Jerusalem and Safed are perhaps the most winter cities in Israel. The most beautiful time for them is Hanukkah. This December 2022, the Jerusalem Botanical Garden is hosting a festival of light under the heading Lights of Winter. We were going to visit this place, but before dark we decided to have lunch at Mitham haTahana - the old railway station of the city, turned into a modern entertainment center. See how it was.
At the end of the nineteenth century, technological progress reached the Holy Land. The first railway was built connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem. It doesn't matter that a journey had to be made from Jaffa to the station, and it doesn't matter that a trip had to be made from the station in Jerusalem to the city. The line made it possible to reduce travel time between cities to a few hours instead of a whole day. It was significant progress!!!
For many years, after a turbulent and noisy life for almost a hundred years after its opening, the first railway station in Jerusalem was not in use. It stood closed, giving way to the southern station in Malha. Only ten years ago, the station became a historical and cultural centre and quickly became a place of entertainment.
The first attempts to establish a Jaffa-Jerusalem railway connection began as early as 1839. Then, an English businessman of Jewish origin, Moses Montefiore, petitioned the government of the Turkish Ottoman Empire for the construction. At the same time, British entrepreneurs Chenz and McNeil were developing a working version of the railway line. They even made a trip to Palestine to determine the preferred route. Montefiore despaired of his attempts in 1862. Then the American-German engineer Karl Zimpl entered the business. He planned the way, which was built about three decades later.
In 1888, Yosef Navon, a Jerusalem banker and public figure, received a railway license from the Turkish government and sold it to French investors. On March 31, 1890, the cornerstone of the railway was laid near the village of Yazor (now Azur). The construction of the road, the first in the Holy Land, was completed two years later. The grand opening occurred at Jerusalem's final stop on September 26, 1892. The original Jaffa-Jerusalem line included five intermediate stations - Lod, Ramla, Said (today near Moshav Tal Shahar), Deir Aban (now Beit Shemesh) and Beitar.
The stations were built in the French style and included warehouses for goods, depots for locomotives and wagons, and canteens.
The famous passengers among the first to ride on the railway were the German Emperor Wilhelm II and Benjamin Zeev Herzl.
The Jaffa-Jerusalem railway was of great importance during the First World War. The military headquarters of Turkey and Germany were located in Jerusalem and used the road to deliver provisions to military and civilian people. With the outbreak of war, the Turkish authorities nationalised the railway, which was French property, widened the gauge from 100 centimetres to 105 and connected it in Lod to the Ottoman Hejaz railway network - the line connecting Damascus with the Arabian Peninsula.
After the end of the war, the British widened the track to 145 centimetres, adapting the road to their standard.
During the Israeli War of Independence, the railway and stations became the target of sabotage and attacks. Until 1998, with short interruptions, the line continued to serve passengers and carry out cargo transportation.
Probably the best restaurant in Mitham HaTahana. It's delicious here. The restaurant is located in one of the halls of the former railway station. Slightly careless service, constant fuss and efficiency of the staff involuntarily create the atmosphere of a French station bistro. Well, such an association may arise if we recall the historical refrain to the time of the construction of the railway station. It was a French-style train station with a buffet. Excellent aperitifs, beautiful appetisers and main courses put the restaurant on the same level as the famous and respected restaurants in Jerusalem. Adom is an ancient institution that was once located in Nahalat Shiva. Adom was one of the first to accept the challenge and moved to the newly created Mitham haTahana, no doubt bringing with his regulars. Everyone benefited from this, and first of all the Jerusalemites, having received a new entertainment centre and maintaining a high culinary level.
The French past of the railway station haunts him to this day. Here the famous French carousel sits next to a second-hand clothing store with countless laces, frills, cuffs and hats.
The Talbia region and the former German colony were once prestigious places. Then came the years of the division of Jerusalem, and after a long desolation, only in the seventies they began to “develop” vast territories here. So, in 1976, in honor of the bicentennial of the United States, a garden appeared on the wasteland. A copy of the Liberty Bell, donated to Jerusalem by the United States government, was installed in it, and the park became known as Bell Park.
This part of the city began to be built up for residential areas in the late seventies of the last century. Mostly with the money of American Jews, and to no small extent for American Jews.
The Botanical Garden appeared in Jerusalem in the thirties but was located near the university on Mount Scopus. When she ended up in the Jordanian enclave, new buildings were built on Givat Ram, and the garden moved here.
The lake in the botanical garden is its main recognizable attraction. It was created only in the nineties along with the visitor center. On Hanukkah, a large Hanukkah is lit in the middle of the lake. Translated with Google Translate
Some paths of the garden are decorated with New Year's symbols. It is very modest and inconspicuous, but named in Israel, the Feast of Feasts. This expression was born in Haifa and symbolizes the celebration of Hanukkah and Christmas. Gradually, this event finds folowers in other cities with mixed Jewish and Arab Christian populations.