Mea Shearim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods outside Jerusalem’s old city, populated to this day by Haredi Jews. Although it is just two blocks away from Ben-Yehudah street, it is worlds apart from the modern-day Jerusalem, preserving zealously its ultra-orthodox lifestyle.
History of Mea Shearim
Mea Shearim was founded in 1874 by a building society of a hundred shareholders. It was named after a verse from Genesis (26:12) which was the Torah weekly portion when it was established. It is structed as a courtyard neighborhood whose gates could be locked every night. In the following years a bakery and a flour mill were added in the neighborhood. It was also the first quarter in Jerusalem to have street lights. In contrary to the rapid development of Jerusalem in the 20th century, Mea Shearim preserved its strict Jewish religious lifestyle like an Eastern European Shtetl. The common language is Yiddish, and life revolves around adherence of Jewish religious law. Men are dressed in black suits and a white shirt. Women wear a long skirts and sleeves. Married women cover their hair or use a wig. Avoiding modern media, Pashkvils (street posters) are commonly used for both obituaries and political manfiests.
Touring Mea Shearim
The Yiddish, the local dress code, and the pashkvils make a visit in Mea Shaerim feel like going through an Eastern European Shtetl. The neighborhood is open to all, yet big signs in English and Hebrew urge visitors to follow a modest dress code. Furthermore, during Shabbath the streets are closed for motorized traffic, and visitors are requested to refrain from taking photos or using mobile phones.
For a guided tour of the site it is recommended to combine it in a guided day tour of Jerusalem.