Call it a village within a city, the SoHo of Israel, or Tzfat in Jerusalem, the neighborhood of Nahlaot is an eclectic composite both in population and locale. Flanked by the renowned Mahane Yehuda market, the Gerard Behar performance center, Gan Sacher (the “Central Park” of Jerusalem) the light-rail on Jaffa Street, and Ben Yehuda Street just a skip away, this hood is buzzing with things to do in Jerusalem just at its borders. And to boot, you get a view of the Knesset and Supreme Court. It’s no wonder this neighborhood is oft-featured in Israeli films – in particular Ushpizin shot its intricate alleyways prominently.
Nahlaot’s population is unmatched anywhere in the world, what with more than a century of Yemenite Jews, and half of century of Jews from the likes of Iran, Iraq, and Syria setting roots down here initially, alongside furvently “ultra-Orthodox” Jews escaping pogroms, and later the Holocaust, settling into a veritable shtetl which exists to this day. In the 1980’s, the Jerusalem municipality started pouring money into the area given its potential in terms of location, location, location, and since then the gentrification has skyrocketed, attracting buyers from English-speaking and French backgrounds keen on its quaintness, religious spirit, and city center convenience. Rentals are popular among Israeli and foreign students, and are particularly suitable for artists both in ambience and proximity – the cream-of-the-crop Bezalel Academy of Art is just down the street.
A tour of Nahlaot is a must, because in doing so, you’ll learn about all the above-mentioned populations (including their over 100 synagogues in a very small radius), while walking around seeing their descendants, and newer arrivals, all living their regular lives. In fact, a popular tour is a Nahlaot treasure hunt because Nahlaot has just that – treasures abounding where you might not expect it – a neighborhood.