Mea Shearim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods outside Jerusalem’s Old City, and famous for its Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Although it is just two blocks away from Ben-Yehudah Street and the Mahane Yudah Market, it is worlds apart from modern Jerusalem, preserving zealously its ultra-conservative Jewish lifestyle.
History of Mea Shearim
Founded in 1874 by a society of Shareholders, Mea Shearim is named after a verse from the bible (Genesis 26:12), read on the week the founders established it. It is structured as a courtyard neighborhood whose gates are locked every night. In the following years, the community added a bakery, flour mill, and street lights, the first ever in Jerusalem. Yet, contrary to Jerusalem’s rapid development 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 to Jewish religious law. Men are dressed in black suits and a white shirt. Women always wear long skirts and sleeves covering the elbow. Moreover, married women cover their hair or use a wig. Refreining from modern media, the community uses street posters (Pashkvils) for obituaries and political manifests.
Touring Mea Shearim
The Yiddish, the local dress code, and the pashkvils make a visit to Mea Shaerim feel like going in a time machine to the 18th century Eastern European Jewish communities. 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 to motorized traffic, and visitors are requested to refrain from taking photos or using mobile phones.
A tour of Mea Shearim can be integrated in a Day tour of Jerusalem.