Nestled between the stately Teutonic-cum-Middle Eastern elegance of Rechavia and the warren of spice stalls and still-gasping fish that is the Machane Yehuda market is Nachlaot, one of the oldest neighborhoods in west Jerusalem and a reliably fascinating slice of Jerusalemite life. The construction of the neighborhood began in the late 1800s, at the behest and with the money of much beloved philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore. Nachlaot was built as a series of separate residential compounds for the Ashkenazi and Sephardi religious communities of the Old City who comprised its first residents, augmented by immigrants from both Europe and the lands of the Ottoman Empire.
Many of these original houses and compounds still stand, to many of which have been affixed plaques with pictures and histories of their one-time residents at the dawn of modern Jerusalem. As the generation of religious old-timers who once dominated the neighborhood passed on, Nachlaot began to acquire a new reputation as a haven for artists, musicians and especially God 'n granola-inspired young American Jews, who lend parts of the neighborhood a feel of a Torah-inflected commune. Gentrification has also moved in, with foreigners, usually from English-speaking countries, buying up Nachlaot real estate and replacing its venerable buildings with opulent Jerusalem stone luxury dwellings. Plenty of echoes of the old Nachlaot still remain, however, with fiercely religious Yiddish-speaking enclaves abutting the hippie havens and the neighborhood's dozens of synagogues filled with worshipers and melodies early every morning.
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