The American – German Colony is a small residential neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Yafo. And is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Thus today we are going to visit it. Let’s begin!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Map
- 2 Origin Of The Name
- 3 History
- 4 Auerbach Street
- 5 Immanuel Church
- 6 Floyd House
- 7 Gesher Theater
- 8 Summary
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Recently we went scouting for Street Art in Tel Aviv and looked at Graffiti At Florentin. On our way to the Florentine neighborhood, we passed near the American – German Colony. Because it is located between Florentin, Neve Tzedek, and Jaffa.
Map of the area:
The best guide with a map that I found online is this one.
Origin Of The Name
This neighborhood has several names. And though American – German colony is the full name, in many cases it is shortened to the American colony. The names reflect the history of the colony. There were two stages. Let’s dive into history and go over them in chronological order.
The American Colony
The American–German Colony was founded in the 19th century by the American Protestant, Christian Restorationism movement, led by George J. Adams and Abraham McKenzie. They and other colonists from Maine had arrived on 22 September 1866 in Jaffa. Upon arrival, they founded the American Colony, named Amelican in Arabic, or Adams City in English. They erected their wooden houses from prefabricated pieces, which they had brought with them. However, diseases, the climate, and the insecure and arbitrary treatment by the Ottoman authorities made many colonists willing to remigrate to Maine.
The German Colony
In 1867 and 1868 the German Peter Martin Metzler, then leading a Protestant mission in Jaffa for the Swiss St. Chrischona Pilgrims Mission, helped the American colonists to sell their real estate, also buying himself much of it. On 5 March 1869 Metzler sold many of the houses on to newly arriving settlers from Württemberg. In 1861 these settlers, led by Georg David Hardegg (*1812–1879*) and Christoph Hoffmann had founded their Christian denomination, the Temple Society. According to their faith, the Templers wished to redeem the Holy Land by an active, industrious lifestyle, understood by the Templars to be the symbolic reconstruction of the Temple.
However, in June 1874 the Temple denomination had undergone a schism. Temple leader Hardegg and about a third of the Templers seceded from the Temple Society, after personal and substantial quarrels with the other leader Christoph Hoffmann. In 1889 apostatized former Templers, Protestant Swiss and German expatriates, like Plato von Ustinov, and domestic and foreign proselytes gained earlier by Metzler constituted an Evangelical Protestant congregation. Most of its parishioners lived in the colony earning it the name German Colony or Deutsche Kolonie. In 1904 the group built its Immanuel Church in the territory. On 17 November 1917 British forces conquered Jaffa and the colony, and most of the male inhabitants of the colony, holding German citizenship, were deported with German prisoners of war to Sidi Bishr and other places in Egypt, later a part of them were sent in 1920 to Bad Mergentheim in Germany.
In July 1918 women, elderly and children were deported too for two years, under police supervision, to the “Al Hayat” Hotel-Sanatorium in Helwan in Egypt. The enemy alien property was taken into public custody under Edward Keith-Roach, the Public Custodian of Enemy Property. The men were released after the Treaty of Versailles became effective on 10 January 1920. After the Treaty of Lausanne, by which Turkey accepted the British mandate of Palestine, had been ratified on 5 August 1925, the public custody was lifted and the property restituted.
After the start of World War II the German colonists were again interned by the British authorities as to the citizens of an enemy state in May 1940, and, after internment in Wilhelma, re-settled in Germany and Australia between 1941 and 1948. The enemy alien property came again into public custody under Keith-Roach. The CMJ subsequently used the vacant Immanuel Church until the British retreat in 1947.
At Israeli Time
After the foundation of Israel, its government took over the enemy alien property in its custody. In January 1950 the state of Israel expropriated secular German enemy alien property in its favor in anticipation of a future agreement with Germany on compensations for claims of Israeli citizens against Germany. In the course of the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany, both states agreed on the compensation of the expropriated secular property of then German citizens. Whereas the buildings of religious usage, like Immanuel Church and its rectory, had remained in public custody and had been handed over to the Lutheran World Federation in 1951 after an agreement of September of that year regulating Israel’s compensation of expropriated Protestant religious property of secular purposes, such as schools, farms, factories, etc., and the restitution of actual places of worship, cemeteries, etc. to Protestant religious bodies.
In the following years, the area gradually suffered neglect. But later came to be re-developed or restored, including by a small number of American Christian restorationists, some of the family descendants from the original Maine community. As with the Neve Tzedek area in general, it is now a middle-class part of Tel Aviv. It is located between Florentin and old Jaffa. It is centered mainly around the Auerbach and Beer-Hofmann streets.
