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Jerusalem attractions category

Meah Shearim

Jerusalem Attractions  - 123


Just adjacent to the city center, Meah Shearim and Geulah are a world apart. To step into Geulah and its historic core, Meah Shearim, is to walk into a time warp. While there are other neighborhoods of Jerusalem with historic significance, such as Yemin Moshe, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, and the German Colony, in these neighborhoods the history is limited to the architecture and sites that remain. In contrast, in Geulah and Meah Shearim, history is embodied in the people and their way of life as well. Meah Shearim (a name which means "one hundred gates") is the core of present-day Geulah, and a historic monument in itself. Built in 1874 by a group of shareholders who pooled their resources to purchase the tract of land, Mea Shearim was the second Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walls of the Old City.


At that time, living outside the walls was a perilous enterprise, and even today Meah Shearim has preserved its independent character; its residents have very little contact with the rest of the city. This world unto itself is defined by both Hasidic and non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Judaism in its most stringent form. Men wear long black coats or black suits, regardless of the weather. On their heads, they wear black hats or shtreimels, black fur hats that are a mark of prestige in the Hasidic communities. Women and even little girls wear thick stockings in all weather, and all females are dressed with extreme modesty. Skirts must be neither too long nor too short - the first being too reminiscent of trendy Jerusalemite garb, the second being too provocative.


Thus, traditional dress for most females is dark skirts of midcalf length and buttoned-down shirts, with thick stockings and flat shoes. It's customary for families to have as many as ten or even twelve children, and consequently, the older children in families are often assigned to care for the younger children - even if they are not that old themselves. It's not uncommon to see a ten year-old girl pushing a baby carriage down the street, with another child holding onto the carriage beside her. Because modesty is such a central tenet of the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, signs are posted by the entrances to Meah Shearim demanding that entrants to the neighborhood adhere to modest dress. While Meah Shearim's residents by and large tolerate the presence of outsiders and their inevitable curiosity, it would be unwise for those visiting the neighborhood to not adhere to these standards - visitors flouting Meah Shearim's norms have sparked altercations in the past (adjoining Geulah, while still stringently Orthodox, is somewhat more low-key.) Attempting to drive through the neighborhood on Shabbat is a good way to get rocks thrown at your car, so make sure you have an alternate route planned if you're driving on Friday night or Saturday.

  • Free entry


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