|The decision to create Yemin Moshe was made by Sir Moses Montefiore on his fifth visit to the Holy Land in 1854. The funds for the project came from the estate of the late philanthropist Judah Touro of New Orleans in the USA. Mishkenot Sha'ananim (artisan's houses) was erected in 1860 on one third of the land and a windmill was created on another third whilst the remaining area was fenced off and named 'the Moses and Judith Montefiore Orchard'. This orchard was taken over in 1866 by poor Jews who couldn't afford to pay their rents in the Old City and they erected tents and huts. These people were removed by the community but in 1892 it was decided to build a neighborhood to be named in memory of Montefiore. The Sephardi residents were transferred to Shevet Zedek (the tin-sheet area of Nachlaot) and the Ashkenazim to Meah Shearim. This area of Mishkenot Sha'ananim was called Bnei Moshe – today Hayye Adam Street.
65 homes were built in Yemin Moshe for Ashkenazi families along the main road named in memory of Nathan Adler, the Chief Rabbi of Anglo-Jewry and a personal friend of Montefiore. 65 more homes were built for Sephardi Jews along Judith Street, named in memory of Montefiore's wife. In both halves of Yemin Moshe synagogues and public institutions were erected and wells were dug. The Sephardi section was in the south of the neighborhood. North of today's Migdal Street was the Ashkenazi section.
Originally, homes were single-storey but extra floors were added. The first residents came from the Old City but maintained their businesses in the Old City in Rehov Hayehudim, the Muristan (the new market) and the Christian Quarter. The businessmen of Yemin Moshe were educated and proficient in several languages. Their clientele included the intellectual groups in Jerusalem and members of the Christian churches.
Many rabbis also lived in Yemin Moshe between the two World Wars. Each morning it was possible to see the procession of rabbis from their homes in Yemin Moshe to yeshivot, religious courts and charitable organizations in the Old City.
In the 1936 Arab riots, the residents of Yemin Moshe transferred their businesses to the new commercial center developing in the Shama neighborhood closer to Yemin Moshe and King David Street. On the eve of the War of Independence, the neighborhood suffered from the proximity of British personnel in the King David Hotel and the security zone set up around them. In March 1948 there was a large-scale Arab attack on Yemin Moshe from the Jaffa Gate. Abraham Kirshenbaum, aged 22, was killed defending his home and is regarded as a hero in the fight for Yemin Moshe. According to eye-witness accounts Kirshenbaum was shot and killed by British troops encamped near the King David Hotel. A statue in his memory was erected and memorial plaques placed in both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi synagogues. Most residents left the neighborhood leaving only armed defenders. During the years of mass immigration in the 1950's Jews from the Balkans and North Africa were housed in the empty properties of Yemin Moshe. After the Six Day War, the government appropriated the land on which Yemin Moshe is built and began a major renewal project. The residents were transferred to other neighborhoods and replaced by rich Jews and artists.
The lanes in Yemin Moshe are paved with large stones like those in the Old City. The houses were renovated to a high standard whilst maintaining original architectural styles. Yemin Moshe is today a beautiful neighborhood with an unparalleled view of the Old City walls.
Attractions in the neighborhood include:
a) the Montefiore windmill, built to provide a livelihood for the city's poor. The windmill was constructed by Holman, engineers and millwrights, of Canterbury, England, and shipped to the port of Jaffa. It proved difficult unloading the heavy machinery at Jaffa which lacked suitable facilities and it took four months to transfer the windmill to Jerusalem by camel. The machinery included all the latest technology and could operate two mill-stones simultaneously. It is widely believed that the windmill never actually worked but Prof. Shimon Sapir has shown that it did indeed operate at least between 1860 and 1876.
b) The Sephardi synagogue of Malkhi Street, corner of Yemin Moshe Street, was once thought to be the most beautiful in the area. The holy ark is located in the north east corner. Next to the main synagogue was a smaller one used by artisans who rose very early to go to work. Prayers and study filled the synagogue all day long and it attracted rabbis, city notables and hazzanim.
c) Yitzchak Bazhav Lane was named in memory of a Jew whose family originated in Greece. Rabbi Bazhav (1859-1942) lived in a tiny apartment near the Sephardi synagogue and devoted his life to gathering ancient manuscripts from the thirteenth century.
d) The Ashkenazi synagogue called 'Beit Yisrael' is located on Pele Yoetz Street and was opened in 1889. It was renovated with the assistance of the Jerusalem Foundation.
Yehuda Amichai wrote a song about the windmill:
''This windmill never ground flour
It ground holy air and Bialik's
Birds of Longing, it ground
Words and ground time, it ground
Rain and even shells
But it never ground flour.
Now it's discovered us,
And grinds our lives day by day
Making out of us flour of peace
Making out of us the bread of peace
For the generations to come.''
Taken from ''the Poems of Jerusalem'', Schocken Publishing House, Ltd.
Although the commonly held view, as reflected in Amichai's song above, is that the mill never worked properly and never ground flour, Professor Shaul Sapir has published research findings suggesting that the windmill did indeed function betweeen 1860 and 1876.
The Jerusalem Foundation had raised a 3 million shekel donation for refurbishing the windmill and making it operative again using the expertise of windmill engineers from Holland and England.