.


The influence of Rav Kook during his lifetime and to this very day is inestimable. He led the Judaism of exile to a religion of Redemption and as such became the father figure of the religious Zionist movement. He succeeded because he was comfortable in multiple worlds – the world of Talmudic scholarship (and he was recognized as an important halachic authority), the world of mysticism and Hassidism, the world of intellectual ferment in his immediate neighborhood, and the world of the working Zionist pioneer. To Rav Kook this land was not just a country of refuge, but a place of holiness. He was a mystic who saw everything about the universe as a unity. This world is on an evolutionary path to even greater holiness. There is no such thing as evil but only actions in a transition to good. This was all a unique interpretation of kabbalistic ideas. Most people had no idea what he was talking about but many very much liked his conclusions. The non-religious pioneer was a part of the Messianic redemptive movement. His non-religiosity was mistaken, but this did not make his contribution to redemption any less significant. Culture and sport were part of the unity of this holy land. Because of his loving embrace of non-religious Jews, it was almost a given that he become the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the yishuv. He had a cadre of pupils/disciples, and the synagogue in his home became his yeshiva and eventually the institution Mercaz HaRav, the flagship yeshiva for the Zionist religious movement. His was the first yeshiva in the country in which the language of instruction was Hebrew rather than Yiddish, and this yeshiva spawned other Zionist yeshivas, a youth movement (Bnei Akiva), and Hesder yeshivas that enabled Torah learning to be combined with military service.

His approach to Messianism very much influenced his foremost pupil, his son Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. After the Six Day War, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook took the position that Judea and Samaria were a gift from God to the Jewish people. How then could the Jewish people throw this gift back in God’s face? Thus was born the Gush Emunim settlement movement that dovetailed nicely with the views of Eric Sharon, then agricultural minister, that a defensive line of settlements was needed in the mountains of Samaria to protect the coastal plain.

In essence, Rav Kook provided the philosophy for an active engagement of the religious world in the Zionist enterprise. The irony is that the position of Chief Rabbi was subsequently usurped by Haredi Jews who do not embrace Rav Kook’s positions on many if not most issues. Look at any Israeli newspaper and you can see that the role of religion in the State of Israel and the struggle between secular, national religious and Haredi viewpoints that began at the time of Rav Kook still consumes Israeli society today. 


Time: About 1¾ hours

Distance: 2 km

Difficulty: This is an easy walk, but not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs because of occasional steps and the buildings visited.

Starting point: The walk starts at the corner of Jaffa St and Harav Kook St, close to the light-rail stop for “Jaffa City Center”. 

Public transport: The starting point is very close to the light-rail stop for Jaffa City Center.  There are also many buses on nearby King George St.

Parking: There is a public parking lot חניון העמודים on Ha-Rav Agan St. 

The walk:

