Jerusalem Neighbourhoods (part 4)

Jerusalem Neighbourhoods (part 4) 150 150 Sarity Gervais

The main streets are King George and Yaffa streets, both mainly commercial centers and tourist attractions. The area holds many 4/5 star hotels, mainly the historic King David Hotel, the Sheraton and Lev Jerusalayim.

The famous pedestrian Ben Yehuda street with its many shops restaurants and cafes is one of the main attractions of the area, which also contains the Great Synagogue and Yeshurun Synagogue, both of which have some of the world’s greatest cantors.

City Center is within walking distance of many neighborhoods, including Meah Shearim, The Old City and Yemin Moshe.

Then there are neighborhoods which run the gamut at the heart of the city is the ultra orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim, home to the original Haredim settlers, the Perushim community, whose parents were disciples of the Vilna Gaon. These people immigrated back to the land of the Fathers, and in the 1800s, built their own community neighborhood, behind the walls of Old City. The neighborhood hasn’t changed in 200 years men are dressed in black frock-coats, black hats and beards, their exposed tzitzit and peyes flying in tandem with the rhythm of their owner’s movements. Women and girls dress modestly, in long skirts and sleeves and high necklines, and married women cover their hair with scarves, turbans or wigs. Some sects require women to wear thick black stockings year round and the ancient walls are plastered with &quotmodesty&quot warnings to visitors. No sleeveless blouses, bare midriffs or shoulders skirts must be below knee length and pants are for males only. The quarter has the insular flavor of an Eastern European shtetl, where mostly Yiddish is spoken as the language of daily life, since Hebrew is considered sacred, thus used only for prayers and religious studies

Meah Shearim is world famous as the stronghold of the Neturei Karta, the Satmer and several other Hassidic sects.

There are secular and modern Orthodox neighborhoods, some exquisite and prosperous, like Talbia with its magnificent residential mansions and some great buildings which serve as home to important government officials, such as the President’s mansion on Jabotinsky street. Other treasured establishments here are The National Academy of Science, the Van Leer Institute and the Jerusalem Theatre 30. The residents of Talbia are wealthy upper middle class and mainly secular or national religious. The wealthiest and loveliest streets in the neighbourhood are Disraeli, Hovevei Tzion and Dubnov. Many of the buildings have been built during the British Mandate, and there are also authentic Arab houses with a central courtyard, beautiful arched windows and ceilings, most of which have been expanded with additions and improvements to their original structure.

Many of the buildings here have been declared historical and are protected from demolition. There are various synagogues all along the spectrum ranging from orthodox, modern orthodox, etc. The beautiful Hovevei Tzion and the Chopin are the most famous synagogues in the neighbourhood, catering to residents as well as tourists. Talbieh is within a short walking distance from the old city and hosts most of the great hotels.

The stunningly done stained glass windows at the huge Einstein campus of the famous Hadassah hospital is a must- see. When the US-based Hadassah organization asked Russian-born Jewish artist to adorn the hospital they planned on building, Chagall was so delighted he created the windows for free. The windows depict Jacob’s deathbed blessing to his son, each window representing the tribes in luminous color.

There are several artist communities like Ein Kerem, which retains much of its old village character. Both artists and professionals live there, and enjoy the beauty of the tree-framed homes built on the hillside. The neighbourhood has many magnificently renovated old homes, and arts and crafts studios strewn in the back alleys. It’s close to Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem.

There and many more neighbourhoods, ranging from secular modern orthodox and ultra orthodox neighbourhoods, each distinctively different, each fascinating in its tight knit sense of community, all beautiful, stunning, a mix of ancient and super modern, a feast for the senses.