The picturesque Montefiore’s Windmill is a
treasure and one
of its best known landmarks. From the Plaza surrounding it, you can enjoy a
panoramic view of the Jerusalem Old City walls and .
Whether in broad daylight or at twilight and from all angles, the iconic windmill
makes a beautiful photograph. This photogenic quality draws many brides to come
to this historic place before their chupah to use the windmill as a
backdrop. Mount Zion
Harav Shmuel Salant encouraged Sir Moses Montefiore, an Anglo-Jewish philanthropist and banker, to do all he could to build outside the walls. So in 1857 Sir Moses Montefiore – with funding from the estate of an American Jew named Judah Touro -- built Mishkenot She’ananim,
Jerusalem’s first Jewish
neighborhood in the .
18 meters high, the
windmill was built to help generate a livelihood for the residents of the new
colony. The construction of the mill was part of a broader program to enable
the Jews of Palestine to become self-supporting. Sir Montefiore also built a textile factory
and a printing press, and helped to finance several agricultural
A British expert from a firm of millwrights in
Canterbury — with
all the necessary equipment and instructions to build a windmill —
was sent to the Holy Land. Parts were
shipped to Jaffa and then the machinery was
by camel. The stone for the tower was quarried locally. Jerusalem
The windmill was meant not only to provide a livelihood for many, by providing work, but also to reduce the price of flour for the whole yishuv. (Until this point, the grinding of wheat had been an Arab monopoly, which caused the price of flour to be high).
Unfortunately, wind conditions in
Jerusalem were not suited to power the mill, even
thought it was built in just the right spot above ’s water source and on top of a hill
open to the wind. Another problem was that the machinery was designed for
European wheat, which was much softer than the hard local Israeli
product. Even so, the mill was used for a while until it broke down. The
parts, available only in Jerusalem ,
were too expensive to replace. Ultra-modern at the time it was built, the
windmill became completely obsolete by the year 1891 when steam-powered mills
were invented. England
Anecdotes about the windmill abound, and here is just a sample.
On one occasion, the local Arab millers sent their kadie to put an evil eye on the windmill. He cursed it that it should be washed away in the first rain. When it survived the rainy season in tact, the Arabs claimed the mill was the work of the devil himself.
The story goes that the Arabs developed a taste for the lubricating oil on the wings of the mill. They would come in hordes to lick off the oil, and it was feared the mill would burn down from the resulting friction caused by the lack of oil. A leg of pork was placed in the oil barrel, causing the Ishmaelites to stay away.
More recently, a windmill-loving Dutch tourist who travels regularly to Eretz Yisrael, was bothered that the mill wasn’t operative and convinced his friends to help fund its restoration. They raised one million dollars and approached the Jerusalem Foundation to renovate the windmill. The foundation then raised another five million shekels with the help of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Tourism, and the
. Jerusalem Municipality
The “only person alive” who understands English windmills, was located and asked to undertake the restoration. The English wind generator architect was reluctant to rebuild the mill himself and contracted a Dutch windmill firm to help him out. A British company prepared the parts engineered to be the exact replica used to build the mill in 1857. Most of the work was carried out in a small workshop in
by master craftsmen. Holland
Not so many months ago July 25 2012, the mill was reassembled in its entirety in
and was converted into a museum dedicated to the life of Sir Moses Montefiore. According
to the Jerusalem Foundation, the windmill will operate five days a week and will
be the only working mill in the country. The only difference between the
windmill of the 1800s and the windmill of the 2000s will be a short video in
the entrance explaining the building’s history, and some extra mechanical gears
to turn the blades on non-windy days. Jerusalem