Old Katamon, built at the time of the British Mandate and known as the "Flower Garden of Jerusalem," is located between the neighborhoods of Talbieh to the north and the German and Greek Colonies to the East.
The official Hebrew name, "Gonen," never caught on, and is only used in municipal publications. Most residents continue to call it "Katamon," "below the monastery", as the neighborhood was known before 1948.
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The neighborhood of Old Katamon has a romantic, sentimental style.
Katamon is bounded by the neighborhoods of Talbiya in the north, and the German Colony and Greek Colony to the east. The two main streets are Rehov Rachel Imanu, which runs through the neighborhood from east to west, and Rehov Kovshey Katamon, which runs north-south. These streets connect to Emek Refaim and Rehov ha-Palmach.
Katamon was home to affluent Christian Arabs before it was captured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
A major site in Katamon was the St. Simon monastery, on a hilltop to the north. The monastery is now surrounded by a large park in the neighborhood known as Givat Oranim. Another major attraction of the neighborhood is the L. A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art.
During the Siege of Jerusalem (1948), the neighborhood was an Arab salient between two besieged Jewish neighborhoods. A fierce battle ensued over control over the monastery that left many dead and wounded on both sides.
In her autobiography, Palestinian author Ghada Karmi describes growing up in Katamon, from which she and her father, noted linguist Hasan Karmi, and the rest of the family had to escape in 1948 after fierce fighting broke out. Arab scholar and poet Khalil al-Sakakini and land specialist and writer Sami Hadawi also escaped Katamon at this time. Al-Sakakini's daughter Hala wrote about revisiting the neighborhood in 1967.