One of the tours I enjoy the most is a tour to the ultra Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Mea Shearim. People here dress in the familiar garb of the black coat (capote), furry hat (streimel), fringes (Tsitsis) etc.in the case of the men, which identifies them as Orthodox Jews. Women wear long dresses with long sleeves and shawls covering their heads. One sees Orthodox Jews all over the world but then they are the unusaual here they are the usual. This is their terrain, they feel at home here, they feel they are the masters here, they can decide who comes in or out of their neighbourhood, they decide how you will dress when you come in here to visit.
They want to preserve Judaism,to protect their belief from outside influences. They are preserving the Jewish people as a distinctive nation in the world, with a belief in the One G-d.
Spokesmen for the neighbourhood have declared Tourists officially unwelcome. Many inhabitants of Mea Shearim don't agree with that official standpoint. They say that if tourists dress modestly and don't insult their beliefs they are welcome.
Whichever way you look at it there are certain conditions to be fulfilled if you want a comparatively peaceful visit in Mea Shearim. It's really a beautiful place. Here you can see an example of how Jews lived in the shtetle (village) in Poland hundreds of years ago.
Mea Shearim looks like a museum but it isn't. People are living here in the style of their ancestors 300 yrs. ago in Poland. They aren't acting out a part they believe very strongly in preserving the old ways and so to preserve their Judaism in a world that is constantly changing. Everything changes but Mea Shearim stays the same.
In 1870 when Mea Shearim was established it was the most progressive neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The people who first came to live here were inovators and pioneers, they had moved out of the congested Jewish quarter within the walls of the Old City. A very brave thing to do considering how desolate and dangerous life was outside the walls.
Leon Gork (Tour Guide)
P.O.Box 4354 Jerusalem 91042
Tel/Fax 02 5810732....Cel.053 801867/823905
Treasurer:Jerusalem for Bicycles
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