Established in 1874, Mea Shearim was one of the first neighborhoods built outside of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. Today’s residents of Mea Shearim are Haredi, practicing an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle. They try to embody a form of Judaism, which to them, is synonymous with purity. Generally speaking, the residents are resistant to change as they fear Judaism’s extinction.
This isolated neighborhood suffers from neglect due to overcrowding, limited resources and budgetary issues. Many men spend their days studying Torah in Yeshiva, while the women take on a traditional homemaker role.
Taking a walk through Mea Shearim is like stepping back in time, to Eastern Europe during the turn of the 19th century. Men sport full beards and payot. Even in the scorching summer heat, the men wear fur hats and long jackets. The women wear long skirts and long shirts. Married women cover their hair with a scarf, a hat or a wig.
While not all residents follow the same stream of ultra-orthodox belief, it is agreed in this neighborhood that certain rules, especially those pertaining to modesty must be adhered to at all times. Unrelated men and women do not mix or speak with each other. Taking modesty a step further, it is not uncommon in this neighborhood to witness men going to extremes to avoid eye connect with a woman.
Many residents speak Yiddish, reserving Hebrew for prayer. Residents do not watch TV or read mainstream literature. They have their own newspapers. While there is a rabbinical ban on internet usage and smart phones, some residents own computers and access the internet for education related issues.
When visiting this neighborhood it is important to remember that you are in someone "else’s home". Please refrain from taking photos. Do not travel in large groups. Especially for women, modest dress of a long skirt and long sleeved shirt is required. Do not drive through the neighborhood on the Sabbath.