Note: all history quotes were taken from Wikipedia.
From the Old Train Station parking, we headed to Auerbach Street. And at the beginning of the street, we see Noton house.
Norton House is located at Auerbach 4. And as you can see, next to the house there is an explanation sign in three languages.
The treehouse was built in 1866 by an American family named Norton, who came from a state Maine in the United States. The family’s name was engraved on wooden boards discovered here while preserving the structure. The Norton family, Captain Ackley Norton, his wife, and their five daughters were part of a large group of 157 Americans Protestant Christians. They belonged to a religious community called the Church of Christ which came to Palestine to establish an agricultural colony there. The group was headed by a priest named George Adams who believed that the settlement of the Land of Israel would prepare the ground for the return of the Jews from exile and thus hasten the time of salvation and the death of Christ.
On September 22, 1866, American settlers arrived on the coast of Jaffa aboard the ship “Nelly Chippin,” which was loaded with goods. Group members brought from the United States all items and furniture designed to facilitate their organization in their new country. And they even brought their wooden houses with them (dismantled and ready for rebuilding).
The beginning was not easy. Various bureaucratic difficulties delayed the purchase of land and the construction of houses for the new colony, and the settlers had to live for months in tents on the Jaffa seafront. Unaccustomed to the climatic conditions in the country and the various common diseases, many of the settlers died, and nine of them, most of them children, died during the first few weeks after the coastal descent.
Despite the difficulties and illnesses, members of the group succeeded in establishing the colony at the end of 1866. The land was legally purchased, and about ten houses were built as planned along the two streets of the neighborhood, now named Auerbach Street and Bar Hoffman Street.
The Norton House was one of those first timber houses brought in from the United States as they were dismantled and ready for assembly. It was a two-story building and a basement. And later to the porch that now surrounds the building was added. The building, which has been neglected over the years and even faced the danger of collapse, was rebuilt in 1990 and restored in a meticulous manner that won the 1991 President’s Website Restoration Award.
For several years, Chef Haim Cohen’s famous “Keren” restaurant was operating, and today the house is planned to be part of a luxury housing project.
Source: the guide mentioned at the top of this post.
The Drisco Hotel – Jerusalem Hotel
The nearby house, at Auerbach 6 serves today as a hotel, the Drisco Hotel.
The magnificent stone house was built in 1867 by the Drisco brothers, from the American settlers who came to Jaffa. It was the only house in the American colony built of stone, not a treehouse, like the rest of the settlement, designed to serve as a luxury hotel and called Grand Hotel. Construction took longer than planned, and the brothers were unable to open the hotel at the time of the Easter tourist season. This delay proved to be devastating. The brothers lost their money and had to sell the hotel to a missionary named Metzler and leave the country.
German-born Christian missionary named Peter Martin Metzler who came to Jaffa in 1858, ran a mission station there. And he purchased part of the territory of the American Colony intending to expand the station’s operations, a plan that was not implemented. The cause for a change in Metzler’s projects was a Russian nobleman named Plato von Ustinov who came to Jaffa in 1862 to be cured after falling from the back of a galloping horse. The nobleman was staying at Metzler’s house, and the two became friends in heart and soul. Their friendship led Plato von Ustinov, in early 1869, to invite Metzler to reside in Russia and to assist him in managing his estate, a request for which Metzler decided to respond positively.
Metzler’s decision to leave made him look for a buyer for the American Colony homes he bought a year earlier.
During those years, several hundred German settlers were living in Haifa, who were members of a Christian religious group called the Temple Hall, Tempelgesellschaft in German, or as we know them today – Templars. Members of this group came to Palestine and sought a place to establish an agricultural colony.
The story of the Templars began in the mid-nineteenth century in southern Germany, where a Christian religious group was formed. It sought to instill among its believer’s principles and values of sincere belief in God, love for others, and modesty. The leaders of the group urged their members to come to God’s land, the Land of Israel, to set up agricultural settlements there and set an example for the inhabitants of the land by living a life of simplicity and diligence.
Some of the Templars who were in Haifa at that time complied with Metzler’s offer bought houses from him in the American colony and moved to Jaffa in homes now called the “German Colony.”
This building was purchased in 1870 by Ernest Hardge, the son of the Templar leader in Haifa. Hardge renovated and expanded the building and opened a new hotel called The Hotel Jerusalem. It was one of the best and most luxurious hotels in the city of Jaffa. And it had 24 rooms named after biblical figures.
