Thursday, April 05, 2007

The View from Mount Scopus

A famous Israeli song, "Me'al Pisgat Har Hatzofim," (From Atop Mount Scopus) was composed by songwriter Avigdor Hameiri, referring to the inspirational view seen from Har Hatzofim, Mount Scopus, which overlooks Jerusalem to the west, and the dead sea to the east.

The Hebrew University was founded on Mount Scopus in 1918, after the British, having liberated the holy land from its Turkish stagnation in the First World War, brought a new energy to the Zionist settlement movement. Sixteen years later, in 1934, the cornerstone of the Hadassah hospital was laid next to the university, with plans in the works for a new medical school. After Israel's independence War, despite repeated attacks, including the murder of seventy seven doctors and nurses in an armored convoy by the Jordanian Legion, the hilltop did not fall. After the war, the Jordanians agreed to allow Israeli access to the site as part of the 1949 armistice agreement, but they immediately betrayed the treaty and blockaded the area. Mount Scopus remained a demilitarized zone patrolled by a few United Nations soldiers, while Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital were rebuilt in western Jerusalem (in Givat Ram and Ein Kerem, respectively.) In 1967, after Israel's recapture of the area, the campus and hospital were repaired and reopened, and Jerusalem now has two Hadassah's and to Hebrew Universities.

Since 1967, the area of Givat Tzarfatit, French Hill, which connects Mount Scopus with the rest of Jerusalem has been thoroughly built up to provide Jewish contiguity, in an attempt to ensure that the city will never be re-divided.

A local map. The green line indicates the "Green Line," the 1949 armistice line between Israel and Jordan. The little green rectangle is Mount Scopus. The red and purple lines are where the new wall dividing the city are being built.

I was on French Hill for Shabbat last week (it's also where I stayed during my first few days in Israel,) and had an hour or so before sunset to walk about and photograph the area. Unlike much of northern Jerusalem, which tends to be poorer and more religious, the neighborhood feels upper-middle class, and probably about half secular, with clean streets, cafes and coffee shops. It is surrounded on almost all sides by Arab neighborhoods, so the population on the streets is mixed.

Looking East, towards the Temple Mount.

These were some of the first buildings constructed beyond the "Green Line" in the 1970's.

Between the edges of the buildings.
The neighborhood has been around long enough, almost forty years, for the trees to have time to grow. In my own Pisgat Ze'ev, which has only been around for fifteen years, you can still feel the desert.

A treesy view.

Looking north towards Pisgat Ze'ev, and later Ramallah.

The two twenty-story twin towers built in the last couple of years represent a break with the six and seven story apartment blocks everywhere else on French Hill. Most people who live here hate them, but, being an engineer, I love anything big and man-made. They are also a good landmark when hiking. You can see these towers from photos on my previous posts from Beit El, Kochav Ya'akov/Tel Tzion, and Kever Shmuel, to name a few.

The twin towers of French Hill

Looks like they're building a third tower.

Building of the storage and maintenance center for the Jerusalem Light Rail system, scheduled date of completion: June, 2004. Expected date of actual completion: 2009. Or perhaps 2011 or 2012.

Looking over the Arab village of Anata towards the Jordan Rift valley and the northern shores of the dead sea.

A similar shot. The Arabs named the town Anata after the ancient Jewish city of the same name on the same location, as is mentioned in Tanach as the city where Yermiyahu Hanavi (Jeremiah the Prophet) was born.

There's a small park and a glen of pine trees (do pine trees come in glens or groves?) on the summit of French Hill. Being at such an altitude, French Hill has its own micro-climate, often receiving snow when the rest of Jerusalem stays dry (or at least snowless.)

Looking East, past Issawayah (Arab) and Ma'aleh Adumim (Jewish) in the midground.

A walk in the park.

Looking East towards Jordan. Issawiyah in the foreground, Maaleh Adumim in the background.
Issawiyah in the foreground, with a close-up of Maaleh Adumim, with the dead sea, and later the hills of Jordan, in the background.

Looking from French Hill towards Mount Scopus. Strangely, French Hill, merely a "Hill" is taller than Mount Scopus, a "Mount."

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus campus.

Hadassah Hospital, Mount Scopus.

Walking back downhill I passed the only major shul (synagogue) on French Hill. The building on the left is the Sephardi shul, on the right is the Ashkenazi shul, and they're linked by a symbolic little bridge. There was actually much resistance from the neighborhood committee to get the shul built, amidst concern that this would transform the largely secular neighborhood in to a nest of religious fanatics. But the conflict was mostly worked out, and today it's a mixed religious/secular neighborhood.

The double shul on French Hill.

Speaking of which, the sun was awfully low in the sky, and people were looking at me funny with my digital camera. With the city-wide shabbat air-raid siren going off, it was time to turn off the digital camera and get ready.

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