5 Jerusalem neighborhoods not to be missed
As a 3,000-year-old city, Jerusalem is rich in history as well as plenty of lively contemporary urban culture. A trip to Israel is not complete without strolling through some of Jerusalem’s most fascinating neighborhoods. Here are our picks for five of the most compelling ones.
You can spot Yemin Moshe from afar by its landmark windmill, commissioned by Moshe Montefiore. The neighborhood was established in 1891 with the financial assistance of Montefiore, when the Old City became overcrowded and consequently unsanitary. Due to security involved with venturing out of the ancient city center, the compound here was surrounded by a fence, and the gate was locked at night. You will notice that the homes are built in connected rows, as extra protection against Arab marauders. Today, Yemin Moshe is an upscale neighborhood, which is home to a cultural center and a guesthouse.
The fifth neighborhood to be built outside the Old City walls was Meah Shearim. The area was designed by Conrad Schick, a German architect and missionary, with apartment buildings surrounding courtyards that were meant to hold open green space but became cowsheds instead. Interestingly, Meah Shearim was the first Jerusalem neighborhood to implement traffic lights. Contemporary Meah Shearim is the city's most iconic ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, home to insular communities, many of which speak only Yiddish and eschew some of the characteristics of modern life.
Built on land purchased from the Greek Patriarchate, Talbiya was a Christian Arab neighborhood in the 1920s and '30s. The residents here were affluent, and the houses are elegant examples of Renaissance, Moorish and Arab architecture, surrounded by trees and gardens. The Jerusalem Theatre, the Van Leer Institute and home of the President of Israel are all located in Talbiya.
Nachlaot is a small neighborhood, but you can wander through its narrow alleys and into its courtyards for hours on end. Nachlaot was also established by Moses Montefiore in order to move Jewish residents out of the Old City. A Syrian community settled in the area at the turn of the 20th century and built the Ades Synagogue, which still functions today. Don’t miss the childhood home of Yitzchak Navon, former Israeli president, and the home of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, who was known for his righteousness – and his visits to members of the Jewish underground groups who were imprisoned in the Russian Compound, just a few minutes away. Nachlaot is situated adjacent to Jerusalem's downtown district and the Machane Yehuda market.
Ein Karem is famous as the birthplace of John the Baptist and is home to a number of important churches, such as the Church of the Visitation and, of course, the Church of St. John the Baptist. Prior to Israel's War of Independence, Ein Karem was an Arab village, but when these residents fled, the area was resettled by new immigrants, artisans and craftsmen. Today the terraced hillsides here are populated by Israel's artsy bohemian set, with several cafés and studios welcoming visitors. Above the picturesque historical village lies the Hadassah Medical Center, which includes one of the country's leading hospitals and the Hebrew University’s medical and nursing school facilities.