31 Jul Nahalat Shiva- One of the first neighborhoods outside the old city
Nahalat Shiva was the third neighborhood built outside of the old city walls in Jerusalem as part of the Jewish expansion of the city in the 19th century. Seven young men, sons to the old-timer families of Jerusalem, built the neighborhood in 1869 hoping to fulfill the commandment of settling the land of Israel.
Living outside the city walls was considered very dangerous back then, so in order to increase the sense of security the location of the neighborhood was chosen close to the Russian Compound that was built just several years beforehand. Another reason was the Jaffa road that the neighborhood borders on. Jaffa road was the main road connecting between Jerusalem and Jaffa. The street is known today as Jaffa Street and is one of the main streets in Jerusalem.
Yosef Rivlin, Yoel Moshe Solomon, Yehoshua Yelling, Michele Hacohen, Binyamin Salant, Haim Halevi and Aryeh Leib Horowitz were the seven founders. Founding the neighborhood was all part of the expansion of the city plan, and the young men drew encouragement from the success of the first two neighborhoods that were already built, but there was another reason that was less ideological. The sanitarian conditions inside the old city were bad and a cholera epidemic had struck the old city residences including the Jewish quarter residence.
One of the main differences between the founding of the first two neighborhoods and Nahalat Shiva was that there was no outside help and the neighborhood was established by Jerusalemites only. Nevertheless, it was not easy. According to the Ottoman law, foreign nationals were not allowed to own land, and most Jews were by law foreign nationals. The land buying task was given to Aryeh Leib Horowitz’s wife since she had Turkish citizenship. She declared that the land would be used for agriculture reasons and so was able to buy the land.
The seven men decided on regulations that determined the construction arrangements and the neighborhoods funding but the construction did not really go according to plan. Yosef Rivlin was the first to build his home in the neighborhood in 1869 and a year later the others joined. In 1872 Rivlin called out for more families from the old city to move to the neighborhood and by 1875, 50 families already lived there. By 1918, 861 people lived in the neighborhood in 253 different houses. Most families made a living from trade or crafts.
Between the years 1949-1980 the neighborhood was scheduled for demolition since the building foundations were old and there were no pipelines. Many young families left the neighborhood to go live somewhere else less crowded and newer and the neighborhood was considered one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. However, in the 1980’s the situation shifted. The awareness for restoration of old historic buildings was awakened and a restoration plan came together. The streets were re-paved, house fronts were fixed up and cleaned, and the neighborhood became a central one.
Today Nahalat Shiva still sits in the city center of Jerusalem and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions and entertainment areas in Jerusalem. You can find here many stores, restaurants, pubs and bars as well as cultural attractions such as the Friends of Zion Museum. The museum today is located on Yosef Rivlin 20 Street, in a restored building that used to belong to Yosef Rivlin himself and was his home. Yosef Rivlin is a great grandfather to Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin, Israel’s current president.