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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
III 1970 - 1980
Jerusalem - East Talpiot Neighbourhood
    “Armon Hanaziv”, for me, the words still have a musical sound.  In English they meant literally "The Palace of the High Commissioner”. The Minister of Housing, Zeev Sherf, was against using this name for the new neighbourhood that I had been asked to plan.-"It reminds us of the British Mandate. I want the neighbourhood to be called Talpiot. That is also a beautiful Biblical word and its meaning is; "magnificence". Someone pointed out that there already was a neighbourhood called Talpiot "Then", said Sherf "we will call it, East Talpiot” I ventured to say that the name sounded like a 'railway station'. "Sherf was not amused and possibly with tongue in cheek said, "David Best cannot throw off his British origins - East Talpiot sounds beautiful".  I did not agree but acquiesced, as Zeev Sherf always gave me support when I needed it. So we all agreed, and the name of the new neighbourhood became ‘East Talpiot’.  Sometimes I would make one of my usual mistakes in Hebrew and call it Armon Hanaziv, but never in his presence.

   The Armon Hanaziv itself was built by the British Mandatory Government in 1936 on a hill over looking the Old City of Jerusalem. The hill itself was located on the watershed between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea It lay virtually on the edge of the Judean Desert, which stretched out in magnificent desolation to the south. The ancient name of the hill was ironically called "The Hill of Evil Council". It later became well known as the title of a short story by Amos Oz. It is a rather frightening but evocative tale of Mandatory Palestine, set in the beautiful building of the Armon Hanaziv itself.  The chief Architect of the Public Works Department of the British Mandatory Government, Austin Barbe Harrison, was the architect of the Armon Hanaziv.  He had left his post in Palestine in 1937 and eventually settled in his retirement in Cyprus.  He had designed many beautiful public buildings in Palestine, amongst them; the Rockerfeller Museum close to the walls of the Old City, the Haifa City Hall and a fine architecturally designed series of Police station which were built throughout the country. On my first visit to Israel in 1950, the sight of the Armon Hanaziv convinced me that Harrison was both a talented architect and one who had succeeded to build harmoniously within the local landscape of Jerusalem. I had always wanted to meet him, and on a visit to Cyprus a few years later, I sought out Austin Harrison through the help of a friend from the British Council. I found him in Lapithos, a small village in the hills above Kyrenia. I came unannounced but with regards to him from his friend Cliff Holliday. He received me in his beautiful house and though very reserved and serious, he spoke to me of his days in Palestine with obvious emotion.  He was then quite old and I was very young and the gulf between our generations seemed to preclude a long and intimate conversation.  His tall almost regal appearance impressed me greatly.  When he moved about, although very stooped, he still projected a quality of unusual grace. I felt I should not overstay my welcome and began to take my leave.  Then he said, "Do give my regards to Clifford when you are in England" then added almost with a sigh: "and Palestine; do visit the Museum and the High Commissioners House if you get the chance. It was good that you came to visit me."

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