If current demographic trends in the Holy City continue, in a few decades the Baka neighborhood and nearby German Colony and Katamon will have fused into one contiguous Little America, an enclave of American Jewish culture in what used to be an enclave of Arab Christian culture. It is surrounded by Israeli Jerusalem – which, considered objectively, says nearly all one needs to know about the turbulently dynamic nature of the modern Middle East. Baka, its Arabic name still in use, was during the British Mandatory era largely populated by wealthy Arab Christians who developed the area, along with nearby Katamon, Talbieh and the German Colony, as Jerusalem garden districts, characterized by ornate villas and elaborate greenery.
The Arab residents fled or were expelled after a period of intense fighting during the 1948 War of Independence, and the neighborhood fell into the same pattern of resettlement and ensuing gentrification as its surrounding neighborhoods. Today, Beit Lechem Street, the main thoroughfare of Baka, exists as a sort of sedate counterpart to the German Colony's Emek Refaim – but somehow the smaller yet vibrant avenue of restaurants, cafes and boutiques manages to maintain a far greater sense of tranquility than its bustling sister street. The villas and apartment buildings of the surrounding environs house a dwindling population of old-school Israeli residents and an ever-expanding number of American and French immigrants, drawn by the neighborhood's refined air and popular Hebrew-language school and absorption center (Ulpan Etzion). The two immigrant communities may have reduced the Israeliness of Baka, but they've brought with them bagels and eclairs, which seems a more than fair exchange.
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The Jerusalem Tourism Map:Print
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