Rehavia Residents Win Battle to Tear Down Garden Wall

2.4 meter wall partially demolished due to complaints that goes against principle that private gardens be visible to public.

A 2.4-meter wall around a private garden in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood has been partially demolished, marking a victory for residents agitating to retain what they say is the area's founding concept - private gardens that are visible to the public.

Two layers of the stone wall were knocked down Thursday, weeks after a court for local affairs ordered the demolition, more than two years after the local planning committee demanded it, and six years after residents began protesting against it.

Rehavia wall
Emil Salman

Residents and neighborhood council officials said the wall, located on the corner of Ibn Ezra and Abarbanel streets, symbolized an unwanted change in what one campaigner called the neighborhood's "visual character."

"The struggle is about a lot more than those two rows of stone," said yesterday Rehavia resident Mike Bailey, who has taken an active part in protesting the height of the wall.

"The wall undermined the visual character and the architectural fabric of the neighborhood," Bailey added. "Rehavia is built on having all private areas as part of the public sphere - not in the sense that you can make use of the private gardens, but in the sense that as you're walking in the street, you can enjoy the greenery in the private gardens."

The home and wall-enclosed garden belong to an overseas resident named Joseph Stern, and some say the increasing influx of foreign homeowners has contributed to the physical changes in the neighborhood. The foreign owners are said to be buying renovated or rebuilt homes and building high stone walls around them. Veteran residents say the private gardens of Rehavia have traditionally been surrounded by very low walls or separated by Cypress trees.

Stern's lawyer, Sharon Avni, said the homeowner was being unfairly stigmatized.

"In contrast to the image they're trying to portray, that this is a foreign resident who isn't interested in anything, Stern invested quite a lot of money and resources into preserving and restoring the building," said Avni. "Even the opponents say good work was done here... and we have shown that the neighborhood has a lot of fences that are higher than this one."