The French Résidence at Jaffa
The Residence of the Ambassador of France is located in the Jaffa neighborhood of Ajami. It is a beautiful Bauhaus building in Modern style, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
This villa was designed and built in the years 1936-1938 by an architect named Yitzhak Rapoport. In 1949, the house was sold to the French Republic by the architect, who then transferred the amount of money he received to Ahmed Rahim, its owner who was living in Beirut.
Muhammed al-Rahim (Abu Hassan), an Arab notable from Jaffa, attended the Rotary Club where he met Jews, Arabs and Britishs. He became friendly with Yitzhak Rapoport, a well known and respected Jewish architect born in Ukraine, who built the French and the Dajani Hospitals in Jaffa. Y. Rapoport specialized in Modern International Style and Ahmed Rahim asked him to build a house for him in the neighborhood of Ajami.
The house of Ahmed Rahim would be built according to modernist criteria features, yet it would retain the ideology of a traditional Muslim family home in which public and private spaces were separated, as were rooms for women and men.
During the British Mandate in the 1920’s and 30’s, there was tension between Jews and Arab and pogroms were a constant threat. Despite that, the friendship of these two men would remain intact.
Times were very difficult for the architect. In order to oversee the building in construction, he had to wear a traditional Arab dress which allowed him to pass the lines separating the two communities and then he was taken to the site by car.
The two had a secret, however. Ahmed Rahim was the treasurer of the Arab Organization responsible for perpetrating attacks against Jews and Rapoport was a member of the secret service, the Haganah.
When the 1948 war broke out and the Arabs were defeated, Ahmed Rahim was a signatory to the surrender of Jaffa and decided to leave to Lebanon. He entrusted the keys and title to his house only to Rapoport, in whom he had great confidence and considered him a true friend, who would defend its interests.
The building was purchased by the French Government in 1949 for 20,000 Pounds Sterling and became the private Residence of the Ambassador.
Oded Rapoport, son of Yitzhak, has himself become an architect. He said that every new tenant of the house wanted to carry out some changes and improvement in the villa.
Oded Rapoport was asked in the 80’s by a wealthy Palestinian from Gaza to build his villa. The first Intifada made it difficult for the architect who could not get to the construction site. Like his father, means were put in place and an ambulance of the Red Cross discretely drove him to the building site .
The Residence offers annual Operation ‘Open house’ ‘to the public.
The west corner of the résidence