German Jerusalem

The Remarkable Life of a German–Jewish Neighbourhood in the Holy City

by Thomas Sparr / translated by Stephen Brown

‘The greatest Weimar poets, thinkers and creators gathered in a couple of elevated neighbourhoods and dreamed an impossible dream. Thomas Sparr brings it brilliantly to life in this scintillating evocation of an intellectual paradise.’ – Norman Lebrecht

Planned at the beginning of the 1920s as a garden city on the fringes of Jerusalem, the suburbs of Talbiyeh and Rehavia became a centre of emigration for German Jews from 1933 onwards, acquiring the nickname ‘Grunewald on the Orient’ – a reference to the residential south-western district of Berlin. The neighbourhood became a vibrant German–Jewish microcosm with residents including the poet and playwright Else Lasker-Schüler, the historian Gershom Scholem, and the philosopher and scholar Martin Buber. It was an idyllic setting, but life was also tough and could be unforgiving; the city had long been divided, and the residents of Talbiyeh and Rehavia found themselves caught up in the conflict. After the war, the recent history of the Shoah weighed heavily on the neighbourhood’s inhabitants, but it also became a place of German Israeli rapprochement. German Jerusalem is a story of a culturally distinctive community, and a fascinating biography of those who lived and worked there.

THOMAS SPARR worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Leo Baeck Institute from 1986 to 1989. Today he lives in Berlin where he works as an editor-at-large for Suhrkamp and as an independent writer and scholar.

STEPHEN BROWN is a playwright, translator, and cultural critic. 

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