Time in Jerusalem is often a subjective dimension, dependant upon where you are. The Old City, for example, is a classic example of past and present clashing together as a pair of cymbals; some parts of Nahlaot, on the other hand, are totally frozen at the turn of the 20th century.
Not really a neighborhood, the Nahlaot quarter stretches all the way from the Mahane Yehuda Market to Nahlat Shiva (the first of the neighborhoods) - in the city center, close to the Jerusalem Municipality's Safra Square complex. Constructed between 1869 and the beginning of the 20th century, it includes 32 neighborhoods - amongst them, Mazkeret Moshe and Ohel Moshe (named after Moses Montefiore), where former president Yitzhak Navon grew up, and based on which he wrote his play, Bustan Sephardi.
The neighborhoods were originally established by Jews leaving the Old City, mostly organized as groups based on either socio-economic or religious-affiliation parameters. Few were built as commercial developments, and some - such as Ohel Moshe (location of one of the city's first Hebrew printing presses and where Eliezer Ben-Yehuda printed his first Hebrew dictionary) and the Broida Homes (named after the donor) - were constructed as philanthropic initiatives for the poor.
Many were originally constructed as gated courtyards for security measures, now providing a unique, tranquil atmosphere characterized by cool Jerusalem stone construction, narrow alleys - where the courtyards were eventually filled-in (like Neve Shalom), and gardens - where they weren't. Falling into disrepair by the 1970s, many of the neighborhoods are now being renovated as part of the Inner-City Development Program (Lev Ha'Ir - with the letters Lamed and Vet in Hebrew making up 32 in numerology - the number of neighborhoods), and becoming sought-after residential quarters by the young, as well as new immigrants from English-speaking countries and France. Local residents received municipal stipends to renovate their homes, and a list of stringent regulations was drawn up governing further development.
An initiative begun three years ago, Pictures in Stone returns to three Nahlaot neighborhoods - Ohel Moshe, Even Yisrael and Mazkeret Moshe. Photos of the neighborhoods' original settlers are attached in the walls at the entrances to the courtyards and near the historical locations of schools, hospitals and orphanages, cafés and more. Adjacent to the specially-treated glass plated photos - explanations and information regarding the specific subject and its locale.
The best time to visit the Nahlaot neighborhoods is towards evening, when the over-numerous synagogues that spot the area begin to open and the sounds of traffic that do seep through begin to die out. Begin in the market, preferably on Jaffa street, without missing the sundial and accompanying clocks that show time in Israel and in Europe, located on the façade of the Zoharei Hama Synagogue building. Then cross down through the market towards Agripas st. and into Mishkenot st. From here, you're on your own. Leave the map at home; some roads are not even marked or named, and getting lost amidst the alleys is part of the charm. Peep into the courtyards wherever you can; look for the wells and bakeries that characterize many.
The article is curtesey of the Jerusalem Tourism Authority http://tour.jerusalem.muni.il