(כיכר ספרא, kikar safra
) is Jerusalem
's city hall complex
named after Jacob
and Esther Safra, parents of Edmond J. Safra
, a Jewish philanthropist who contributed generously to the renovation of downtown Jerusalem.
Kikar Safra, as it is known in Hebrew, is built on a triangular
-shaped plot near the eastern end of Jaffa Road
, bounded on the east by Shivtei Yisrael ("Tribes of Israel
") street and forming a triangular intersection across from Tzahal Square
and the walls of Jerusalem's Old City
. The Russian Compound
lies to the north. Some of the historic buildings of the Russian Compound have been restored and incorporated into the municipal complex. The Compound's historic gate was moved to the north of its original location.
Jerusalem's city hall, both the new complex and the former building, is close to the former 1949 armistice line that divided Jerusalem between Israeli and Jordanian control until 1967. Its location across from the Old City symbolizes the efforts of the municipal government to serve all residents of Jerusalem, east and west.
The original Jerusalem Municipality
complex was built by the British in the 1930s, during the British Mandatory
period. As the city grew along with the need to provide more modern and diverse services to an expanding and equally diverse population, the city government's offices expanded as well, and were spread throughout the city. The decentralized location of the municipal government decreased its efficiency, and it was decided to create a single building to house Jerusalem's local government. After lengthy deliberations, the current location was selected, despite the challenge of preserving the large number of historic and culturally significant 19th century buildings.
The Canadian Jewish architect Jack Diamond and the Israeli architectural firm of Kolker, Kolker, and Epstein were selected to design a project consisting of 3 new buildings to be integrated with an existing 10 buildings and form a cohesive, unified site of 13 buildings. The 10 existing buildings would be preserved and rehabilitated in order to retain a sense of the historic character of the city. The plan for "Jerusalem City Hall" was completed, and its cornerstone laid in 1988. In 1993 the project was completed and the offices opened for business.
Artwork and design
At the entrance of the complex is Daniel public garden
named for Jerusalem mayor Daniel Auster
. The garden contains several works of art: a sculpture based on a large, working Archimedes' screw
that carries water up from a small pool, "Modern Head," a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein
donated in memory of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin
, and "The Binding of Isaac" by Jerusalem sculptor Avraham Ofek
. The steps leading up to the complex from Jaffa Road
are lined with 48 palm trees, hence the name Palm Plaza
(Hebrew: רחבת דקלים). Several statues of lions, the symbol of Jerusalem, also adorn the square.
On the Safra Square - next to the Jerusalem town house - the exhibition of the United Buddy Bears was shown for the first time in Israel. The exhibition consisted of 138 respectively 2 m high bear sculptures, each of them designed by a different artist. This international art project was opened by the mayor and he was impressed that the bears of Iran and Irak and Israel stood peacefully next to each other "hand in hand".