Mutzrara or Musrara in Arabic means graceful. The neighborhood was built at the
end of the 19th century by rich and distinguish Arabs, Muslims and Christians.
Some of the famous Palestinians nationalists lived here. The architecture of these
houses was very traditional named Liwan house. Between 1948 and 1967 the beautiful houses
were populated by poor Jewish citizens and the area became much neglected.
The North African Jews who lived in this neighborhood founded the Black Panthers movement
that protested against their discrimination. Today some of the historical building
serves as the residence of several artistic establishments in the city.
The exact year of the quarter’s foundation is unclear.
The houses were built spontaneously by the new Arab elite.
Each family built her house without an organized infrastructure.
Aref el Aref grew and lived with his family here.
He was a famous journalist and historian, who is considered
to be one of the ideologists of the Palestinian movement.
Another Palestinian activist who lived in this neighborhood
was Doctor Tawfiq Canaan. In spite of his solid opinions
about Zionism he worked as the manager of the Jewish
hospital Sheari Zedek before becoming the executive
director of Augusta Victoria hospital and the founder of the
Red Crescent (Islamic Red Cross).
The Arabs used their traditional architecture and decoration.
Elements like the open covered balconies or pointed arches
in the doors or windows and even some colored ceramics on the façades of some of the houses.
The plan of the house is called in Arabic Liwan, meaning sitting room or hosting room.
It is the main central space of the house and all of the other rooms circle it.
The Liwan will be the most decorated and impressive room.
It is impossible to talk about Musrara without mentioning
the political movement of the Black Panthers.
It was a group of Sephardic Jews that came from North Africa
and the Middle East countries. They started to protest
against discrimination between them and European Jews.
They took the name and goals from the Afro-American party.
To understand better why in this area and why during the
seventies you will need to comprehend the situation during
the fifties and sixties. Between 1948 and 1967 Musrara like
other neighborhoods was on the Jordanian border,
called also the Jerusalem city line.
The cheapest apartments that the Sephardic Jews could afford were on the city line areas.
Their children created this group because they felt that, through the years, they didn’t get enough
budget from the government to rehabilitate their neighborhoods.
To remember their heritage two streets were named after them in Musrara: “the black panthers street”
and “they are not nice street”, this is how Golda Meir named them after their first meeting.
At the end of the seventies, with the decision to rehabilitate
the neighborhood, some of the big houses were purchased
by artistic foundations. Two main art schools were opened
in the area: Musrara, Photography and New Media School
and Maale, Film and Television school.
Another new artistic organization is Muslala project that
create public art In-between Jerusalem many borders.
On the border of Musrara and Mea Shearim in a half ruin
building lays one of the best contemporary art museum in
the world- On the Seam Museum.
It is a socio-political art museum that exhibit artist from all
over the world, even countries like Iran or Syria.
Museum on the Seam
On the other side of the neighborhood, close to the city wall,
there are two buildings that have nothing to do with the rest
of the area. These are the catholic establishments of Saint Louis
hospital and the Notre Dame hotel.
Both of them belong to the Vatican today and cry its white
and yellow flag. Both the hospital and the hotel were built
before the rest of the neighborhood by a rich French gentleman.
He brought dozens of French nobleman and showed them
the beautiful hotel, built a couple of years earlier, hosting the
The catholic pilgrims didn’t have a comfortable place to stay, the hostels in the old city
were small and very poor. He himself bought the land on which they built their tent camp.
After sunset the French gentleman passed from one tent to another raising money to build the Notre Dame
hotel that we see today. The design is similar to a fortress because the catholic saw themselves as the
Crusaders of the 19th century, liberators of the city from the hands of the Muslims.
The terrace of the Notre Dame hotel host a bar with one of the most beautiful views on the old city.
It is a great place to end a day with a glace of wine and a selection of French cheeses.