Rechavia was founded in the 1920’s, on land purchased by the Israel Land Development Company from the Greek Orthodox Church. The German Jewish architect, Richard Kaufman, was commissioned to design Rechavia as a “garden neighborhood.” Since then, commercial enterprises are limited in this area, to preserve its tranquil atmosphere.
The Gymnasia Rehavia high school, Yeshurun Synagogue, and the Jewish Agency building were built on this land, overlooking the Old City. Rehavia was modeled after the garden cities of Europe, with an emphasis on the International Style popular at the time.
The first phase, called Rehavia A, was bordered by King George Street to the east, Ramban Street to the south, Ussishkin Street to the west, and Keren Kayemet Street to the north. To preserve the quiet character, the neighborhood association allowed commercial businesses only on the two main roads at the neighborhood’s edges. The roads open to traffic were deliberately built narrow, to keep them less busy and thus quieter. The main, tree-lined boulevard which bisected the neighborhood was open to pedestrian traffic only. Later expansion was primarily to the south, in the direction of Gaza Street.
Many European intellectuals and professors chose to live in Rechavia in the early 20th century, as did various leaders and politicians.
In keeping with the intellectual character of the neighborhood, most streets of Rechavia are named for Jewish scholars and poets from the Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain, such as Maimonides, Abarbanel, and Nachmanides.
Though Rechavia borders on the whirring traffic of the city center, there are many streets that are a quiet retreat from the noise. Greenery is lush in the building courtyards and twines around walls and fences. The shops that line the streets are small and intimate, and sell specialized items: gourmet chocolate, French pastries, art-inspired gifts.