Source: the guide I mentioned above.
The next house on the street (Auerbach 8) is Beit Immanuel.
In 1873 the Templers erected the Tempelstift, i.e., the main office of the Temple Society, including also a school and a community hall. Most likely following plans of the architect Theodor Sandel, one of their fellow faithful. In May 1878 the Templers moved these institutions to the German Colony in the Rephaim valley near Jerusalem and sold the Tempelstift building to the Russian-born German-naturalised Plato von Ustinov, one of Metzler’s proselytes.
Ustinov extended the building by one more floor, reopened it as Hôtel du Parc and moved into the new top level. Ustinov employed Bekhōr Nissīm ʾElhādīf, an alumnus of the Miqveh Yisra’el agricultural school. ʾElhādīf (1857–1913) bought exotic plants and trees from all over the world to develop the garden of Ustinov’s hotel into a botanical park. In 1879 Ustinov opened on the first floor of his hotel a museum exhibiting his growing collection of antiquities from the Holy Land.
In his “Hôtel du Parc” Plato von Ustinov housed German Emperor William II, his wife Auguste Victoria, and the closest entourage on their stay in Jaffa on 27 October 1898. Their travel agency Thomas Cook accommodated the imperial guests with Ustinov because his “Hôtel du Parc” was considered the only establishment in Jaffa suited for them. In 1897 and 1898 Templers of Jaffa and Sarona, arguing the title to the construction site would be under dispute, had intrigued with the Sublime Porte and the German Foreign Office against the plans to build Immanuel Church in the colony, so that the laying of the cornerstone, planned to be attended by William II, in his function as king of Prussia also officiating as supreme governor of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia’s older Provinces, had to be delayed to after his stay.
After the restitution of the Hôtel du Parc from public custody Magdalena Hall (1868–1945), Ustinov’s widow could dispose of it again and sold it in 1926 to the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. Today its successor organization, the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ), operates in the former hotel the Beit Immanuel (Immanuel House), a mission, a pilgrims hostel, and a community center.
Maine Friendship House
The Maine Friendship House is a small, New England style, wooden, clapboard house located on 10 Auerbach Street. It was built in 1866 by a small group of Christian restorationists from Maine who had emigrated to Israel in the hope of preparing the land for the Jews to return and thereby hastening the coming of the Christian Messiah. It was saved from demolition on 14 February 2002.
The house was prefabricated in Whitneyville, Maine and shipped from Machiasport, Maine to Israel as the future home of the Wentworth family. It has been restored by Jean and Reed Holmes of Jonesport, Maine. In 2004 the restoration was the first offshore building to win a Maine Preservation Award. The basement of the house houses the studio of the artist Jonathan Kis-Lev, while the upstairs serves as a museum for the history of the American Colony, which presents pictures and personal items that tell the story of the American settlement in the Colony.
Maine Friendship House museum is open for visitors and groups. Come during open hours or call ahead and we’ll open the museum for you. Hours: Friday 12:00 – 15:00, Saturday 14:00 – 16:00. Phone: 03-6819225.
And while standing near Maine Friendship House, you can see Immanuel Church.
This church is situated at Bar Hoffman 15, Tel Aviv.
Immanuel Church is a Protestant church in the American–German Colony neighborhood of Tel Aviv-Jaffa in Israel.
The church was built in 1904 for the benefit of the German Evangelical community, which it served until its dissolution at the onset of World War II in 1940. In 1955, the Lutheran World Federation transferred control of the church building to the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel, and a new congregation started taking shape. Today the church is used by a variety of Protestant denominations as well as by Messianic Jews.
Tuesday – Friday: 10.00-14.00
History Of The Church
The founding generation of the Templars did not build a church within the borders of Jaffa. As well as in the other colonies they founded. They believed in a simple lifestyle and believed that a believer did not need a magnificent church structure to pray to God. But the second generation of the colony changed their taste. They no longer believed in community principles such as the generation of parents, and some even chose to return to the lap of the evangelical church that their parents abandoned. Towards the end of the 19th century, second-generation believers sought to build a church for them.
In 1898, during the visit of German Emperor Wilhelm II to Eretz Israel, he was accompanied by a clergyman named Friedrich von Braun, who was the head of the Church of Stuttgart, Germany, and who took care of the Evangelical community in Jaffa. He came to Israel to lay the cornerstone for the founding of this church.
