Jerusalem Neighborhoods Pt. 4 – Bukharim Quarter

The Bukharim quarter (Hebrew: שכונת הבוכרים‎) (Skhunat HaBukharim) is a neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem, Israel. Many of the residents today are Haredi Jews. The quarter borders Tel Arza on the west, the Shmuel HaNavi neighborhood on the north, Arzei HaBira on the east and Geula on the south.

The first immigrants from Bukhara (today Uzbekistan) settled in Jerusalem in the 1870s and 1880s. They bought land and employed architect Conrad Schick to design a neighborhood for them. In 1890, seven members of the Bukharan Jewish community formed the Hovevei Zion Association of the Jewish communities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. In 1891, the association drew up a charter stating that the new quarter would be built in the style of Europe’s major cities. The streets were three times wider than other streets in Jerusalem at the time, and spacious mansions were built with large courtyards. The homes were designed with neo-Gothic windows, European tiled roofs, New-Moorish arches and Italian marble. Facades were decorated with Jewish motifs such as the Star of David and Hebrew inscriptions.

In 1905-1908, a dairy was opened and cotton fields were planted on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Construction of the quarter continued into the early 1950s. A total of 200 houses were built. During World War I, the Turkish army occupied several buildings and cut down all the trees.

In 1920, a factory for weaving Persian carpets opened, providing employment for 80 women.

A high school, later known as Gymnasia Rehavia, was established in the quarter. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who went on to become President of Israel, taught there with his wife.

Between 1905-1914 Bukharim merchant Elisha Yehudayoff and his son-in-law, Yisrael Haim Hefetz, built the Armon (lit. “palace”) using local limestone and Italian marble with Italian-baroque ornaments. The “Armon” hosted many of the leading figures of the time. During World War I, the Turkish army had its headquarters there. When the British conquered Jerusalem in 1917, a celebratory reception was held in the Armon. 200 Jewish soldiers serving in the British army attended a Passover Seder there. In 1921, the founding convention of the Chief Rabbinate took place at the “Armon”, at which Rabbis HaCohen Kook and Y. Meir were elected. At the end of the British Mandate the “Armon” served as a meeting place for the Irgun.

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