Musrara, Jerusalem

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Musrara (Arabic: مصرارة‎, Hebrew: מוסררה‎) also known by its Hebrew name, Morasha (Hebrew: מורשה‎)[1] is a neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is bordered by Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael on the north, the Old City on the south and east, and the Russian Compound and Kikar Safra to the west.

History[edit]

Musrara was founded by upper class Christian Arab residents during the late 19th century, as a part of the "departure from the walls," during which people began living outside the Old City of Jerusalem. During the Nakba, the local Palestinian residents fled or were forced to leave their homes, with the new Israeli government declaring them 'abandoned property'. Musrara remained in the 'no man's land' between Israel and Jordan.[2]

To put forth their plan of Israeli statehood the new Zionist government, in the interest of creating a Jewish majority state, needed to increase the Jewish population. As a result, the Ministry of Housing decided to populate the previously Arab houses with olim from North African countries. They organised mass transits of Oriental Jew, or Mizrahim olim (immigrants) to Israel. These Mizrahi Jews arrived only a couple of years after the European Jews, or Ashkenazim, had already occupied and divided all of the "abandoned properties". Mizrahim settled in Musrara in the early 1950s, where they lived in poverty and hardship close to the border dividing Jerusalem. In the same way one group of Ashkenazim would be assigned to inhabit an evacuated luxury chalet of Musrara's "no man's land", big villas now were fragmented in small housing units where in one room a numerous Mizrahi family would be assigned to live. Due to its proximity to the new border, the residents of Musrara were exposed to daily attacks from Jordanian snipers stationed along the border.[2] Residents were also faced with poverty, substandard housing conditions, lack of access to quality education and little to no assistance from the Israeli government.

From out of this reality emerged the Israeli incarnation of the Black Panthers, one of the most influential Israeli social movements dedicated to social and economic justice. It was here that in 1971 that Israeli Black Panther founder Reuven Abergel and a group of youth from the neighborhood launched a national movement to protest the discrimination against and exclusion of Mizrahim.

After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem, effectively restoring Musrara as a city in the center of historic Jerusalem.

There are a number of prominent Christian institutions in Musrara, including the Notre Dame Hostel, the Church of Saint Paul, the French Hospice, and the Romanian Church.

In 1971, young, second-generation Mizrahi Jews from the neighborhood founded the Israeli Black Panthers, a protest movement against the perceived injustice and discrimination by the government against them. The rage quickly spread from Musrara to all areas inhabited by poor Mizrahi Jews, and eventually evolved into a political movement.

Musrara's strategic location between the Hareidi and religious neighborhoods to the north and the secular neighborhoods to the west has contributed to its diverse population. Over the last decade some have advocated to prevent the neighborhood from becoming more Hareidi, a process which has since slowed considerably.

Today, Musrara is home to about 4,500 people,[2] and is considered one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of Jerusalem.[by whom?]

Architecture[edit]

Musrara is living testimony to its diversity – and that of Jerusalem in general – over the last 130 years. Relics of every stage of architecture during this period can be found there. These can be divided into three general periods:

The first period was the Arab phase, in which large, luxurious mansions were built by rich Arabs attempting to escape the overcrowding in the Old City during the late 19th century. These houses have grand entrances, beautiful masonry and shigled roofs.

The second phase, starting from the War of Independence, were battle-torn years, with abandoned houses and difficulties resulting from its proximity to the border. The inhabitants were largely distressed, and the scene in the neighborhood was one of unemployment, poverty and neglect. It was these conditions that caused the beginnings of the Black Panther movement, where people first were exposed to the difficulties faced by new olim from North Africa. This lasted through the 1970s.

The third period, beginning in the 1980s, saw increased activity as a result of a Jerusalem Municipality project to improve the neighborhood. Regulations were introduced designed to restore the neighborhoods former glory. The renovations were all completed in the style of the magnificent Arab structures. In many of these buildings, a clear line can be seen between the lower floors, built in the Arab style, and the upper floors, which look like modern apartment buildings. These lines are the result of real estate developers who, in an attempt to increase their profit, stopped following the regulations to match the character of the neighborhood.

Cultural influence[edit]

Musrara currently serves as an important cultural center, with a number of museums and centers of the arts. These include the Naggar School of Photography, known simply as "Musrara," the Ma'ale school of film, the School of Eastern Music, the Jerusalem Municipality's art center, the Museum on the Seam, Polis the Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanities, and the Museum of Underground Prisoners. Additionally, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is scheduled to move to a new building in the nearby Russian Compound. Since 2009, the "muslala" group, composed of artists, creators and residents of the neighborhood, has been developing art routes : different artist are invited to create site-specific interventions in the neighborhood public space, and the public is invited to follow in their steps, using maps that are distributed for free. The group also started the Musrara community garden.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 31°46′57″N 35°13′32″E / 31.78250°N 35.22556°E / 31.78250; 35.22556