The 74-year-old missionary Peter Martin Metzler, who was living in the city of Stuttgart at the time, heard of the intention to set up the church and decided to donate, along with Baron Plato von Ustinov, the land they owned in the center of the colony.
The work of the church continued for six years, and in 1904 it was inaugurated. It was called the German Evangelical Church of Jaffa and was used by the German Colony until they were forced to leave during World War II.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, the building was passed to the people of Scandinavian Lutheran Church. It was thoroughly renovated and is now called the Immanuel Church.
Source: the guide mentioned at the top of this post.
Note: the church has one of the largest organs in Israel. There are on average, two concerts a month. And if you love organ concerts, check the official site for additional info.
The next house on the street, Bar Hoffman 16 belonged to the Floyd family.
Most American settlers returned to the United States, but there were also a few who remained in Jaffa. One of those families was the Floyd family who built this house.
Rola and Theodosia Floyd’s first years in Palestine were not easy. Their infant son was one of the children who died of illness immediately upon landing on Jaffa Beach. And like the rest of the settlers, they also suffered from adverse conditions. Despite the difficulties, the Floyds decided to stay in the country and fight for the fulfillment of the purpose for which they came.
Rolla Floyd chose to be a tour guide. He studied Arabic and the history of Israel and began working at the famous Thomas Cook & Sons Tourism Agency. He was very successful and was known as the best guide in the Land of Israel.
Floyd brought a carriage from the United States. The carriage was equipped with innovative rails that softened rides on the country’s disruptive roads. It is said that anyone who enjoyed traveling in that carriage did not want to travel in any other form.
In the early 1990s, the house was renovated by a sculptor living in the house. If you walk along the fence of the house, you may be able to see some of the sculpture she creates in the yard.
Source: the guide mentioned at the top of this post.
We continued along Eliyahu Kashek Amikam street until we reached this small lovely park.
And from this green space, we went towards Nehama street. Street art on the way:
If you love street art, then check out my Graffiti At Florentin post.
Lovely window on the way:
We wandered a little more till we reached Sderot Yerushalayim. And on Yerushalayim boulevard 9, you can find Gesher theater.
Gesher is my favorite theater in Israel. I have been there for classics, modern productions, and even children shows. They keep a high standard and I usually leave intrigued in thought. But in this post, I wanted to bring the story of this theater.
In 1991, during the first Gulf War, a group of Russian actors under the leadership of Yevgeny Arye, a prominent stage director from Moscow, immigrated to Israel and in a bold move, founded a theatre symbolically named Gesher: ‘a bridge’ in Hebrew. It all started as a scene from the theatre of the absurd. A group of actors crowded in a small cellar in Tel-Aviv, rehearsing Hebrew texts transcribed into Cyrillic alphabet. Running in their costumes and gas-masks to the nearest shelter each time the sirens started wailing to warn of an Iraqi missile attack.
Against all the odds, from its first production of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, (April 1991), Gesher was hailed as “The Russian Miracle of the Israeli Theatre” (D’var Hashavua, August 1991). And indeed it was a miracle. What started as an impossible dream has become a huge artistic success story. Gesher is the only theatre of immigrants in the world that has thrived for so long. It is probably the only theatre where rehearsals are conducted simultaneously in three languages and where the same actors perform alternately in Hebrew and Russian.
Over the years, Gesher Theatre has lived up to its symbolic name and has become a bridge between Russian and Israeli cultures. The theatre has incorporated many Israeli actors into its ranks. Its productions are currently mostly in Hebrew. And it has moved into a permanent home in Jaffa. It has staged over 60 productions, represented Israel in more than 17 international festivals, won numerous awards and was praised by The Times as “one of the greatest and most important troupes in the world.”
Gesher has won a place of prominence among Israeli theatres and a world-wide success. As Le Figaro wrote on July 1993, Gesher is “an ensemble whose reputation exceeds the borders of Israel, and rightly so.”
Source: official website
Gesher was our last point of interest, and since it was getting late we returned to the HaTachana Compound – Tel Aviv’s Old Train Station at Neve Tzedek.
The American – German Colony is a small hidden gem in Tel Aviv. The described visit took us about two hours at a slow pace. And if you want, you can combine it with an organ concert at Immanuel Church. Moreover, you can visit nearby Florentin, Neve Tzedek, and Jaffa.
Have you ever been to The American – German Colony in Tel Aviv? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby see Tel Aviv-Yafo page.
Here are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.
And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.