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baka was the arabic name of the area after the adjacent refaim valley (emek refaim). the arabs abandoned the area in the war of independence and new immigrants from morocco moved into the empty homes and renamed the neighborhood 'geulim' because they were redeemed from the shackles of exile. in the empty plots between the arab-style houses apartment blocks were built.
the neighborhood has developed and changed dramatically over the last 20 years with many young couples and immigrants from europe and north america moving in. today, baka has almost 10,000 residents.
the neighborhood administration was extended in 2005 to include abu tor and all parts of talpiot.
mekor haim was established in 1926 by the religious zionist mizrahi movement on land belonging to the jnf. it is named in honor of haim cohen, a wealthy bukharan jewish businessman who made major donations to hovevei zion before the first world war in order to purchase land in jerusalem. menachem ussishkin, the president of hovevei zion, transferred the money to the jnf and 120 dunams of land were purchased in south jerusalem from an arab. the neighborhood was built along one main street which developed parallel to the railway line. the first residents were religious jews who built a synagogue and yeshiva.
in the 1930's there were constant attacks from the nearby arab village of beit zafafa.
each family received a two-dunam plot for a house, garden and orchard. the houses were built of concrete. they were single-story 3-room houses. in the early days four families had cow sheds and provided fresh milk daily for jerusalem. all the families had chicken coops. this was a low density neighborhood with a high quality of life. the early residents were middle-class businessmen and government officials. one factory was erected to manufacture building blocks and cement.
the building contractor mar haim was the first chairman of the neighborhood committee. he arranged for the hamekasher bus company to operate route number 8 on a regular timetable between the neighborhood and the city center. the committee guaranteed security patrols, street cleaners and regular water supply. initially, there was one central water tap in the south of the neighborhood. the committee purchased the water from the municipality and placed a watchman at the tap to count how many buckets each family drew. later, raised water cisterns were built in the garden of each house. a number of summer homes were opened in the neighborhood because of its appealing appearance.
the synagogue, built in the shape of a fortress, provided refuge for the residents during the arab riots in 1929. during the war of independence the neighborhood endured a prolonged siege. the older residents left. the younger ones remained, bolstered by hagganah recruits to repel the arab attacks. mekor haim became a symbol of jewish resistance. victory came when the combined arab offensive on ramat rachel, katamon, baka and the german colony was finally thwarted.
only after the six day war did mekor haim cease to be on the border and subject to arab sniping. the talpiot industrial zone was developed and the neighborhood ended its isolation although it was only in the mid-1980's that the city council established clearly defined zoning laws to stop the encroachment of commerce and preserve the residential nature of mekor haim.
mekor haim is bordered by beit zafafa on the south, the railway line to the west, rehov pierre koenig to the east, and rehov yehuda to the north.