If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track in Jerusalem, Beit Agnon (Agnon House) is a superb little option.
OK, it doesn’t have the centuries of history seeping out of every crack that some of Jerusalem’s top attractions have, but Beit Agnon is no less important in the grand scheme of Israeli/Jewish history for it was here that the greatest Hebrew writer in modern times, Shmuel Yosef Agnon (otherwise known as Shay Agnon), lived and worked for some forty years.
Agnon was the man behind some of the greatest novels in modern Hebrew times, including A Simple Story, Temol Shilshom (Yesterday and the Day Before), Shira, and many other classics that continue to stir the imaginations of readers throughout the world. Agnon was also the first Israeli to receive the Nobel Prize (for Literature).
In a tribute to these classic novels, Beit Agnon, located in the lovely Talpiyot neighborhood, is now preserved for future generations to browse around and to get a feeling for the environment that Agnon worked in as well as hear the story behind his life.
Agnon House itself is something of an attraction, as it was built in 1931 and was lightly based on the Bauhaus style that was all the rage in Tel Aviv. The clean, straight lines that are dominant are somewhat of a rarity in today’s Jerusalem. The house was also not built in stone, as was the law at that time, because Talpiyot was just beyond the city’s jurisdiction.
The house was reopened to the public in 2009 after extensive renovations, and with new management and some very helpful and knowledgeable staff, Agnon House is fast becoming a true Jerusalem gem.
Upon entering the house, take a wander round downstairs, the original family living quarters, and don’t miss the unique little things for a glimpse into Agnon’s lifestyle.
For example, the little Shabbat sign above the radio to remind his wife not to turn the radio on during Shabbat. And the fortified shutters on the balcony, complete with bullet holes and dents from stones, a hint of the troubles with neighboring Arab villages back in the 1930s.
But upstairs is where you really need to be, for this is where Agnon dedicated himself to writing. His huge library collection, complete with thousands of books, is amazing to see, even for the non-Hebrew fan. It’s also the place his children were banned from visiting when he was working or reading.
Don’t miss the stand by the window, which is where he typically stood to write (yes, he wrote many of his works standing up!), complete with his ink pen and glasses still securely in place, which you can see in the picture at the top of this article.
Also don’t miss the Nobel Prize certificate, proudly displayed in a separate room upstairs.
Agnon House is located on 16 Klausner Street, in the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem. It’s a ten minute drive from the Old City, or can be reached by the number 7 bus from the Central Bus Station.
It costs 20 shekels to enter, but there is a discount for senior citizens, students and Jerusalem citizens.
Opening hours are typically Sunday – Thursday 9:00 -16:00, and Friday 9:00 -12:00 (but you might want to call ahead just to confirm that there isn’t a tour group/school trip also scheduled for the time you were planning to go and visit).