The Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot is both historic and contemporary, traditional and funky, set apart and accessible to everything. The entry for Nachlaot on Wikipedia notes that it is a district made up of many neighborhoods, with the first built in 1875. Its quiet and peaceful courtyards, synagogues, winding streets and mix of residents and AirBnB renters and tour groups, along with its proximity to the hustle and bustle of the Mahane Yehuda shuk (outdoor market), make it a wonderful place to stay while we are here for the month. Not only are we a few minutes from the light rail and multiple bus stops, but only meters away from my favorite bakery.
I learned that the street we are staying on, Shirizly, was named after the publisher Shlomo Yisrael Shirizly, who bought a printing press from Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the man who was responsible for reviving and adapting the Hebrew found in the bible into the language today. Shlomo Yisrael Shirizly published books; he also published three Hebrew language newspapers as well as a fourth that came out in Hebrew, Ladino and Yiddish. The apartment itself is small; its interesting layout includes a room made out of a former well and a mini-courtyard complete with outdoor clothes dryers and plants.
Discovering what I didn’t know about Nachlaot wasn’t limited to taking walks, reading Wikipedia entries or finding plaques around the neighborhood. I also learned that a relative grew up in Nachlaot near his grandfather’s shoemaking shop. His family spoke Ladino (as well as Hebrew of course). I can’t help but wonder if his grandparents read Shirizly’s newspaper…
Sharing the news is important in any community. But Shirizly didn’t stop there. He also published books, started a lending library and created a mutual sick fund. Thanks to him, people could take care of their intellectual and physical needs.
During the 1990s, the neighborhood was revitalized and its charming atmosphere now attracts all kinds of people.
Just a few steps away, historic Mahane Yehuda (which also began in the late 1800s) during the Ottoman period, is also a mix of traditional and hip. At night, after the sellers close shop, the bars and restaurants set out more seating and it takes on a second life. It is truly special how here in Jerusalem, and throughout the country, ancient and modern history coexist with contemporary times.