Street Art of Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda Market

Nachlaot, Jerusalem
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One of many surprises about Jerusalem was how much there was to see in the “new” town, the area outside the Old City. One such discovery was the Nachlaot district and the neighbouring Machane Yehuda Market. This is a fascinating area, not least for the street art that seems to be around every corner.

Nachlaot, Jerusalem
You’ll find lots of street art – and lots of cats – in Nachlaot

The Varying Fortunes of Nachlaot

Until the end of the 19th century everyone in Jerusalem lived within the walled city. Beyond the walls was a wilderness frequented by brigands and wild animals. However the population was expanding, and more homes were needed. One man, Sir Moses Montefiore, decided to move outside the city and establish a new Jewish community. To make the new houses as safe as possible he built them close together, and right by the city walls.

Street in Nachlaot
Nachlaot is still a close knit residential community

The area that became Nachlaot consisted of several different neighbourhoods, each clustered around a small central courtyard. Many members of the first families who lived here grew up to become eminent citizens; you will see plaques commemorating them as you walk around. But as time went on people started to move into the suburbs and Nachlaot went into decline. Houses were abandoned and drug dealing was rife.

Nachlaot, Jerusalem
The walls of Nachlaot are covered with colourful art

By the 1980s Nachlaot was scheduled for demolition. However students and artists had started to move into the area, and people started to see the potential of the old houses, alleys and courtyards. In 1991 grants were made available and Nachlaot was gradually gentrified, leading to the mixture of improved and unmodernised houses that you see today. But there is still a real community feel to the place, with laundry drying and children playing in the streets. We saw street vendors, people sitting outside their houses, and cats basking in the sun.

The Machane Yehuda Market

Next to Nachlaot is the Machane Yehuda Market, established 100 years ago. For many decades its narrow streets housed stalls that provided essential provisions for the local residents. However, like Nachlaot, it started to decline, especially after terrorist attacks in 1997 and 2002. If it hadn’t been for the determined efforts of a few stallholders it is likely that the market would have closed altogether.

Changes were made to the market, with cafés opening, stalls being renovated and a wider variety of goods sold. Today the Machane Yehuda Market is one of the liveliest areas in Jerusalem. It is particularly crowded on a Friday, when people shop for the Sabbath and meet up for lunch or a drink with friends.

Street Art of Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda Market

As you walk around Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda Market you will notice lots of brightly coloured murals. Most of these are the work of one artist, Solomon Souza, who moved to Nachlaot from England as a teenager. In 2015 he started to paint pictures on the shutters of the stalls in the market: so far he has covered around half of the 360 shutters.

Street Art of Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda Market
Pinnable image of a painted shutter n the Machane Yehuda Market

You can see the paintings to best effect on a Saturday, when the market is closed and the shutters of the stalls are all pulled down. Some of Souza’s pictures are of famous people; others are biblical scenes or other designs. And some stallholders have requested portraits of older family members, the ones who first owned the stalls.

Street art in Nachlaot
A brightly coloured mural in the Nachlaot district

The overall impression is of a vibrant, colourful community. The area has come a long way since it was threatened with demolition.

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13 thoughts on “Street Art of Nachlaot and the Machane Yehuda Market”

  1. Street art is always an attraction to me – But what is so interesting here is that the day you’d be most likely to go there (for the market) you aren’t going to see it, what with all the shutters being pulled up for the stall holders to sell their wares!!

  2. I got to see some of those one evening when I passed through the Machane Yehuda market one evening on the way to something else. Weird to think that these art works just get rolled up out of sight so much of the time!

  3. Ciaran Blumenfeld

    Solomon Souza is such an interesting artist – his grandfather was known as the “Picasso of India” and it’s easy to see the connection between his and his grandfather’s artistic style. A lot of the art in the market is controversial to some but no doubt it is has revived the spirit of the market immensely!

    1. Amazingly – considering how often I go to Italy – I’ve never come across Dozza. Thanks for telling me about it – I’ll add it to my list for a future visit.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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