Turn, turn, turn: Montefiore windmill will work again

More than 135 years after the blades stopped turning, windmill will once again grind grains into flour.

Moses Montefiore Windmill 390 (photo credit: Courtesy, the Jerusalem Foundation)
Moses Montefiore Windmill 390
(photo credit: Courtesy, the Jerusalem Foundation)
More than 135 years after the blades stopped turning on the old Moses Montefiore Windmill, the stately structure overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem will once again grind grains into flour after a renovation in the coming months.
Israel benefactor Montefiore originally funded the windmill in 1857 to encourage Jews to move outside of the Old City and provide them with a livelihood. But the picturesque windmill broke after approximately 20 years and has sat in disuse ever since.
A new NIS 5 million project will recreate the windmill as it looked in 1857, including white wings on the propellers and a white dome on top. The Jerusalem Foundation is overseeing the renovation, which is sponsored by the Christian Friends of Israel from Holland, the Tourism Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministerial Heritage Plan Committee.
The Ministerial Heritage Plan Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, announced a list of 13 heritage sites slated for renovation on Tuesday, at a cost of NIS 72.5m. – including the Montefiore Windmill, to which project the government is contributing NIS 1m.
The windmill will operate five days a week and will be the only working mill in the country, according to the Jerusalem Foundation.
“It’s an integral part of new Jerusalem, and perhaps symbolizes more than anything else the move from the Old City to new city, which started the flourishing of Jerusalem as it is today,” said Mark Sofer, the president of the Jerusalem Foundation and a former ambassador to India.
Renovations will begin in approximately a month and last three months. A British company is preparing parts engineered to the exact model the British Holman Company built in 1857. The parts will be shipped to an expert windmill construction company in The Netherlands for partial assembly, and will then arrive in Israel.
The mill will have four floors: a flour floor at the entrance; a mill floor on the second level, which will house the heavy millstones; the seed floor on the third level, where sacks of grain will be emptied into large containers; and the top floor, called the “dust floor.”
The only difference between the windmill of the 1800s and the windmill of the 2000s will be a short video in the entryway explaining the building’s history, and some extra mechanical gears to turn the blades on non-windy days.
Since Jerusalem has become more built up, tall buildings now block the wind and there isn’t enough of it to turn the propeller, Sofer explained.