Standing above the western approach to Jerusalem, the neighborhood of Har Nof lies far from the Israel capital’s center.
In English, Har Nof means “scenic mountain,” a nod to the hills on which the neighborhood sits. Home to a large number of yeshivas and seminaries, it is known for its haredi Orthodox population and was once the address of Shas Party leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
“The immediate knee-jerk reaction of Israelis when they hear Har Nof is that it’s the Shas crowd,” said Dan Arbell, an American University professor who teaches for the school’s Center for Israeli Studies.
But although the Shas Party represents the Orthodox Sephardic population of Israel, Har Nof is also home to a large contingent of Orthodox Ashkenazi families.
The neighborhood itself is populated virtually entirely by Jews, said Arbell, and the nearest Arab centers are about a 20-minute drive away. The area also has a large population of immigrants from English-speaking countries, according the GoJerusalem, an Israeli travel agency.
Compared with other majority Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Har Nof is less densely populated. Where other neighborhoods have shopping centers and restaurants, Har Nof comprises family residences and learning intuitions. It is also a newly developed area, having only been established about 30 years ago, said Arbell.
The synagogue where Tuesday’s attack took place, Kehilat Bnei Torah, Arbell said, is an Ashkenazi synagogue.