  • Turn into Ha-Rav Kook St from Jaffa St.  Then take the first left onto Ha-Rav Agan St. You will soon see a sign on your right directing you to Ticho House. Go up the winding path through the park and enter the tranquil gardens of Ticho House through an open green gate. 
  • Climb up the steps to the entrance of the historic Ticho House.[1] Entrance is free. This was one of the first homes built outside the Old City walls and when built its garden extended to Jaffa St. The ophthalmologist Dr. Abraham Ticho (1883-1960) was the third owner when he bought this house in 1912. Trachoma was then endemic in Jerusalem and was an important cause of blindness. Dr. Ticho treated Jewish and Arab patients alike, and instituted preventative measures for trichoma in Jewish and Arab schools. Initially the head of ophthalmology at the Rothschild Hospital (the forerunner of the Hadassah Hospital), he later opened a private Ophthalmic Hospital on the ground floor of his home and lived on the second floor. Dr. Ticho’s wife Anna, who was also well-known as an artist, died 20 years after her husband in 1980 and bequeathed this home to the Israel Museum as a cultural center. There are currently art exhibits of young Israeli artists in the garden and in rooms on both sides of the foyer, and also part of her husband’s menorah collection on a room on the left. From this room you can also watch a movie in Hebrew about the life of this couple partially narrated by Anna Ticho.  
  • Leave the Ticho House by the main entrance and exit the grounds by the gate on your right. Go up the steps and follow the footpath around the walls of the grounds of the house and this will lead you to Beit Harav on Ticho St. This is the former home of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and is now a museum dedicated to his life’s accomplishments.[2]  Rav Kook took up residence in this house when he was appointed Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and soon after this he took the position of first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine. This house is part of Bet David, which was the fourth neighborhood erected outside the City walls. When it was first constructed, Bet David was a gated community for poor Ashkenazi Torah scholars consisting of ten cojoined initially single-story homes in the form of a square, with access to each home being from the central square. It was funded by the philanthropist David Reiss (hence its name). Rav Kook’s living accommodation was on a second floor and a synagogue was added to his home. Access to his house was via a staircase on the outside of Bet David. The synagogue became his learning center for studying with his students, and was the beginning of the influential yeshiva Mercaz HaRav. (This yeshiva, which became the central yeshiva of the religious Zionist movement, subsequently moved to a larger building in Jerusalem). There is a brochure available in English about his home. Look particularly at his study and synagogue. There is also a 20-minute movie in English or Hebrew about his life that is definitely worthwhile seeing.  
  • After exiting the museum turn left along Ticho St. As you pass by Bet David, peep through the gates. It is now occupied by a yeshiva. Turn left onto Ha-Rav Kook St and proceed to the end of the road and its junction with Ha-Nevi’im St.
  • Cross Ha-Nevi’im St on the pedestrian crossing and almost straight ahead of you is the delightful Ethiopia St. Most of the stately looking homes and their beautiful gardens in this street were built by the wealthy Arab Nashashibi family in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It is very apparent from the buildings and people who occupied them, that a new and intellectual stage in the development of Jerusalem is happening here. Number 6 was the American School of Oriental Research headed by Professor W.F. Albright. At number 8 lived Professor Boris Schatz who founded here the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. At number 11, lived Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his family on the second floor. It is not possible to enter his home but read the plaque on the wall of his house. Opposite his home at number 10 is the Ethiopian Church Compound built between 1874 to 1901 and this church can be visited.[3]  
  • Continue to the end of Ethiopia St which leads into Khazanovitch St. The corner building at the intersection of Khazanovitch St with Bnei Brit St, turn left is the B’nai Brith Library. The entrance is around the corner. The building was built in 1902 and formerly housed the first public library to serve the Jewish community in Jerusalem, with books donated by Dr. Yosef Hazanovitch. The collection was then called Midrash Abarbanel after the Spanish statesman and scholar Don Isaac Abarbanel and it marked the 400th anniversary of the expulsion from Spain. It subsequently formed the basis of Israel’s National Library and was moved to the Hebrew University- it is now on the Givat Ram campus. B’nai B’rith donated the money for there to be another Jerusalem library here.  
  • Turn right on Bnei Brit St. until you come to the intersection with Nathan Strauss St.  There is a nicely tended WC on the sidewalk at this intersection. Turn left on Nathan Strauss St. towards Jaffa St. and you are now back close to the beginning of the walk, the light-rail stops and bus stops on King George St.


1.Ticho House was built in 1860 by a member of the wealthy Arab Nashashibi family in a typical Ottoman style with vaulted ceiling and side rooms off a central area, although additions have been made to the home since it was first built. During the Arab riots of 1929, Dr. Ticho was stabbed in the back and seriously wounded, and this attack elicited widespread concern for his well-being from Jew and Arab alike. His wife was a well-regarded artist and painted scenes of Jerusalem and the hills around. Dr. Ticho had a collection of 150 menorahs from the 15th to 20th century and during his lifetime these hung from the walls around his desk. The house contains some of these Chanuka menorahs. A dairy kosher restaurant is on the second floor (Anna Italian Café) of the building. There is currently an exhibition of young Israeli artists in the house and grounds. The house is open Sunday to Tuesday and Thursday 10-5.00 PM, Wednesday 10-10.00 PM, Friday and holiday eves 10-2.00 PM, and is closed on Saturday. Entry is free.

