One of the more fascinating hiking routes in Jerusalem is an exit trip from the walls following the first Jewish settlers outside the Old City of Jerusalem. The trip begins on Mount Zion near Sha’ar Zion and continues in the direction of Mishkenot Sha’ananim and the surrounding neighborhoods.
We will start our trip on Mount Zion, near the Old City walls and Zion Gate. From here we will try to trace the initial footprints leaving the Jewish Quarter and their exit to the first neighborhood outside the walls in 1860 – Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Like the other gates of the Old City, the Zion Gate was also closed from dark until sunrise. Instead of entering through the gate we will continue on the path on the outside of the walls to the west. We will reach the corner of the wall, a place that is a good vantage point. From here we can see the Ben Hinnom Valley, which borders the Old City to the west, the Sultan’s Pool and the two elongated houses that make up our destination. When standing here you can see how small and significant the distance from the gate is.
Montefiore, the neighborhood thinker, planned to build a hospital on the site. He realized that the poor sanitation conditions in the city were the causes of diseases and epidemics and he realized that the chances of recovery were much greater outside the walls. Montefiore realized that if the healthy people were afraid to come out of the walls, on one else will. Hence, he decided to set up to convert the buildings into a residential neighborhood where better and more promising living conditions would be guaranteed.
From the lookout point we descend a winding path to the valley. We will cross it as we pass the Turkish, passive drinking facility. From the bottom of the valley, a staircase ascends towards Mishkenot Sha’ananim. We will pass through the original gate and enter the neighborhood complex that is currently used as a guest house. In the center of the upper part of the longest of the two buildings is an inscription stating that the funds were donated from the estate of R. Yehuda Tora. Part of the complex serves as an artists’ hostel and several bestsellers have been written in its rooms. To give the residents security, the neighborhood was surrounded by a wall with one gate facing the Old City. The doors and windows all faced the old city and closed with bars. The upper part of the buildings is decorated in a similar way to the city wall, perhaps to add a sense of psychological security. When the construction was completed, Montefiore offered the apartments at a very low price, but it is difficult to say that they would have jumped on the bargain and were therefore forced, with no choice, to offer the apartments for free. Even then, people were afraid to leave the city. Only when he offered to pay those who would agree to move to the neighborhood were some families found to agree to move, but they too hurried to spend the night within the walls. It turns out that the concerns were justified. Some locals were hit by murderers and robbers. A turning point in the history of the neighborhood was six years after its establishment, when a cholera epidemic broke out. Then they came to know that none of the residents of the new neighborhood, living by individual regulations that included several regulations relating to cleanliness and sanitation, did not apply.
The stairway encircles the compound on the right (north), on the border of the Yemin Moshe neighborhood which was built in Montefiore’s memory in 1894 and is also worth a walk and ascends towards the flour mill from England. The parts broke down quickly and the mill appeared. Today it is used as a museum (usually closed), but at the same time became one of the symbols of Jerusalem. Next to it is Montefiore’s restored chariot.
Montefiore worked extensively for the Jewish communities, and as part of his activities he sought a means that would allow him to wander between the cities of France and Italy. Walking was the main means of getting from place to place, but a walking journey between France and Italy is expected to be very long and prolonged, even before we take into account the dangers inherent in the weather. No man like Montefiore will shy away from this and he himself planned an innovative and sophisticated chariot, which included a closed and weather-protected passenger compartment, a carriage seat, a storage compartment for water and groceries, and even a Torah scroll and a gold lamp lit every Friday. The chariot was built to order, and the family emblem and the word ‘Jerusalem’ were minted on its front. The chariot was used by Moshe and Yehudit Montefiore on their travels in Europe and when they planned their visit to Israel they tried to take it with them to Israel. When it became clear that they could not bring it safely to Israel, Montefiore used a local carriage during his visit to Israel.
After the death of Moshe Montefiore, the chariot was handed over to family friend John Egbert Bengoch who passed it on to the Christian-Zionist priest William Heckler. His original intention was to establish a Zionist museum in the Land of Israel, and to exhibit it. But in practice the chariot was put up for sale, and at the last minute Boris Schatz managed to save it and move it to Jerusalem. After many hardships, the chariot arrived in Israel and was supposed to be housed in the Bezalel building in Jerusalem, but a lack of space meant that it was left abandoned in the building’s yard and in fact its main use was a warehouse for the place’s occupants. In 1963 in a joint project of the Jewish Agency and the Crate Company. The carriage was renovated and restored to its greatness, and in the 1980s, when the historic mill building was restored, a museum was built there, which displayed, among other things, Montefiore’s carriage. But here the carriage’s troubles did not end. In 1986 an unknown person set fire to the chariot, completely destroying the original wood panels and fabrics. The metal chassis remained the only relic, and in 1990 the carriage was restored to the base of the original chassis. Today the chariot rests in the mill museum, and tempered glass protects it from all evil.