September 13th 2010
Nachlaot is a quaint Jerusalem neighborhood established in the late 19th century and still retaining its old-world charm. Wander through the narrow alleys and marvel at the historic houses, courtyards and small synagogues. Nachlaot is in the center of Jerusalem, right between the bustling Mahane Yehuda shuk and the Ben-Yehuda shopping district, but the neighborhood is so quiet that you can hear birds chirp and children playing.
The neighborhood was built in the late 1800s, once the Old City became over-populated and the first homes were built outside the walls. Observant Jews lived in the neighborhood, which was scattered with many small synagogues, about 100 of which still remain active. Once newer neighborhoods were built, Nachlaot fell into disrepair and was inhabited primarily by poor immigrants. In recent years, gentrification has led to a population shift, and today the area is famous for its hippies, artists, musicians and young American immigrants.
One of the more famous residents of Nachlaot was Rabbi Aryeh Levin, “the prisoner’s rabbi.” During the British Mandate period, he was appointed Jewish Prison Chaplain for those incarcerated in the Russian Compound for arms possession or smuggling. Rabbi Aryeh’s house has been preserved and can be visited.
Another famous resident was Yitzchak Navon, who grew up in Nachlaot and went on to become the fifth President of Israel. He was the first Israeli president to be born in the Land of Israel. Navon was also a playwright who wrote two musicals based on Sephardic folklore.
To learn about the history and the uniqueness of Nachlaot, consider hiring a tour guide to take you on a walking tour around the neighborhood. A tour of Nachlaot can be combined with a tour of Mahane Yehuda, complete with food tastings and introductions to some of the more legendary stall owners. Another option is to book a Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt, where you can discover the neighborhood on your own and speak to some of the long-time residents.