Katamon

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San Simon monastery in Katamon

Katamon (Arabic: قطمون‎, Hebrew: קטמון‎) is a neighbourhood in south-central Jerusalem, Israel. The official Hebrew name, Gonen (Hebrew: גּוֹנֵן), is only used in municipal publications.[1] Katamon is derived from the Greek kata tōi monastēriōi ("under the monastery").[2]

History[edit]

Katamon was established just before World War I. German aerial photographs taken during the war show a grid of building lots demarcated by stones.[3] By 1914, a total of 5 homes had been built.[3] From 1924, building activity resumed, mostly by affluent Arab Christians, who built large mansions there.

At the beginning of the 1948 Palestine war, the neighborhood was an Arab neighborhood between two Jewish neighborhoods, the only one in a line of Jewish neighborhoods. On the night of 5–6 January 1948, the Haganah bombed the Semiramis Hotel in Katamon, killing 24 or 26 people. During the war, attacks by the Arabic side originated from the Greek Orthodox San Simon monastery in Katamon that was located in a strategic point overlooking the Jewish neighborhoods. On April 28, as part of Operation Yevusi, during the battle over control of the monastery, Rafael Eitan, then a platoon commander, was shot in the head.[2]

Ofira Navon park, built on the site of Katamon football stadium

In her autobiography, Palestinian author Ghada Karmi describes growing up in Katamon, from which she and her father, linguist Hasan Karmi, and the rest of the family, fled in 1948 after fierce fighting broke out. Palestinian scholar and poet Khalil al-Sakakini and writer Sami Hadawi also left Katamon at this time. Al-Sakakini's daughter Hala wrote about revisiting the neighborhood in 1967.[4]

On September 17, 1948, UN Mediator Folke Bernadotte and UN Observer André Serot, were assassinated by members of the Jewish underground Lehi while driving on Palmach Street in Katamon.[2]

Geography[edit]

Katamon is bounded by the neighborhoods of Talbiya in the northeast, and the German Colony and Greek Colony to the southeast. The neighbourhood is bounded on its south side by Rachel Imenu street and Hizkiyahu Ha'Melech street (separating it from the Greek Colony), and on its east side by Kovshey Katamon street (separating it from Talbiya). These streets connect to Emek Refaim and Rehov ha-Palmach,[5] respectively.

Landmarks[edit]

Old Arab mansion in Katamon

A major landmark in Katamon is the San Simon monastery (he:מנזר סן סימון), on a hilltop to the north. The monastery is now surrounded by a large park in the neighborhood known as Givat Oranim.

The neighbourhood was home to the Hapoel Jerusalem football club from the 1930s until it moved back to the YMCA Stadium in the 1980s.[6] In 2007, several dissatisfied Hapoel Jerusalem fans formed a new club, naming it Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem after the club's former home, although the new club does not play in the neighborhood.[7]

Katamon was the home of several foreign consulates, among them the Greek consulate, the Italian consulate, and the Costa-Rican consulate.[8] The old Hapoel stadium was purchased by developers and is now the site of the upscale Ganei Katamon neighborhood, ringing Ofira Navon park.

The Misgav Ladach hospital on the southern edge of the neighbourhood specialized in maternity care, but is now a Kupat Holim Meuhedet diagnostic center.[9] The L. A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art is also located on Palmach Street in Katamon.[10] Katamon also houses the core community of Erlau Hassidism, as well its yeshiva, Ohel Shimon.[11] The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been based in Katamon since 1997.

Katamonim[edit]

Housing project, Katamon Tet

To the west, Old Katamon branches out into several neighbourhoods collectively called the "Katamonim" (plural of Katamon; officially Gonenim, lit. "Defenders"), built in the early years of the state to accommodate the large wave of new immigrants, previously living in tent camps.[12] These neighborhoods were assigned Hebrew numerals : Katamon Khet ("Katamon 8"), Katamon Tet ("Katamon 9), etc. Some of those neighborhoods have a second name. Katamon Hei (5) is also called San Simon Neighborhood,[13] a part of Katamon Het (8) and Katamon tet (9) is sometimes called San Martin Neighborhood,[14] and Katamon zayn (7) is Pat neighborhood.

Katamon Khet was built at the end of the 1950s, and Katamon Tet in the mid-1960s. The Katamonim are characterized by long apartment blocks on pillars, providing low-cost housing. Some of the buildings are still government-owned, although the Amidar housing company sold many of the apartments to the residents in the 1970s.[12] The neighborhood hosts a well-known WIZO community center called after Helena Kagan.

Prior to the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Katamonim were on the Jordanian-Israeli armistice line. Massive infrastructure improvement was financed by an urban renewal project known as "Project Renewal" over a period of two decades. Many small apartments were combined into larger ones and the outward appearance of the apartment blocks was improved.[12] Since the 1990s, many Russian and Ethiopian immigrants have been given housing there.[12]

The Jerusalem Tennis Center, founded in 1981 and dedicated in 1982 by the Jewish community of South Africa in memory of Yossi Zeituni, a tennis coach who fell in the Lebanon War, is located in the Katamonim. The center has 19 courts and a stadium with seating for 2,000 spectators.[12]

Notable residents[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Coordinates: 31°45′40″N 35°12′25″E / 31.761°N 35.207°E / 31.761; 35.207