Welcome to the Hotel Zechariah

Mishkenot Sha’ananim, which translates to “peaceful habitation” is a fascinating historical site, even without its biblical connection.

hotel Zechariah521 (photo credit: JIM FLETCHER)
hotel Zechariah521
(photo credit: JIM FLETCHER)
Astone’s throw from Jaffa Gate, directly between the fabled King David Hotel and the beautiful Jewish neighborhood of Yemin Moshe, Mishkenot Sha’ananim – which translates to “peaceful habitation” is a fascinating historical site, even without its biblical connection.
Psalm 122:3 describes Jerusalem as a city “that is compact together.” The ancient description still fits today in the Old City. A cramped community honeycombed with alleys and shadowy niches, the walled fortress overlooking the Kidron Valley was at one time infested with disease and misery.
And those conditions were not acceptable to Moses Montefiore. A wealthy London businessman, Montefiore decided something should be done for the poor residents of Jerusalem.
He oversaw the construction of Yemin Moshe, the very first community built outside the Old City walls, using funds from the estate of New Orleans businessman Judah Touro. The reasoning was obvious: to encourage residents to move into more wide-open spaces, where fresh air and the ability to grow vegetable gardens would dramatically improve quality of life. The original Mishkenot Sha’ananim buildings were constructed as a almshouse for the poorest Jews.
Montefiore’s idea was the catalyst for vastly improved living conditions for a Jewish community that had long been neglected by the world. It is doubtful that their benefactor ever considered his other legacy, however.
Perhaps unknown to the stonemasons and carpenters who hammered and sawed a few yards from Jaffa Gate in 1860, a year that preceded the opening of America’s terrible Civil War, the very existence of Mishkenot Sha’ananim can be seen as a dramatic fulfillment of Bible prophecy. During a recent stay at the facility, I marveled as I sat on a covered porch and read Zechariah 2:1-4.
“I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand,” reads the King James version. “Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein.”
Although Zechariah’s recording of this particular prophecy wouldn’t have made sense to his contemporaries, since ancient city states were enclosed in high, thick walls that protected residents from outlaws, invading armies, and wild animals – Montefiore’s humanitarian project had a decidedly otherworldly aspect.
Several decades later, in 1884, Sir Charles Warren produced for Great Britain his “Survey of Western Palestine,” in which he literally measured the city of Jerusalem. This “man with a measuring line,” coupled with the construction of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, can be seen as a dramatic, detailed, literal prophecy fulfilled.
While I was visiting Mishkenot Sha’ananim, I spoke to Caryn Nielsen, a Christian Zionist from the US, who aimed her camera at the iconic neighborhood, with its landmark windmill.
“It takes my breath away, it really does, to see a tangible example of fulfilled prophecy,” she said. “The whole land is that, and Mishkenot Sha’ananim reminds me wonderfully of God’s provision and promise keeping.”
After Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, when the Arabs took control of the area, Mishkenot Sha’ananim became a no-man’s land, and snipers from the Jordanian League virtually emptied the place of its residents. Only six years after the 1967 Six Day War, Israel’s miraculous triumph paved the way for Mishkenot Sha’ananim to be renovated. It is now an artist’s colony, complete with a sumptuous guesthouse for visiting authors and artists. Also in the area are the Jerusalem Music Center, a convention center, and a world-class art gallery which represents the crown jewel of a revived community.
The Montefiore Windmill, built in 1857 to be used as a flour mill, today houses a small museum dedicated to the neighborhood’s benefactor; a reproduction of Montefiore’s black carriage, destroyed in a fire, sits behind glass. The windmill was designed to allow the Jewish community in Jerusalem to become self supporting, but due to the lack of windy conditions it was never particularly successful, and was fazed out of use by 1891. During the War of Independence, the top of the mill served as an observation point for Jewish fighters, and was therefore targeted by British forces, who blew up the top of it in 1948. However, in 2012, a Dutch organization called Christians for Israel oversaw the restoration of the windmill, and it began to turn once more.
In the spring of 2001, the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center was dedicated on-site. The center is home to, among other things, the Manheim Library, the Montefiore Restaurant, the Fostel Seminar Room and the Dwek Gallery. The entire complex is one of the most important cultural centers in Israel.
The elegance of modern Mishkenot Sha’ananim will leave visitors breathless.
Yet for those who see Israel through the prism of Bible prophecy, Moses Montefiore’s humanitarian triumph invokes the name of Israel’s true benefactor, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The presence of Mishkenot Sha’ananim is a testament to the supernatural nature of the Bible, and its breathtaking prophecies. •
Jim Fletcher is a writer and pro-Israel activist who can be reached at jim1fletcher@yahoo.com.