Mishkenot Sha'ananim & Yemin Moshe
At the end of the '70s Israeli film Ani Yerushalmi, a gentle and loving tribute to the quiet grandeur of the Holy City, beloved, family-friendly star of sound and screen Yehoram Gaon gathers up a passel of tousle-haired children for a horse-drawn carriage tour of Jerusalem as they sing together "Hasar Montefiore," a song in praise of the great vision and largess of Sir Moses Montefiore, a towering figure who ranks only slightly below David in the annals of Jerusalem's history.
More than inspiring the oeuvre of Yehoram Gaon, Montefiore is essentially singlehandedly responsible for every stone of modern west Jerusalem, for it was only at his urging that Jerusalem's Jewish community made its first tentative steps beyond the protective walls of the Old City and began to reestablish their ancient capital as the pearl of the Near East it once had been.
All mighty endeavors spring from a modest beginning, and west Jerusalem's wellspring is the combined neighborhood of Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha'ananim, a humble quarter of stone houses and narrow alleyways perched on a hill a stone's throw away from the westernmost of the Old City's walls, established in 1891. It was Montefiore who proposed Yemin Moshe (the name means "The Right Hand of Moses"), and it was Montefiore whose enormous means, gathered during a unprecedentedly successful career trading and investing in London, built and peopled an entire neighborhood where once there had been nothing more than a barren hillside. His passionate love for the Land of Israel was fostered by a series of tours over the course of his 100-year life.
The neighborhood's most prominent landmark is its windmill, visible (at height) from much of Jerusalem. The windmill was poorly engineered and never functioned properly, but it served as a symbol of the development of Jerusalem, which rapidly snowballed (thanks in part to the further generosity of Montefiore) after Yemin Moshe was established.
Today Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha'ananim (its later outgrowth) remain aesthetically much the same as they were at the turn of the century, but the neighborhood's population has changed from the poor and pious former residents of the Old City to one of Jerusalem's wealthiest groups, with a significant percentage of foreign owners who keep residences in Yemin Moshe as holiday homes. The neighborhood thus often takes on a marked emptiness during the off-season, which can actually make strolling through its greenery and gardens more pleasant.
In addition to its verdancy and its stunning views of the Old City, Yemin Moshe is home to a modest museum chronicling the exploits of Moses Montefiore and a couple of high-quality dining establishments.
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