P. 21

The Jewish garden neighborhood of Rehavia was established in the heart of Jerusalem in 1922, and soon became an urban gem – with its well-kept houses, straight roads and trees in the houses yards. Its environment instilled a quiet and pleasant atmosphere. The city's elite resided there: authors, artists, public officials, lawyers and those engaged in free professions. The erection of a central building for the Jewish leadership, between this neighborhood and the Jerusalem City Center, which began to take shape in those years, seemed like a worthy move that should be promoted.
The suitable plot of land was found and was purchased from the Greek Orthodox Church by the "Palestine Land Development Company," under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin. The initial plan was to establish the Hebrew Gymnasia of Jerusalem at this location, however it's teachers and headmasters believed that the location was unsuitable for an educational institution, as it was too close to a main road – King George Street – one of Jerusalem's main roads. As such, another location was found for the Gymnasia in the Rehavia Neighborhood and the land's designation was changed – to the establishment of the National Institutions Building.
The process of erecting the building was not short. It lasted eight years – from 1928 to 1936. It began with a competition of architects that took place in the first half of 1928 and aroused much interest. Almost thirty Jewish architects, including some of the best known in the Land of Israel at the time, submitted their proposals. Names such as Baerwald, Kauffmann, Krakauer, Yellin and Hecker seemed to be the candidates that were likely to win. The committee of judges, with the participation of architects and representatives of the National Institutions and headed by Prof. Josef Frank, a renowned architect from Vienna, examined the proposals. Many were surprised by the committee's selection of a proposal by a practically unknown architect from Haifa named Oygen Ratner, a lecturer from the young Technion, which had opened only three years before. Ratner also received a monetary prize of 75 Palestine Pound – an amount equivalent to NIS 75 thousand today. The second through fifth prizes were awarded to Leopold Krakauer (70 Palestine Pound), Baruch Kuczynski (65 Palestine Pound), Richard Kauffmann (60 Palestine Pound) and Wilhelm Hecker (34 Palestine Pound).
Much is written in this book about Ratner's proposal, according to which the National Institutions Building was built. It is worth noting here that Ratner designed the building along the international stylistic lines, and avoided the "decorations" that were typical of many buildings at the time. The building was relatively low, two-stories high, which was occasionally construed to his detriment, as it was not sufficiently prominent relative to the mansions with which Jerusalem was blessed. With time, even though a third floor was added, it remained in its humble but respectable form. It is rather hard to believe that it was built almost ninety years ago.
Later on, Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, a professor and rector at the Hebrew University, noted that he met Ratner in the Fifties, when he was designing the building for the Geography and Geology Departments at the Givat Ram University Campus. Ben-Arieh was assigned as his assistant during the planning stages, hearing from him his "credo" regarding the National Institutions Building.

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