2. Beit Harav is open Sunday to Thursday 9-4.00 PM and Fridays by appointment. The address is 9 Harav Kook St. Admission includes a self-guided visitor’s guide and a 20-minute movie about the life of Rav Kook. You may well also receive a short personal guide to orient you. There are various photographs on the walls with explanations in Hebrew. Rav Kook’s study can be seen and also his synagogue which is still used for regular prayer. Admission is 20 NIS. The center also arranges lectures.

3. The connection between Ethiopia and the people of Israel is a long-standing one. The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. According to Ethiopian tradition, the Lion of Judah symbol was presented to her during this visit and her son Mamelik was born to her from a union with King Solomon. Mamelik became the founder of the Ethiopian royal dynasty. Ethiopia was probably the first nation to accept Christianity in the 1st century CE. There were already Ethiopian Christians in Jerusalem during the Byzantine period and they continued to have a presence in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Despite the rise of Islam, Ethiopia managed to survive as a predominantly Christian country. The country possessed a number of properties in Jerusalem but they had to be given up for financial reasons and their inability to pay taxes to the Ottoman’s. The church on Ethiopia St dates from 1893 and was built by the royal family. You will notice the Lion of Judah symbol above the gate at the entrance from the street.


Nearby places of interest:

Yad LaKashish: Purchase a gift at Yad LaKashis and you are not only buying quality and reasonably priced religious and decorative handicraft but also supporting almost 300 elderly immigrants who work in the attached workshops. The store is at 14 Shiftei Israel St. and is open 9-5.00 PM in May to August and 9-4.30 PM from Sept to April. Products can also be bought from their online store. Free tours of the workshops are encouraged and can be arranged in advance by e-mailing or calling 02 628 7829.

The Museum of the Underground Prisoners. This building in the Russian Compound was originally a hostel for female Russian pilgrims but was converted into a prison by the British during the Mandate. Not only criminals but hundreds of underground resistance fighters from Etzel, Lehi and the Hagana were interred here. It is at 1 Mishol Hagevura St and is open 9-5.00 PM Sunday to Thursday. Tours describing the underground struggle by the Yishuv for establishment of the State are in Hebrew and English. There is also a movie. Allow 1.5 hours. Entrance is 10 NIS. Tel: 02 633 3166.

The Museum of Jewish Music at 10 Yoel Moshe Salomon St is a unique museum aimed at showing the influence of the diaspora on Jewish music. There are several rooms with displays of different instruments from different parts of the world and many of the instruments can be heard. The museum is very high-tech and you go around with a computer pad and earphones - which is fine as long as the pad works well and you can figure it all out. There are staff though to help you. The highlight is a reality display of the ancient Temple which is extremely impressive, although only tangentially related to the theme of the museum. At the moment everything is in Hebrew, although there are plans for English and French. So if your Hebrew is not at a high level, your experience at this excellent museum may be limited. The museum is open Sunday to Thursday 9-5.00 PM and Friday 9-1.00 PM.

Friends of Zion Museum at 20 Yosef Rivlin Street, Nahalat Shiv’a. This is a high-tech museum with a 3-D virtual tour of the political figures, academics, businessmen and military officials who through their faith forged a bone between Jews and Christians. The museum isopen Sunday to Thursday 9.30-6.00 PM, Friday 9.30-2.00 PM and Saturday 10-6.00 PM. You can book a Hebrew or English tour at 02 532 9400 or look at their website to see how booked up tours are and then just show up. 


The entrance to Beit Ha'rav, the former home of Rav Kook, is on the outside of the Beit David quarter and which is now a museum about the life and accomplishments of Rav Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and father figure for the orthodox Zionist movement.


Ethiopia St is a delightful and memorable street close to the center of Jerusalem where important figures in the early cultural life of modern Jerusalem once lived. #11 Ethiopia St is the former home of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, although the house cannot be entered by tourists.


The entranceway to the Ethiopian Church Compound at #10 Ethiopia St. The connection between Ethiopia and the people of Israel is a long-standing one. Note the lions on the gateway, these being the symbol of the royal family of Ethiopia.



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