September 24th 2013
Overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, the Yemin Moshe neighborhood is named for Sir Moses Montefiore, the Jewish British banker and philanthropist whose financial support helped establish the neighborhood just outside the crowded and unsanitary Old City of Jerusalem in the middle of the 19th century.
Today, the Yemin Moshe neighborhood is highly desirable for residents and charming for visitors. Enhanced by well-established gardens, spectacular views of the Old City and upscale private homes, the area attracts artistic residents who exhibit from galleries in their homes. The original buildings, known as Mishkenot Sha’ananim, which comes from a quote in the Book of Isaiah and means “peaceful habitation,” have been converted into a cultural center and guesthouse that attracts writers, musicians and intellectuals.
The most distinctive feature of Yemin Moshe is its iconic windmill. The structure was originally intended to operate as a flour mill, providing a source of income for the area’s 19th century residents. In fact, it was never successfully used as a mill, due to a lack of sufficient wind and to the fact that local wheat was harder to grind than the European wheat for which the windmill was designed.
Since none of the original parts were in working order, the windmill was renovated in 2012 by a Dutch millwright in cooperation with a Christian Dutch organization. Today, the windmill houses a modest museum that tells the story of Sir Moses Montefiore and his achievements in pre-state Palestine. In the base of the windmill, behind glass, is the carriage that Sir Montefiore used when he traveled across Palestine. The original carriage was destroyed in a fire in 1986. What visitors see now is a replica.
Initially, the Yemin Moshe neighborhood was ironically not an attractive residential option because it was vulnerable to raids by Bedouin bandits. In order to encourage Zionists to live here, financial incentives were offered to families willing to move to the new housing complex, which was luxurious compared to the Old City dwellings. Eventually, the neighborhood was surrounded by a gate with a heavy door that could be locked in the evenings, further insuring the safety of the wary residents. Ultimately, a cholera epidemic in the Old City forced many inhabitants to flee to the new housing project.