How Ramban’s ‘desolate’ Jerusalem Area Transformed Into Yekkes’ Rehavia
90 years ago, with its first street named after the medieval Spanish scholar, German Jews established a tony garden neighborhood over wasteland owned by Greek Orthodox Church.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (aka the Ramban) was a brilliant Torah commentator. In 1263, after winning a debate with Catholic clergy on the relative merits of religion, he was summarily expelled from his native Spain.
Four years later, the Ramban and some of his followers traveled to the Holy Land and settled in Jerusalem.
“What can I tell you about the Land of Israel?” he wrote to his family. “Jerusalem is more desolate than anywhere else. We found the remains of a house, built on marble pillars and with a beautiful dome and we took them with us to build a synagogue…”
The first street in the city’s Rehavia neighborhood was named for the Ramban, whose synagogue was to prove the focal point for renewed Jewish settlement in the Holy City.
Almost all the other streets were named for an eminent Spanish/Sephardic personage as well, an interesting choice since within just a few years the neighborhood would be inundated with Ashkenazic immigrants from Germany.